Planning and Evaluating Library Networked Services and Resources

Margaret Graham (Principal Lecturer and Head of Student Well Being, School of Computing Engineering and Information Sciences, Northumbria University, UK)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 1 September 2006




Graham, M. (2006), "Planning and Evaluating Library Networked Services and Resources", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 205-206.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

According to the preface this books attempts to address a number of issues concerned with the assessment of network services and resources that has tended to be ignored in libraries. The basic argument of the authors is that such assessment is needed to provide data for making key decisions regarding those services and resources, as well as to demonstrate the value and contribution of those services to the communities served. In addition to the editors, there are contributions from a number of authors representing the library practitioner and academic communities and a commercial supplier.

A selection of techniques, tools and methods are offered to assist the practitioner. Each chapter has an introduction which sets out the aims or coverage of the chapter. There are chapter notes and references. In fact, each chapter can stand on its own, if you are interested in just one aspect; there are references to other chapters throughout making it easy to see the linkages between them.

The first five chapters cover evaluation planning and measurement approaches including assessment of needs. Chapter 1 covers evaluation planning. The author (Bertot) contends that it is essential to consider evaluation needs prior to service and resource implementation. He provides examples of situational and organisational factors, evaluation frameworks and data maps. He presents two exemplar approaches to the evaluation planning process: the network service and resource component approach and the balanced scorecard. Chapter 2 (co‐authored by Bertot and J.T. Snead) is concerned with selecting the optimum evaluation approach for a particular library community and presents an overview of some of the types of evaluation approaches that have been developed with lots of examples.

The third chapter describes a number of methods, approaches and tools that can be used to assess network services and resources, building on the previous two chapters and linking to the next chapter on e‐metrics and performance indicators. This chapter is full of good ideas, all based on actual methods used by the author and others during a range of evaluation projects over the years. Of particular usefulness are three appendices to the chapter that provide some sample surveys and questions, an example of a set of focus group questions, and a sample of a focus group write up. The next chapter – on e‐metrics and performance indicators – covers a selection of key indicators that could be used by the library manager to measure services and resources. The chapter also discusses how these e‐metrics can be used for a variety of decision‐making and resource allocation issues.

Chapter 5 covers needs assessment and, like the preceding ones, is full of sound practical advice. The author discusses the value of a needs assessment and then describes the components: service goals, target population, infrastructure and implementation. Methods of measurement and definitions are drawn from the US‐based National Information Standards Organisation (NISO) standard Z39‐7‐2002. In addition, sample‐planning grids help the practitioner to begin the process of assessing needs.

The six chapters in the second half of the book move away from a specific focus on evaluation methods and techniques. Chapter 6 considers the range of procurement methods and service acquisition models for network‐based collections. Chapter 7 is user focused, covering policies to ensure use and access to network based services and resources. Resource allocation in the networked environment is the theme of chapter 8 (written by Judith Hiott and Syma Zerkow). Aspects covered include sustainability of the budget; technological infrastructure, collections, services and staffing implications, and performance indicators. Chapter 9 (by Wonsik Shim) is concerned with vendor‐supplied usage data in the academic library environment and how libraries can better utilise such data for decision making and improving performance. Chapter 10 provides a vendor's perspective on usage statistics. The author, Oliver Pesch (EBSCO Publishing), discusses a number of vendor‐related issues, including types of vendors, capturing and processing statistics and the impact of standards initiatives. The book ends with a review chapter by Charles McClure. He discusses the key issues and themes addressed in the book offers a set of recommendations for future work in the area of evaluating networked services.

In addition to a back of book index, the book is littered with definitions, charts, diagrams, checklists, and samples supporting the text. (However, there are a few typos, including a paragraph that is inadvertently repeated in one chapter.)

The book has a companion supporting web site containing supplemental and other material that enhances the content of the paper based book. In addition, there is an e‐metrics instructional web site, developed by the Information Use Management and Policy Institute, Florida State University, to assist practitioners in using and reporting selected e‐metrics. There are also references to the NISO Z39.7 Library Statistics standard web site and an outcomes assessment web site, also developed by the Information Use Management and Policy Institute, to assist (US) public libraries in assessing the outcomes of Library Services and Technology Act grants.

There is a wealth of information and accumulated knowledge in the pages of this book, even though there is an obvious bias towards the USA in the examples and case studies included. The price, at $48.00, may be somewhat steep for many students, but it is certainly value for money for the library practitioner or manager wanting advice and useful tips to help them plan and/or evaluate their networked services and resources.

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