The paper seeks to explore two qualitative techniques that may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of school libraries. The first is based on a “willingness to return” concept previously applied to reference interviews. The second extends a modelling‐through‐reaction methodology that has recently been developed to identify the characteristics of the ideal “information entity”.
Although each method draws on data relating to the strengths and value of the library as perceived by users, modelling‐through‐reaction also addresses possible areas of improvement and the ideas of non‐users. Data are typically collected via individual interviews and focus groups. Direct quotations from participants are likely to feature prominently in outcomes when the modified “willingness to return” approach is employed, whereas more abstract principles result from modelling‐through‐reaction.
The findings emerging from the application of the methods can be employed in several ways. The first technique is of particular use in advocacy, since it enables intermediaries to demonstrate the specific benefits that their work brings to the lives of pupils. The second helps information professionals identify the strengths and weaknesses of their library. It can also inform subsequent quantitative investigation, in which Likert responses are given to statements, and may facilitate target setting.
The paper is unusual in highlighting various information behaviour issues within the course of a study of evaluation. Whilst the use of a wide range of references in the paper helps to endow the methods proposed with academic credibility, they are intended primarily to be of practical use to intermediaries.
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