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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Organizational assessment, restructuring, and evidence-based management
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Performance Measurement and Metrics, Volume 16, Issue 1.
Evidence-based decision making and organizational assessment are important practices within the operation of academic libraries. Library leaders need to be equipped with the best evidence from data, research, and evaluation in order to justify performance outputs for accreditation compliance and meet the sometimes ambiguous institutional-level standards for funding purposes.
How can libraries continue to elicit effective change within a global information economy while demonstrating value and impact? Evidence-based decision management. It is possible to move forward with innovative ideas supported by and perhaps even framed by qualitative and quantitative evidence, eliminating legacy practices.
The paper by Castro Gessner and Eldermire approaches a broad scale assessment of Cornell University Library’s information literacy integration plan centered on university courses and majors. The team members within the library assessment department documented three years of courses in which information literacy concepts were taught by librarians and developed a set of curriculum maps framed by college majors and requirements for each major. This exercise opened dialogue for building better staffing models and provided a foundation for later works tying together information literacy learning objectives to university outcomes. Curriculum mapping exercises identify avenues for new decisions, future directions, and more collaborations for integrating information literacy into the curriculum, as well as provide library teaching staff rich evidence to support proactive changes.
Recording instruction statistics and other library data such as the number of daily reference questions are useful organizational practices enabling administrators the opportunity to apply objective data within the decision-making process. In Peters’ analysis of reference desk transactions he presents a coherent picture of data-driven decisions overhauling the staffing model of a traditional reference desk by removing the librarians and utilizing their expertise by reassigning them into higher-level activities such as in-depth research consultations. For many libraries, examining the cost-effectiveness of staffing the reference desk will serve as part of a multi-pronged approach of measures used in demonstrating library value.
Administrative changes based on empirical data and objective evidence demonstrate a rational method of decision making. The restructuring of staffing models for scalable and sustainable instructional program growth built through curriculum mapping along with the evolution from a traditional reference desk service to a formalized consultation practice demonstrate examples of libraries restructuring their resources to reflect the modern university’s needs.
“Utilizing a time-to-shelf study to start a conversation on change” is another example of restructuring informed from collected data. Gibson focusses on a workflow process study examining the procedural processes, the “time-to-shelf,” of the Cataloging, Acquisitions, and Processing Department at Illinois State University. Data gleaned from the study provided staff and administration evidence to change inefficiencies and improve practices. The impetus focussed on the workflow process of the whole department as opposed to individuals’ performances thus allowing enacted changes to reflect the data, not personnel or past practices.
Organizational assessment practices such as process mapping can also improve workflow by identifying unnecessary or dysfunctional activities, exploring potential process improvements, and aligning department and institutional goals. The information gathered from process mapping provides evidence for library administrators to make decisions to alleviate potential breakdowns. Barbrow and Hartline provide a thorough summary of an extensive process mapping exercise with multiple in-house activities at the University of Michigan Library. The process mapping activities enabled the “reflection and assessment” of daily routines and staff were empowered to implement improvements to their workflow.
Academic libraries are in different phases of the assessment process. For those in the rudimentary stages Smith, Tryon, and Snyder discuss the groundwork for building a viable assessment program, particularly in the context of a smaller institution. They provide a paper deep in data exploring their librarians’ understanding and opinions of building a culture of assessment.
Comparatively, in the last paper Duncan and O’Gara assess and analyze different data sets and create a framework of flexible approaches to collection development. They examine qualitative and quantitative data gathered from a variety of mechanisms (journal analysis, collection development rubric, database review) in order to evaluate the landscape of scholarship within the James Madison University Libraries.
As demonstrated by the papers within this issue, effective data collection, analysis, and dissemination of findings should be instrumental factors improving the decision-making processes within libraries. Build a story with your data and provide evidence so that library leaders can articulate the success of the library in the knowledge business.
Professor Alice Daugherty - Louisiana State University, Baton Rogue, Louisiana, USA