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The development of performance measures through an activity based benchmarking project across an international network of academic libraries

Simon Hart (Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Howard Amos (Library, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 8 July 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to outline the findings from the initial stages of an activity-based benchmarking project developed across an international network of academic libraries. Through working on a shared response to the question: “if we enable and support the academic endeavour how do we measure our effectiveness?” the network of libraries is using the formal mechanism of benchmarking as a means of continuous improvement.

Design/methodology/approach

Actual improvements as a result of benchmarking are known to arise from considering and looking at processes, tools and techniques rather than from simply comparing and reviewing measurements of activity. The establishment of the Matariki Network of Universities provided the opportunity to begin work on international benchmarking amongst the member libraries. The project is a collaborative exercise involving comparisons across the libraries on a selected number of services and activities that are similar across the institutions and are representative of overall library service provision. In this first stage of the project the focus is on support for teaching and learning, specifically activities and programmes that support the transition of first-year students into university life. To simplify the process the libraries have shared details in relation to specific cohorts of students. In order to achieve this, participating libraries used an online collaborative workspace to respond to a series of questions. These responses were analysed to identify common themes, highlight exemplars and select further topics for discussion.

Findings

Acknowledging the challenge of international collaboration, processes and mechanisms were developed. It was important to establish a shared language with a set of agreed terms and definitions. Similarly, taking time for each partner to contribute to the project has been valuable. Consideration of each of the libraries responses to the survey questions reveals a diverse number of activities and practices that represent a strong commitment to the needs of students. Drawing on institutional strategic direction and policy, each library allocates substantial resourcing to these activities and practices. The exercise within the benchmarking project produced a valuable set of data for each library to review and learn from. In terms of managing the project, findings are consistent with those reported in the administration of other benchmarking projects. The libraries are in the early stages of developing a series of common international performance measures. It is evident that learning more detail about assessment processes used across each library is necessary to advance the project aims. Further work with the project partners on measuring the effectiveness of their activities will allow the testing of the application of a maturity model for quality improvement of library assessment practices.

Research limitations/implications

The project provides the opportunity to develop a series of performance measures that can be verified across an international network of libraries. Sharing information on activities and practices that impact upon the wider institution provides a means to review and improve library assessment practices.

Originality/value

This paper outlines the first benchmarking activity in the development of a review of performance measures through an activity-based benchmarking project. The activity included an international network of academic libraries. This work will lead to benchmarking effectiveness measures and the development of a library assessment capability maturity model. This will offer a development path, and a better understanding of progress, to demonstrate value and provide evidence of successful outcomes.

Keywords

Citation

Hart, S. and Amos, H. (2014), "The development of performance measures through an activity based benchmarking project across an international network of academic libraries", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 15 No. 1/2, pp. 58-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/PMM-03-2014-0010

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited