Matthews: Library Assessment in Higher Education

Kebede Hundie Wordofa (Felix G. Woodward Library, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee, USA)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Article publication date: 11 April 2016




Kebede Hundie Wordofa (2016), "Matthews: Library Assessment in Higher Education", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 93-95.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

For the past several years, academic libraries have faced constant challenges, mainly due to the shifts in information technologies, ever-changing user information needs, library budget cuts, and rising costs of electronic resources and databases. As a result of these twenty-first century challenges, academic libraries need to regularly assess their services and make the necessary adjustments accordingly in order to ensure that they continue to adequately support their respective institution’s teaching and learning objectives. The ultimate goal of a library assessment exercise should be to proactively find out any service deficiencies and remedy them quickly. Assessing the effectiveness and quality of library services has even become more imperative as libraries have increasingly become under added pressure to demonstrate their impact on student learning outcomes of their universities or colleges. In this regard, Library Assessment in Higher Education (second edition) written by Joseph R. Matthews, undoubtedly provides new perspectives and approaches on library assessment in higher education institutions. Matthews is a consultant at JRM consulting, who has assisted many academic, public, and special libraries in a number of library assessment projects. He wrote several books and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles on library assessment and related topics. In short, Matthews is the authority on library assessment, strategic planning, and technology planning.

His latest edition identifies and discusses a wide range of effective assessment methods and current practices in higher academic institutions, including the importance of effective assessment in academic libraries in the twenty-first century. The timing of publication of the second edition has made this book even more important and relevant in the area of library assessment. Compared to the first edition, this latest edition of Library Assessment in Higher Education has been significantly expanded and updated with additional research findings, new trends and practices, and some ground-breaking advances in assessment in higher education environment. The first edition has only 146 pages and eight chapters compared to this latest edition, which has 226 pages and 12 chapters, with four newly added chapters.

The book is fittingly divided into 12 chapters, each chapter focussing on a specific aspect of assessment. The first two chapters introduce readers to the critical nature of library assessment in academic institutions in today’s world, and show how extremely imperative for libraries to align their services to support the vision and mission of their parental institutions. Chapter 2 provides academic libraries with methods to use in demonstrating the library’s contributions toward the success of universities and colleges. The third chapter focusses on theories or models of the student educational process and explores the Input-Environment-Output model in more details.

Chapter 4 deals with assessment of student learning outcomes, reviewing various methodologies that have been utilized by academic institutions to assess the impact of higher education. The author underlines the importance of using multiple assessment methods, including formative and summative, direct and indirect, and course-focussed and institutional-focussed. Having laid the foundation, Chapter 5 discusses the role that academic libraries should play in contributing to student learning outcomes at their institution. It explains why and how specific methods have been used in determining the library’s impact. It also highlights the difficulties academic librarians are facing to demonstrate their impacts on institutional goals. The author suggests that academic libraries need to move away from utilizing resources-based measurements as a means of identifying impacts and instead focus on “How can we influence faculty-student interactions? And how can the library contribute to an improved student interpersonal life?” (p. 96).

Slightly shorter, Chapter 6 summarizes the outcomes of available research that have been conducted to investigate assessment of teaching effectiveness in higher education institutions. Chapter 7, which is also a short chapter, touches on assessment of the Library’s impact on teaching effectiveness and highlights how libraries can show their impact on the campus teaching effectiveness.

Chapter 8 covers several approaches pertinent to assessment of research and scholarly productivity of higher education institutions, whereas Chapter 9 deals specifically with assessment of the library’s impact on the quality and quantity of research output of their institution. The author outlines four key areas for identifying the impact of an academic library on the research productivity – “Research environment,” “Supporting infrastructure,” “Collections,” and “Saving time of the user” (p. 141). Chapter 10 explores other areas of the Library’s impact on the university, other than on teaching, research, and student learning.

Chapter 11 and 12 are about planning and implementation of library assessment. In today’s world, effectively measuring the value of an academic library requires a more refined and careful approach. The author identifies and discusses in detail several activities required in planning and implementation of a sound library assessment plan, including understanding the University’s mission and goals, aligning the library mission with the institution’s mission, using the University’s assessment plan as a basis for creating a library assessment, and creating the library assessment plan. The last chapter discusses about implementation of assessment plan in academic libraries. The appendix includes a range of important outcomes questions that can be useful for any academic libraries engaged in assessment.

What I like most about this book is that the author presents and discusses assessment from perspectives of both a higher institution as well as an academic library. Certainly, I highly recommend this book to any academic librarian to assess their library services and better understand the impact of the library services on student learning outcomes, institutional teaching effectiveness, and research outputs. If you are an academic librarian, especially an assessment librarian in an academic setting, Library Assessment in Higher Education will be a valuable and handy reference guide for you. The book provides any academic librarians with up-to-date and practical information that is valuable for planning and implementing library assessment. It should prove appropriate and a-must-have for all assessment librarians in an academic setting. The book will absolutely be a valued addition to any academic library collection. Library Assessment in Higher Education will make a significant contribution to the existing literature on assessment of higher institutions and academic libraries. This can be well supplemented by Higher Education Outcomes Assessment for the Twenty-first Century written by P. Hernon, R.E. Dugan, C. Schwartz, & L. Saunders and Transformative Assessment written by W. James Popham.

About the reviewer

Kebede Hundie Wordofa is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Technology Resources for Felix G. Woodward Library, Austin Peay State University (APSU), Clarksville, Tennessee. Kebede Hundie Wordofa can be contacted at:

Further reading

Hernon, P. , Dugan, R.E. , Schwartz, C. and Saunders, L. (2013), Higher Education Outcomes Assessment for the Twenty-First Century , Libraries Unlimited, Santa Barbara, CA.

Popham, W.J. (2008), Transformative Assessment , Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA.

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