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Archive for the ‘Evaluations’ Category

On Tuesday I attended the annual CILIP Umbrella conference for the first time. I had been invited by LIRG to present the findings of my literature review on methodologies for measuring the value of public libraries. Here’s a link to my presentation and a link to the final paper; and a selection of links to interesting library valuation studies that I’ve published on Voices for the Library.

I had a great time at the conference.  Lots of networking opportunities, lively debates and friendly faces.  Hoping to return next year 🙂

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The Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) has just published my article on methods for demonstrating the value of public libraries.  The article provides a  literature review of existing quantitative and qualitative evaluation methodologies for demonstrating value across a variety of sectors and analyses the pros and cons of:

  • Auditing
  • Return on Investment Studies

    © Christine Rooney-Browne 2011

  • Social Impact Audits
  • Ethnography
  • Tracking Surveys
  • Customer Profiling
There’s a lot of really interesting case studies in the article and I’m sure some of the methodologies could help us to develop more appropriate models for measuring our own value!

I’ll also be presenting on this topic at the annual Umbrella Conference on 12th July 2011 at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.    So, if you’re interested in demonstrating the value of public libraries pop along to my session at 11.45am 🙂



					

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I’m down in Leeds at the moment for a workshop on Measuring the Value of Public Libraries: The fallacy of footfall and issues as measures of Public Libraries. I’m really excited because I’ll be participating in a group Delphi session for the first time ever.We’ll be working on developing appropriate methods for evaluating the value and impact of public libraries. There will also be talks by Annie Mauger (CILIP), Roy Clare (MLA), Dr Adam Cooper (DCMS & CASE), Carolynn Rankin (Leeds Met).The delegate list also adds to the excitement.  Lots of interesting people participating, including Bob Usherwood! And as anyone who reads this blog knows, his research in the area of social impact & public libraries has been an inspiration to me. I can’t wait to meet him in person!

Although my own research in this area has shown that a perfect methodology for measuring the value of public libraries does not exist we’ll hopefully come up with more appropriate methods than those that are in place just now.   I’m off to work on the Individual Delphi questions before tomorrow’s session.  I’ll let you all know how it goes! 🙂

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Just read a post on Brian Kelly’s blog about a free event that UKOLN and Mimas are running in Manchester on 24th May.    Although the event is aimed primarily at those already involved in JISC-funded work it will also be of interest to those of us involved in evaluating the impact of services, improving user engagement and demonstrating value.  Unfortunately I can’t make it to the event but I’ll hopefully be able to follow the discussions via Brian’s Twitter feed on the day 🙂

For more details about the event, including learning objectives and event timetable visit the UKOLN website.

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Edge 2010 conference at Edinburgh Castle – and what a fantastic conference it was! 🙂  The speaker list was top class and thanks to some excellent programming from the event organisers I didn’t have to miss any of the sessions.   This was such a relief because there’s nothing worse than getting all excited about the speaker list then realising that all of the big names are on at the same time.  But The Edge managed to avoid this pitfall and offered delegates an impressive list of sessions that truly were all killer and no filler!

The journey up to Edinburgh Castle was stunning and delegates were filled with a real sense of occassion before the conference even started. The conference suite was jam packed by the time I arrived and there was standing room only for Susan Benton’s keynote speech.    A wonderful sight, especially considering the audience was made up, not only of librarians but also high profile councillors, MSPs, Chief Executives etc.; all joined by a collective desire to “push the boundaries of public service delivery“.

Up first was a truly inspirational speaker – Susan Benton, President and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC).   Unfortunately, thanks to some freak snowstorms in the West of Scotland I missed the start of Susan’s keynote speech but I managed to catch her final remarks. Susan spoke passionately about the public library as a “trusted neighbour” in our communities, highlighting the vital role that they play in “bringing diverse entities together” and the need to “strengthen the public library as an essential part of urban life“.  I’ve been a huge fan of the ULC for a while now and Susan’s speech reflected some of the wonderful research they’ve carried out in recent years to communicate the value of public libraries in communities in the US.  A selection of these publications are linked to below:

Welcome, Stranger:  Public Libraries Build the Global Village

Making Cities Stronger:   Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development

The Engaged Library:  Chicago Stories of Community Building

Following Susan’s rousing “call to arms” speech we welcomed Ewan McIntosh-digital media expert and founder of the innovative 38 Minutes project.   I’ll be discussing Ewan’s talk in a future blog post…

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So, it’s been revealed that performing two Google searches from your desktop computer could generate as muchtea carbon dioxide as boiling your kettle for a cup of tea.  

Apparently, every time you search for something on Google your query isn’t sent to one server, but lots of different servers, located across the US, Europe, Japan and China.    Each server competes against the other to retrieve results faster – and this leads to increased energy consumption.

There are lots of impressive figures to support the claims of the project’s researcher, Dr Alex Wissner-Gross, but I’m not a huge fan of quantitative studies so I’m not as outraged as some by these revelations.  As pointed out by another sceptic on the Technologizer Blog you could be searching for information about a life threatening disease or browsing results for your favourite TV show and what these statistics fail to recognise is that each of these searches has a different value, or worth, to the searcher.  

In their own response, Google hints at the energy being saved by performing searches online and questions the validity of the results.  All makes for interesting reading.  

Whatever your opinion, the research carried out at Harvard does make us stop and think about ‘searching the internet’ as an environmental issue, and that’s a good thing.  Although, I did perform about 8 different Google searches this morning to find out more information about the environmental impact of Google.  Oh, the irony….

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In times of economic hardship people have less disposable income and thus tend to cut down on their luxury goods expenditure.  The purchasing of books, DVDs, music, new technologies and branded groceries, alongside outings to the theatre, cinemas and football matches become less frequent as we all try to tighten our belts a little.  

We’ve been speculating for a few months now that the latest credit crunch might have a positive impact on public library usage and we’re starting to see some real evidence of that.  Recent news stories from America reveal that public library authorities in Santa Fe  and Frederick County have enjoyed an increase in visitor numbers over the last 6-9 months.  There’s also been a shift in how people have been interacting with their local libraries and the types of services that they’re accessing.  Once again, the public library is emerging as a lifeline and invaluable resource for people trying to find new jobs, learn new skills or simply escape from the harsh realities of the recession by rediscovering the joy of reading…

Even a few of my friends who’ve always bought their books from Amazon and who had previously admitted to me that they’d rather browse the shelves of Borders than visit their local library have signed up for library memberships!  Telling times indeed!  

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At the end of 2008 Unison published this timely report which looked at the current state of the public library service in the UK and its volatile future.  

Unison Campaign Leaflet

Unison Campaign Leaflet

The report highlights the public library as a “priceless – if often underused – link with the community” and calls for the government and local authorities to implement the following five point plan to ensure its future success as an involved, relevant, imaginative, welcoming and valued public service in the 21st century:

1. Adequate resources and funding for library services, staff and premises

2. Empowerment of staff and communities to shape services together

3. Partnership working between libraries and councils across the UK to share information and good practice

4. Responsiveness to library users from all backgrounds

5. Provision of staff training and professional development

Concise explanations for each point are provided in the full report –  Taking Stock: the future of our public library service (Unison, 2008).

An incredibly informative and enjoyable read; ideal for anyone currently facing the challenge of having to defend the value of public libraries within our communities!

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It’s an exciting time for public libraries in Scotland as we take important steps towards recognising and communicating our impact and value to society, with the help of a timely quality assurance tool!

The Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix (PLQIM) was introduced by the Scottish Library and Information Council in 2007 to “provide a robust method for defining standards, developing evaluation criteria and a planning tool to ensure services meet public demand” (PLQIM, 2007).    It was adopted to measure the impact of eight projects awarded funding from the Scottish Executive’s Public Library Quality Improvement Fund (PLQIF) in 2006-2007 (full report available here).  The methodology incorporates a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures and highlights the importance of acknowledging the often overlooked social value of public library services by measuring outcomes alongside outputs.  

The results of an evaluation that I carried out during a student placement with Liz McGettigan at East Renfrewshire Library and Information Service during their Look at Libraries Festival are also included in the report, which adds to the excitement for me!  I’m referred to as ‘a placement student’ on p.79 of the report – fame at last, well sort of 🙂 .  If anyone’s interested in a more in-depth analysis of this project then check out this paper.  (You’ll need your Athens password to access it).

The results of Scotland’s first PLQIM are thought provoking and inspiring and I’d recommend setting aside enough time to read the full report to get a flavour of the potential impact and social value of public library services in Scotland.

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I’ve just finished reading a seriously interesting and thought-provoking report; From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America and recommend it to anyone interested in understanding more about public library funding and/or marketing.  

Funded by a grant from the Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation, the OCLC hooked up with research and marketing agency, Leo Burnett, to:

  • investigate current attitudes and perceptions of public libraries; determine how best to challenge traditional misconceptions.
  • identify whether implementation of targeted national marketing and advocacy campaigns would lead to an increase in public library funding.

Although the results are based on an American sample, the message is relevant to anyone working in public libraries today. 

It highlights that public libraries undertake marketing and promotional campaigns to help increase footfall, drive usage, etc…but is this backed up with additional funding from the parent organisation to enable them to cope with, for example, an increase in new users or enhanced expectations? Probably not. This report attempts to develop a strategy, not only for increasing visitor numbers and challenging perceptions, but also for ensuring that our libraries are adequately funded and suitably equipped to respond to the needs of 21st century stakeholders.

Public libraries are more than just book issuing points (Photos © East Renfrewshire Council)

Public libraries are more than just book issuing points (Photos © East Renfrewshire Council)

It also provides ‘food for thought’ for those of us interested in communicating the value of public libraries to those ‘holding the purse strings’:

“Library funding supporters are not swayed by messages that detail library services delivered, but rather by messages that remind them of the library’s impact on their community”  
(OCLC, 2008, 7:4)

Also interesting are the three key themes that the focus groups developed to enable public libraries to attract funding that is on a par with other public services:

1. Make the library relevant for the 21st century

2. Instil a sense of urgency by putting the library in a competitive context for funding, alongside public schools, fire department and police department

3. Activate conversations about the library’s importance in community infrastructure and its role in the community’s future (OCLC, 2008, 7:5)

I won’t go into too much depth about the report as you can check it out for yourself here, and I’d recommend that you do,  if you’re interested in the future of public libraries.   In the UK we’re constantly bombarded with reports about the ‘credit crunch’ and predictions of a recession in the coming months; so the reality is that we might all have to re-evaluate how we secure funding for our public libraries…as there’s sure to be even more cutbacks on the way and we don’t want to be viewed as a ‘non-critical’ public service when the government attempts to slash the public sector budgets again!

Thanks to Alan Poulter for forwarding on the OCLC report.  

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