Author: Tim Cherubini


There has never been a better time to take…

Guest Blog Post: Director, State Library Services, Minnesota, Jen Nelson shares why she thinks Measures that Matter and the Public Library Data Alliance remain important during the pandemic. 

Collecting robust data –beyond indicators, inputs and outputs – has been a challenge for libraries for a long time. There are pockets of helpful coordination and agreement, but efforts have been far from comprehensive. While I can tell you how many books were checked out of Minnesota libraries in the last 100 years, I cannot tell what kind of difference those loaned books made for borrowers and their communities. Clearly, that is the problem with a dogged focus on outputs instead of outcomes.

Today, the stakes are high. Libraries are stepping up in all kinds of unique ways to assist their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. From moving all programming online, to delivering books to shut-ins (and in some cases even food and medicine) to extending the reach of their WIFI networks so people in the parking lot and nearby neighborhood can stay connected, there are many wonderful examples of library outreach and service. However, what is largely missing from the environment are agreed upon data collection points that libraries can use to document their work and speak more concretely to stakeholders about the ways libraries are contributing to community safety and well-being. The significant data gap is magnified by the unusual time we are in.

The good news is the Public Library Data Alliance (PLDA) will play a pivotal role in helping libraries to better collect and analyze unique data points. Libraries have been terrific at adopting and adapting to new methods and new services, but not so much with measuring those new services – libraries adopt first, think about measurement second – in many cases. That is where the PLDA can provide thought leadership, guidance and build consensus among the various constituents.

What a gift to libraries it will be when we can align library data needs so vendors can design and build systems that ease the collection process. The PLDA can provide a bird’s eye view of the stories we are trying to tell with data and establish the required mechanisms for collection, distribution and use of data. I eagerly look forward to seeing the fruits of its work.


What Should and Shouldn’t Be Counted in Library Surveys…

MtM PERSPECTIVES Guest Blog Post :: Jefferson County’s Director of Libraries, Julianne Rist shares with us what drew her to get involved with Measures that Matter and why she feels the initiative is important.

Julianne Rist, MtM Working Group 2.3 Member

When the Measures That Matter initiative was announced, I knew I wanted to be part of the conversation about what libraries should be tracking and how the use and impact of libraries on their communities could be reported. I participated in the Measures That Matter working group 2.3 which focused specifically on how libraries can best connect with other community data streams to better understand and measure community impact.

Simply reflecting the busyness of libraries – such as items circulated or programs offered – is no longer enough. We need to reflect how library use impacts residents and the community.

Libraries have a long history of counting and reporting what we do. The services and resources that the library provides have changed dramatically over the last 10-20 years, however the way we collect data and report on it has not changed much. The conversation about what data points we should collect is long overdue. We have continually added items to count, but have not had the conversation about what should or should not be counted. Simply reflecting the busyness of libraries – such as items circulated or programs offered – is no longer enough. We need to reflect how library use impacts residents and the community.

Libraries have long tracked the number of references questions answered, but everyone knows these questions are not the same. Whether it is a simple five-minute search for a quick fact or a more in-depth question, both questions carry the same weight when reported. Many libraries now offer one-on-one appointments and have stories about people who have started a business, found a job, or can now use their mobile device as a result of these appointments. Currently, these one-on-one appointments can only be listed in state surveys as a reference question, and there is no way to show the impact of this service.

The Measures that Matter initiative will not only identify the key elements that need to be counted but will also develop ways to show the impacts of library services on their communities. I use data in setting goals, success measures, and benchmarking how my library performs. Also, by looking at our data I can identify trends and plan for future services.

The future of libraries depends on being able to reflect the work we do – both in how the community uses the library, and the impact our library has on the community. Measures that Matter can help to make that vision a reality.

— Julianne Rist

MtM News

Did You Miss the MtM Webinar?

On Wednesday, July 17th, COSLA hosted “Kicking the Tires on the Action Plan”, a live webinar featuring updates by Implementation Group members Teri DeVoe, Kate Lovan, Alisha Powell Gillis and Ken Wiggin.

A lively reprise of the same “News You Can Use” session presented by the team last month at the ALA Annual conference in DC, this recorded webinar addresses the prioritized areas of the 2018 MtM Action Plan and offers interested parties the opportunity to view the session online anytime.

A recording of the July 17th “Kicking the Tires on the Action Plan” webinar is available here. The session runs 54 minutes. A downloadable PDF version of the slide deck is also available by following the link below.

Click on the image to watch the Webinar.

The Measures that Matter initiative relies on feedback, questions and suggestions provided by professionals inside and outside the library field. Please feel free to get in touch with us at

MtM News

Forming a Public Library Data Alliance

The Measures that Matter initiative began in 2016 to help coordinate a field-wide conversation around library data collection with the aim to develop and implement a related action plan. The Measures that Matter Action Plan was completed in 2018. One of the fourteen prioritized action steps included in the plan (Action Step 3.2: Build Data Governance Capacity) was developed by an Implementation Group (IG) made up of a representative cross-section of library stakeholders who developed the idea into what is now referred to as the Public Library Data Alliance.

The concept for the Data Alliance is to advance public library data gathering and use that aligns with community needs. It was conceived to provide thought leadership, propose strategic actions, and create a communications infrastructure for the field. Please note: the Data Alliance is not intended to duplicate or replace existing bodies, such as IMLS’s Library Statistics Working Group (LSWG) or PLA’s Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee (MEAC).  These, and we hope other, future groups and initiatives, will continue their good work and, we hope, participate with the Data Alliance to continually advance data issues across the field.

In a collaborative effort,the IG moved away from the idea of “governance” or governing body and instead came up with this non-governing alliance. They then identified who the key players should be, as well as what their commitments could be; developed guidelines – including bylaws and a member’s code of conduct; and researched potential organizational support. The IG then developed short- and long-term goals and strategies to be addressed by the Data Alliance and came up with recommendations for moving the Measures that Matter work forward after the IG’s initial charge was complete.

In order to sustain the work started by Measures that Matter, the shared intention is to build the Data Alliance into an on-going national alliance representing a cross-section of library stakeholders that will serve as a permanent successor to the Implementation Group.

The Data Alliance has recently gained initial support fromlibrary association leaders including executives from the American Library Association, Association for Rural and Small Libraries, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, Public Library Association, Urban Libraries Council, and other Measures that Matter stakeholders, such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has offered to provide a year of support for the Data Alliance with administrative infrastructure. As details and agreements are worked out over the summer, it is expected the Data Alliance will be functional by the fall.

We invite you to participate in further discussions about the Public Library Data Alliance and the Measures that Matter initiative by visiting the MtM website, following the MtM Twitter account @libmeasuresmtr, and sharing information on the MtM listserv.  To join the listserv, complete the request form at  For more information, email or

Ken Wiggin, MtM Implementation Group Chair

Measures that Matter is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-00-16-0181-16.

Click to download PDF version.
MtM News

Kicking the Tires on the Action Plan

Beginning in the Fall of 2018 a new and broadly-constituted Measures that Matter Implementation Group (MtM IG) and several Working Groups have been advancing portions of the Measures that Matter Action Plan. A little over one year after its release in April 2018, progress has been made on at least six of the fourteen action areas. In this June 23rd News You Can Use session at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC, members of the MtM IG discuss that progress, lessons learned, and a vision for continuing to move forward with the plan’s proposed Public Library Data Alliance.

Included here is the slide deck from the presentation. We’ll be repeating this session in an open webinar in July (date and time TBD). Stay tuned for more details!

Click anywhere to download slide deck.


What Are States Asking? The 2.1 Report Has Answers

Measures that Matter Publishes Report on Action Step 2.1 “Review State Added Data Elements”

18 June 2019

From the earliest days of Measures that Matter (MtM), questions have percolated around states’ surveys of their public libraries.  A number of questions typically in those surveys are from the Institute of Museum and Library Services Public Libraries Survey but many states ask additional questions determined to be of interest at the state level.  What is the nature of those additional questions?  How are states using data from those questions?  Are any of those questions asked by multiple states, and should any of them be considered for inclusion in the IMLS Public Libraries Survey?

Image of 2.1 report cover with hyperlink to report page
Click image to go to report.

These questions served as the basis for Measures that Matter Action Plan Step 2.1 “Review State Added Data Elements,” and the work of investigating them was taken up by researchers at Ithaka S+R.  Their report, authored by Melissa Blankstein and Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, and accompanying data set are now available on the Measures that Matter website and will soon be available also at   Among the key insights in the report:

  • On average, in their surveys states add 180 additional data elements to the IMLS Public Libraries Survey questions.
  • There is substantial commonality across these elements, especially in the areas of operating expenditure, human resources, services, governance, and operating revenues.
  • Many of the state-added items are components of data elements within the IMLS Public Libraries Survey questions and contribute directly to calculations for data elements within it.
  • Data Coordinators interviewed in nine states reported that they have not made substantial changes to their state’s survey instruments within the last five years and currently have an informal process in place for making changes to their survey.

The report concludes with recommendations for IMLS and State Library Agencies.  These will be reviewed by IMLS and COSLA as well as individual State Library Agencies and, we hope, others engaged in public library data collection.

We encourage your help in continuing the discussion by visiting the MtM website, tweeting @libmeasuresmtr, and sharing information on the MtM listserv.  To join the listserv, complete the request form at  For more information, email or

Measures that Matter is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-00-16-0181-16.

MtM News

Another MtM Milestone Reached!

On April 30th, the Measures that Matter initiative (MtM) reached another important milestone.  That day marked the last meeting in the phase of work during which an Implementation Group “kicked the tires” on the Measures that Matter Action Plan.  Released in 2018, the Action Plan was a document derived from work completed in the initial MtM phase in 2017 that included development of the MtM concept, educational webinars, and a Data Summit on developing a more coordinated approach to the collection of public library data nationally.

The Action Plan resulting from that work was vetted by the library community and others outside the library community but was untested.  The Implementation Group was formed as a time-limited group charged with continuing work on selected Action Plan elements.  Among activities undertaken was a prioritization of the Action Plan’s steps and identification of pilot projects to be taken on by Working Groups comprised of interested individuals extending beyond the Implementation Group.  While the purpose of the Working Groups was focused on advancing specific action steps, or parts of them, they also tested the notion that progress could be made through a distributed work environment.  Between the Implementation Group and the Working Groups, nearly 50 individuals – librarians and non-librarians – engaged around the Action Plan.

This week we’ll begin sharing the results of this engagement.  As one example, the project team will be releasing a research report on Action Plan Step 2.1 (“Review [of] State Added Data Elements”).  We’ll also hear from members of the Implementation Group and others on plans underway to address Action Plan Step 3.2 (“Build Data Governance Capacity”) through the establishment of a Public Library Data Alliance.  Not all the work of the Implementation Group yielded immediate results.  Some of the work-in-progress will be handed off to the Alliance when it is formed later this year, underlining the need and desire for sustaining the MtM initiative well into the future.

An overview of selected work from the Implementation Group will be presented by some of its members at the American Library Association Annual Conference on Sunday, June 23rd at 10:30 am as part of the “News You Can Use” series.  The slide deck from that session will be made available on the Measures that Matter site and listserv, and we’ll be scheduling a repeat of that session in the form of a webinar in July (date tba).

We’ll continue to update the Measures that Matter website, tweet, and share information through the Measures that Matter listserv and hope that we will also hear from you about your interests in Measures that Matter work.  To join the listserv, complete the request form at  Follow MtM on Twitter @libmeasuresmtr, and for more information, email or  

Measures that Matter is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services RE-00-16-0181-16.