Meet the Public Library Data Alliance: Maria Chiochios

Maria Chiochios is the Assessment Librarian at the University of Texas Libraries. She holds master’s degrees in Library Science and Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of California, Davis.

I deeply enjoy library assessment work that improves library services, demonstrates the value of libraries, and tells the story of 21st century libraries. My passion for this work began in graduate school courses and was reinforced in the projects I oversaw in my first library job after graduation. In my current work, my desire to contribute to the library assessment field has continued to grow, which has strengthened my intention to keep helping libraries improve and tell their story of impact.

While libraries are good at counting things, those things aren’t always tied to outcomes. Library data collection is usually done for recording purposes for governing bodies, associations, grants, or annual reports, but these numbers aren’t always the most meaningful. Data can have different counting requirements for each report, which can also be different from how a library uses that same data internally. On top of that, interaction with and analysis of the data usually only happens at the library director or manager level.

Libraries often have to deal with budget, staff, and time constraints, and they’re continuously striving to do more with less while also perpetually growing existing programs and offering new services. In this environment, I have observed that library staff don’t always have the necessary skills or capacity to focus on data and gather feedback on the performance and effects of their activities. Knowing these outcomes is beneficial for communicating a library’s community impact and helps change people’s perspectives about what a library is and does. When looking at library services – such as skill building, entrepreneurial support, access to tools and technology, or legal assistance – impact and outcome data is harder to define and more difficult to capture, but is where you uncover the true value of a library.

I’d love to see a framework that provides clearer, more consistent language to talk about library data across the board. I’d love to see a structure that offers best practices for combining internal library data with external data sources. I’d love to see a plan that strategizes how assessment work can be more integrated into library services and have more library staff be involved in that work. I’d love to see guidance for libraries on collecting more meaningful data that enables libraries to make data-driven decisions and demonstrates how libraries change lives and bring value to communities.

These observations and desires are what drew me to become a member of the Public Library Data Alliance. I bring both an academic and public library perspective to this work, as well as skills and experience in public administration. And by currently being situated in a strong research environment, my hope is this will infuse the work of the PLDA with a similar ethos.