What Should and Shouldn’t Be Counted in Library Surveys Today?

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

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