SPEC Kit 318: Impact Measures in Research Libraries (September 2010)

This SPEC Kit explores the tools and methods libraries use to gauge the difference they make for their user community, the topics assessment practitioners probe and the results they obtain, the effects of impact assessment, and whether institutions that publicize positive impact evidence see a difference in the level of financial or political support from their parent institutions.

The survey asked ARL member libraries whether they have investigated five major areas of possible library impact: correlations between measures of library use and student success pre- or post graduation; correlations between participation in library instruction and information literacy skills; correlations between measures of library use and research output; attempts to calculate how much financial value the library contributes to the parent institution or user community; and any other areas of library impact. Within each of these five areas, the survey asked which measures were correlated, which methods were used to collect data, what conclusions were drawn, who instigated the study, whether the study was one-time or ongoing, whether the results were shared outside the library, and whether the results were used to influence decisions at the library or parent institution.

By the March deadline, responses had been submitted by 55 of the 124 ARL member libraries for a response rate of 44%. Nineteen respondents (34%) report having conducted a study in one or more of the five impact areas and 13 others (24%) are planning to conduct studies. Relatively speaking, library instruction is the area that has seen the most impact assessment activities; 15 respondents (27%) have studied this area and 12 others (22%) have plans to. Each of the other areas has been studied by between one and five libraries; between three and nine other libraries plan to conduct studies in the next 12 months. The remaining 23 respondents (42%) report their library has not and has no plans to study impact measures.

This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of impact assessment goals, user surveys, and calculations of library value.