14 · SPEC Kit 303
these statements at agree or strongly agree; most
cluster around the middle of the scale. There ap-
pears to be a strong administrative commitment to
assessment that does not translate to the organiza-
tion as a whole.
Just under half of the respondents (31 or 46%)
indicated that there is an assessment plan in some
or all of their library’s departments or units or a
library-wide assessment plan. Fifteen respondents
commented that the library was either in the pro-
cess of developing a plan or used an alternate doc-
ument (such as a strategic plan or annual report) as
their assessment plan.
What do “typical” library assessment programs
look like? The typical programs began in the 1990s
and engage in various assessment activities in ad-
dition to the collection of ARL statistics. They be-
gan by doing a user survey because the library
wanted greater knowledge of its users and wanted
to determine which new services to offer. The pro-
grams most frequently gather statistics (100%), but
are also strongly involved in doing various user
surveys, Web usability testing, and focus groups.
They have performed studies of their Web sites.
They track usage statistics for electronic resources
and assess user education programs, collections,
and reference. They have not usually assessed their
administrative areas that are not centered on the
Typically, various individual library depart-
ments or units do assessment, although the num-
ber of institutions with assessment coordina-
tors or committees is growing. The coordinators
have typically been appointed within the last five
years (2002 to 2007) and are within two reporting
levels of the library director. If there is an assess-
ment department, it has just over two members.
Committees sometimes date to the 1990s and aver-
age six to seven members. The tasks performed by
all are remarkably uniform; they analyze, interpret,
and report on assessment activities, consult with
staff on assessment methods and needs, and per-
form assessment activities. They coordinate their
work with other units in their institutions.
Results of activities are usually distributed
through a Web site; they are communicated with
staff more frequently than with the parent institu-
tion or the general public. Both staff and public
Web sites most often present general library statis-
tics and analyses of assessment results. Assessment
does lead to programmatic changes in the library,
primarily changes to Web sites and facilities.
Training in assessment is supported by the li-
brary but is mostly outsourced rather than local.
Training that is provided by the library is focused on
assessment methods, basic statistics, and surveys.
The most highly regarded training appears to come
through ARL-sponsored events such as meetings at
American Library Association conferences and the
Library Assessment Conference. These venues are
also appreciated for their networking and sharing
opportunities. But more training is needed in as-
Library administrations are typically commit-
ted to the concept of a culture of assessment in
their libraries, but there is a perception that this
commitment is not shared by all staff. Many staff
do not have the skills or rewards needed to carry
out assessment projects. Most libraries have an
assessment plan or are using a similar alternative
document, or they are in the process of developing
In short, library assessment is alive and well in
North America. There has been considerable prog-
ress in this area from the mid-1980s through 2007.
For that progress to continue, there needs to be
more effort to train not only those responsible for
assessment, but all staff who are expected to par-
ticipate in assessment activities.