Library Assessment · 15
Survey Questions and Responses
The SPEC survey on Library Assessment was designed by Lynda S. White, Associate Director,
Management Information Services, University of Virginia, and Stephanie Wright, Natural Sciences
Information Services Librarian/ Management Information Librarian, University of Washington. These
results are based on data submitted by 74 of the 123 ARL member libraries (60%) by the deadline of June
8, 2007. The survey’s introductory text and questions are reproduced below, followed by the response
data and selected comments from the respondents.
To assess, in general, is to determine the importance, size, or value of; to evaluate. In libraries, we assess by collecting,
interpreting, and using data to make decisions and to improve customer service. We study internal processes, levels and quality
of service, and library impact on institutional goals.
The number of assessment activities undertaken in libraries over the last decade has grown exponentially. Libraries of all kinds
are looking more closely at how and how well they are serving their users. Since 2004, ARL has sponsored a program to assist
libraries with the assessment of services that they offer their users and the processes that support those services. This visiting
program has been part of a move away from measuring inputs and outputs and toward judging service quality by measuring
outcomes and the value that library programs add to their communities. What may have begun as the occasional assessment
duty assigned to the library staff member with the most interest or greatest statistical acumen, has blossomed at many
institutions into a formalized library assessment position, committee, department, or all three. These programs may include such
activities as statistics collection, conducting surveys, conducting focus groups, Web usability testing, and benchmarking, etc.
Although this growing area of library management has become recognized as a legitimate use of limited budgets and time,
there is not as yet a good overview of precisely how library assessment activities are being implemented or developed. The
purpose of this survey is to address that missing piece of the puzzle—to examine the current state of library assessment, as
well as to provide a starting point for those seeking to develop a library assessment program at their own institutions. This data
should help libraries assess where they are and identify best practices to help them build or expand their own programs.