Library Value May Be Proven,
If Not Self-Evident
Guest Editor, Martha Kyrillidou, Senior Director,
Statistics and Service Quality Programs, ARL
e hold these truths to be self-evident: libraries are valuable
to humankind; libraries preserve knowledge; libraries enable
to information; libraries serve the information needs
of their users. To the believer the truth is evident. But libraries are not natural
phenomena like the sun rising and setting every day. Libraries are institutions
created and supported by those individuals who hold that these statements are
true even if not self-evident to everyone.
The caretakers of libraries have gathered data on library performance for
decades and have used this information to understand how to improve services
and programs they provide to their users. The ability to measure the quality of
library services is extremely important as libraries are faced with the need to
make informed decisions about the best way to meet the needs of the users of
those services. This ability has become even more important as libraries make
transformative changes during times of fiscal constraint and increased
ARL has built a program of assessment over the past 20 years and
continuously looks for ways to strengthen this capacity for member libraries.
This issue of RLI highlights ways in which assessment tools have helped
libraries improve their services and programs. These improvements are the
result of library leadership and their staff using data to make decisions that
would have the most impact. This issue also captures some of the newer
initiatives focused on demonstrating the value of library services.
LibQUAL+® has now been used for a decade by upwards of 1,200 libraries
around the world in 20 language versions. The results have helped libraries
understand users’ perceptions of library service quality. Colleen Cook and
Michael Maciel provide a brief historical look at the evolution of LibQUAL+® and
highlight how the administration of this tool enabled the Texas A&M University
Libraries to make significant service improvements based on sound data. The
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