Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Assessing Library Space


While my main focus in my position is assessment of the collection, I try to keep aware of other aspects of evaluation and assessment regarding libraries.  Towards that end, I noticed that the most recent Research Library Issues from the ARL includes an article on assessment of library space: Library Space Assessment: Focusing on Learning.  The article is, effectively, a publication of the workshop that the authors, Joan Lippincott (CNI) and Kim Duckett (NCSU Libraries), had given for the 2012 Library Assessment Conference.

Being an ARL publication, it centers on Mega Oakleaf’s seminal work, which is not a criticism, just an observation.  The article provides a good foundation of applying principles of assessment to the library’s facilities, as well as a blueprint for developing an assessment plan that is connected with the institutional goals of student learning.

The primary audience for the article are librarians considering or having just completed a renovation to their spaces for learning purposes.  However, it could easily be applied to librarians who wanted evaluate the impact of their current spaces on student learning.  For instance:

The exercise of planning out an assessment program in conjunction with the library facility design process may prompt librarians to think more deeply about what they hope to accomplish for student learning as a result of the renovation.

And…

Some guiding questions to consider early in the development of an assessment plan include:
• What elements of the renovation facilities and services will support important learning goals for the institution?
• What curricular initiatives in departments or colleges would benefit from the availability of new
facilities, technologies, and services in the library?
• What elements of the library renovation facilities and newly configured services would support student success?
• How does the library encourage student engagement with learning?
• What audiences does the library want to reach with the outcomes of the assessment program?

I think it is very interesting how the authors emphasize that it is the confluence of facilities, collections, services, technologies and staff that make up a renovation, and thus must be assessed together rather than separated out.

Adding to the complexity, it is often the combination of the renovated space, along with the associated services and technologies that together create an environment that facilitates changes in learning.

It also allows us to be more proactive in designing assessment research questions and considering how assessment of the library space (and all it contains) can be merged into or respond to broader assessment efforts on campus. (NOTE: emphasis added.)

Potentially, library data can be a component of learning analytics as well. Data such as use of the facility’s collection, its equipment, and/or its group study rooms can be captured and could possibly be fed into the analytics software at an institution or correlated with relevant institutional student data such as GPA, major, etc.

Key to any publication that references Megan Oakleaf is the emphasis on the connection with learning outcomes.  The authors provide both hypothetical and real-world examples of such connections, including from University of Michigan, Twin Lakes and University of Tennessee Knoxville.  These projects have been attempting to demonstrate a connection between library use (of various kinds) and grades (one measure of learning outcomes).  Hypothetical projects include linking with your institution’s analytics programs or learning systems to connect library services with student GPAs.  The point is to start associating usage of the libraries and student outcomes at the student level.

There is a section that focuses on the the potential role of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is now a major part of most universities’ assessment.  The authors mentioned how this national survey is being modified to include more items about library usage and information literacy skills.  They wanted to emphasize the importance of connecting library assessment with  national trends in academic assessment, as well as with the local institutional goals.

The list of resources and the references cited in the article could form a basis of a self-guided curriculum in library assessment, not limited to assessment of space.  The article is a good read for those who are just starting to consider how to evaluate or assess your library’s space in terms of student learning.

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This entry was posted on December 28, 2013 by in Academic Libraries, Assessment, LIS Research.
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