Library Assessment Conference Report

Vanissa Gosserand
Reference/User Services Librarian
Southern University A&M College

I really enjoyed attending this conference, as it provided useful information and inspiration. I learned that library assessment is a process undertaken by libraries to learn about the needs of users (and non-users). It is also used to evaluate how well libraries support these needs, in order to improve library facilities, services, and resources. I also learned the importance of having an assessment plan, which can organize assessment efforts, keep them on track, and record assessment results and lessons learned. The following information was stated at the conference and it was suggested that as a library considers assessment one should ensure the following questions, practices, and policies are included in good assessment planning.

Purpose: Why engage in assessment? What do you hope to gain?

Theory: Assessment for learning, assessment as learning, and assessment as learning to teach are the three assessment theories underpinning assessment practices at most libraries. Which theory will be most useful for you and your library programs?

Links to Strategic Documents: Connect the assessment plan to the larger institution’s mission, vision, and general learning outcomes.

Structures: Are there assessment committees or a coordinator who might shape the assessment practices? What organizational structures will facilitate assessment?

Resources: Assessment requires staff time and materials at the very least. You may also wish to hire a consultant or provide professional development opportunities for staff involved in assessment efforts. The resource section of an assessment plan will describe these needs.

Data Policies: Include policies for data gathering, storage, access, and reporting that will protect the rights and privacy of students and librarians.

Goals and Outcomes: A list of agreed-upon overarching goals and specific, measurable learning outcomes is a necessary element of any assessment plan.

Timeline for Continuous Assessment: Describe the schedule for assessing and reassessing individual outcomes. This should articulate realistic plans and recognize that a “one at a time” approach to outcome assessment is best.

After taking a look at the slides and posters from the conference, it shows that librarians are doing amazing things with assessment to learn more about our patrons, help inform decision making, make the case for changes or funding, and demonstrate the value of the library. All in all, I would recommend any academic librarian interested in assessment attend the conference if given the opportunity. I came home energized and inspired, and I think there’s a lot to learn from projects undertaken by other libraries. Additionally, I came from the conference with so many ideas that I might use in the future. I also was able to network and meet other librarians with similar interests. This was an amazing experience and I am grateful that I was able to attend the conference. I hope to use the things that I learned to help improve the library here on campus. I also want to inspire others to incorporate the things I learned into their daily work activities.

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