Measuring a Library’s Value: Discussing Assessment

Measuring a Library’s Value: Discussing Assessment
Jenny James Lee
August 5, 2014

What difference does a library make in student retention, faculty grants and research, or enrollment decisions? As institutions of higher education are challenged to show fiscal responsibility in the face of increasing tuition and student debt loads, academic libraries are developing new metrics to better explain their value to the academic community. For years, libraries have added anecdotal evidence of their value such as success stories and positive feedback to annually submitted quantitative metrics of the size of collections, physical spaces, budgets and staffs. Now, libraries are challenged to show how they more directly support the missions and strategies of their institutions.

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Drexel’s Libraries invited library leadership from the 52 greater Philadelphia colleges and universities to join in a discussion about assessment activities and strategies by which librarians have addressed these challenges. . In total 21 individuals attended, representing 17 institutions. The idea for the half-day program emerged from informal conversations while welcoming a professional colleague to town, Nancy Turner, Assessment Librarian at Temple University Library. Acknowledging that Drexel and Temple librarians are not alone in working to identify evidence about library effectiveness and impact, we thought that extending our exploration to librarians from other campus settings would be beneficial. We also suggested bringing colleagues working on this challenge from elsewhere on campus. Two of Drexel’s Institutional Research Office experts joined the assembled librarians, adding valuable insights about statistical analyses and ways such issues as contributors to student retention are examined.

The meeting, held at the Library Learning Terrace, was organized to stimulate small group discussions and broader reflections by all present. Librarians recounted success and struggles with exploring ways of measuring a library’s impact on key university metrics, such as measuring building usage and correlating it with student retention for example. Many participants expressed enthusiasm for the event and welcome continuing to share discussions around library assessment.

Those interested in Drexel’s library efforts should contact John Wiggins, director of library services and quality improvement at Members of the Drexel community are also invited and encouraged to take the Libraries ongoing feedback survey at