This session from the University Libraries Section was formally titled "Demonstrating Excellence in Higher Education: What Universities are Doing. What Libraries are Doing." University libraries, particularly public ones, and libraries in Europe and Asia are very concerned with this, but we all need to be. Personally, I am increasingly interested in trying to find ways to accurately indicate what value we add to the mission of Rollins.
The speakers included Alexander C. McCormick, Director, National Survey of Student Engagement & Associate Professor, School of Education, Indiana University; J. Stephen Town, Director of Information, University Library and Archives, The University of York; Patricia Brennan, Director of Product Management for Evaluative Products, Thomson Reuters; and the moderator was Marilyn Myers, Associate Dean for Public Services, University of Houston Libraries.
McCormick talk on NSSE was interesting. He pointed out that ranking largely track the incoming SAT scores of students, research rankings ignore undergraduates entirely, and that the official measure of quality assurance in the US is the accreditation process. He did note that there is a direct relationship between students' reported library use and measures of institutional quality, but when one isolated library there is no independent impact on outcomes. He urged libraries to emphasize a “Discourse of improving, not proving.”
But the best speaker was Towns, the University of York in the UK. One measure I use to determine if I have been in a good session, is if I come out with a reading list. Towns gave me that:
ARL SPEC Kit 305
SCONUL’s “Performance portal”
Roxanne Missingham. 2005. Libraries and economic value: a review of recent studies. Performance Measurement and Metrics 6, no. 3, (September 1): 142-158. http://rollins.summon.serialssolutions.com (accessed June 28, 2010). [Rollins people can find the fulltext here.]
Petros A Kostagiola, and Stefanos Asonitis. 2009. Intangible assets for academic libraries. Library Management 30 (6/7): 419.
Town made the point that, “All of this [talk of value and impact] may damage the idea of libraries as ‘transcendent’ collective and connective services.”
He said we need comprehensive and holistic measurement --- true worth, transcendent valuation, in a narrative of worth.