Bill Irwin, Assistant Professor, Huron University College and Kimberly Silk, Sr. Planning and Development Officer, Hamilton Public Library, focused on the good, bad, and ugly aspects of evaluation in the workplace. Good: evaluation can provide data to management on library users. Bad: how can you find it good if you don’t go anywhere with it? Ugly: People are disappointed when their measurements do not tell them what they wanted to hear.
Measurements tell us how we are doing and inform our audience, so it is important to make sure we share the data with everyone.
Evaluate so you will know how you can serve your clientele or your community. The purpose of a public library is to build a sustained community. Don’t confuse means and ends, strategy and tactics.
We need quantitative data because it adds visibility, and the social impact gives personal impact. You must determine what proxy measures actually measure. How are you using the data? Do you just record it and keep it, which is about all that some libraries do . How do you make your library better? By selection, weeding, etc. One library found that circulation tripled after it was advertised, which they used in promotional efforts. Are you using the data to increase the outcome metrics?
Just using counts is not an effective way of describing what is happening in the library, how the library is evolving, how is it serving the community, and how we are Identifying meaningful metrics. How do you feel when things are not increasing? We have educated decision-makers to emphasize the metrics we collect. Or purpose is not circulation; that is a means to an end. We get too ingrained in the means. The true role of the library is to serve our communities. Metrics tell us which community needs more attention. How are we responding to communities that are larger than ever before? Don’t forget how hard change is.
Data is for everyone, not just the top management. Too often, the data are never seen by the library staff. Evaluation can change stereotypes of the library that are held by the stakeholders. Our biggest challenge is that we have created a sense of who we are that is not aligned with reality.