I recently attended (and presented at – see my slides here) the 9th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services. There will be a set of conference proceedings published of all the talks and all the presentations are now up on their website (along with some photos), but here are some snippets that I picked up from various talks that might be of interest:
- 40% of new members to a new static public library branch hadn’t used a public library before. (A local authority in England replaced three mobile libraries with three small static services, each open less than 20 hours a week, all in renewal/regeneration areas.)
Reading and literacy
- a project that provided books to disadvantaged primary schools in areas of South Africa found that training and engaging the teachers was central to the success of increasing the amount of time the children spent reading and improving the children’s reading scores. Unfortunately though there were some examples of the teachers locking the books away and not allowing the children to touch them.
- an interesting presentation about ongoing research by Lucy Gildersleeves into if and how school libraries make a difference to pupil’s lives. The research is gathering the ‘stories’ behind library use as well as looking at correlation with school performance ratings etc, but lack of standards or guidelines for measuring school libraries is problematic. She recommends that libraries should describe their successes and work in ‘school’ evaluation terminology to help overcome being sidelined.
- for university librarians, measuring usage of electronic journals could be easier if you joined JUSP – the Journal Usage Statistics Portal. It’s free. An American university librarian couldn’t believe that there were UK universities that hadn’t joined! I think all the ones in Wales are members.
Marketing & research
- the National Library of Scotland spends approximately 4% of its marketing budget each year on market research (the speaker noted that the private sector would probably spend about 12%) which is finds essential as an important performance measurement tool, for creating benchmarks, gaining insight, and helping to plan for the future. They also are able to identify customer priorities and evaluate new developments. The recent marketing research contact was won by Scotinfom (who also did our evaluation of Libraries for Life) who began by assessing the current research data held by NLS, identifying gaps, and gathering new data, despite cuts to the research budget. For example, switching to an online customer survey from telephone saved 50% of the costs and led to much higher response rate. Mystery visits have been used since 2007, and sometimes the mystery shopper is invited in to discuss their findings with staff! Wales commissioned mystery shopper visits to libraries in 2009 and these provided very useful evidence especially the critical role of the staff in the success of a library service during a visit.
- Liverpool John Moores University underwent super-convergence in 2009, merging its library service with careers, student admin, student finance, welfare, computing etc into one service. The key issues were: change management, strategic planning, service standards, quality, and values & behaviour. On that latter issues the library found that their previous positive ratings in student feedback fell after convergence as the students were then rating the single combined services. The library service was also more used to gathering data that was more focused on customer care than some of the other services. Since converging there is now greater consistency of the types of data gathered for performance measurement and a move towards common values held by the converged service. They also looked at retail services and their ‘impact on the customer at the moment of truth’ e.g. during shopping online it’s the online purchase process and when the customer receives the product. For the converged service the ‘moments of truth’ include enrollment, induction, information skills, study support, assessment. They then plan the customer focus assessment on these moments of interaction and are now creating quality frameworks for these moments, assessing what data is needed, and KPIs for them. More info from Leo Appleton @leoappleton on Twitter.
- Leeds Metropolitan University library is open 24/7, 365 days a year. They believe this, along with their customer orientation and some zoning in the library space, has led to very high satisfaction rates in student surveys, despite the low spend per FTE when benchmarked against other universities. They have held the Customer Service Excellence Award for last 10 years and have an annual strategy for customer feedback, including regular meetings with the student Executive body. In addition, customer service is included in all job descriptions and almost all the staff work on front-line services at some point, although they recognise that this is expensive but they believe this keeps staff in touch with the students.
One university in America found that customer-driven acquisition helps fill the gaps of the librarian’s book selection, but about 30-45% of the student-purchased e-books were not used the next year. Were they only needed for a particular assignment?
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If anyone wants further information about any of these talks I can send you my notes. Or contact the speaker directly – the programme is on the website.
Addendum – forgot to say, I liked all the ducks on the lake on York University campus, and enjoyed the conference dinner at the National Railway Museum – a great venue!