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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 9 months ago
This is background information and thinking outloud for me about one of the first steps in our plan.  I thought your having it before the next managers' meeting would help us all start on the same page as we address establishing baselines.  I don't expect to come up with all the answers Tuesday.  sms, 8-21-08
The library’s plan says our goal is provide open access to a diverse collection and programs to meet community needs. Our actions are  to “[e]valuate programs, services, hours, and collection consistently” and “reach under-served populations” by doing the following:
1. Establish baseline for current collection, programs, staff, and services”
2. Document circulation data, technology services, current programs/attendance, service hours service [sic], volunteers, staffing, equipment, meeting rooms, website hits and wireless use.”
So, what is a baseline? A datum used as the basis for calculation or for comparison (wikipedia). Or  "A set of measurements that establishes the status of a system or other item as of a given date. Used to provide a common denominator and starting point for later measurements and comparisons."  Or "A description of existing conditions to provide a starting point against which progress can be assessed or comparisons made." 
We already count a number of the items listed, so using that data in a more formal evaluation is possible. We also have the capacity to measure collection diversity by using Director’s Station, for instance.  But we want to be sure we're counting what's important, not just easy to measure.  That's the tough decision.
We did not establish measurable goals for the plan—that is, we didn’t say we want to increase circulation by 5% a year over 5 years. Departments could establish measurable behavioral goals/objectives in their plans if they wish.
To measure ourselves against ourselves only gives false sense of our position. So that baselines alone do not necessarily encourage focused improvement.
I also looked at the term “benchmarking” which is “in simplistic terms is the process where you compare your process with that of a better process and try to improve the standard of the process you follow to improve quality of the system, product, services etc.” Or "measures of progress toward a goal, taken at intervals prior to the program's completion or the anticipated attainment of the final goal. ... Or " points of reference or comparison, which may include standards, critical success factors, indicators, metrics." Or "targets for performance."
We also do not wish to be so complicated that measurmenet interfers with services. 



I have some questions for us to think about and discuss: 
A. What shall we choose to measure? How do we count it? Much of what we count now is mandated by the state and the federal government. Here are some suggestions for discussion.
1.  We could try for quantitative measures for baselines
A.  Open access: Hours open, numbers of formats, number of computers, IS counts
B.  Diverse collection: We can count DDC, age, circulation/in house use,

C. Programming: subject, attendance, staffing, web site, request

D. Identifying  Community needs: Communities we're reaching now, varieties of volunteers, meeting room use, numbers of outreach events


2.  We could look at qualitative measurers.

A.  Open access: staffing/hour levels, evaluations of staff training,
B.  Diverse collection: Speed of ILL fills, types of requests.
C.  Programming:  quality of services to the seniors, computer learners, disabled and to youth, etc.  by evaluations
D.  Identifying community needs:  surveys, requests/patron comments, study of demographics, news, etc. 
One aspect of our library that is outstanding is the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff.  How do we measure or evaluate that? 
B. What shall we use as baselines for what we’re choose to measure, and implicitly, improve? We have several options:
1. We could use in-house baselines. That is, we could establish a year as our baseline for service and measure change from that year in targeted areas. I would suggest FY07, the complete year before the plan was adopted. I see cherry picking baselines as taking too much time for the benefit. 
2. We could compare ourselves with other Wyoming libraries and measure how our rankings change in targeted areas. That’s trying to hit a moving target since other libraries are also changing services, etc. My impression is that our numbers have improved in some areas, but not many.  I did a comparison of our rankings and how they changed some time ago, but am not finding it now.  There were two or three areas where we improved—numbers of children’s programs was one.  
3. We could use a comparison of ourselves with other public libraries in somewhat similar university towns and measure how rankings change. The same problem applies with moving targets.
4. We could use an external measure like Hennin. Ditto.
5.  We could use a combination of in-house and external markers, a baseline to describe the present and benchmarks to describe where we want to go.
What do you think?

Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 10:08 am on Aug 22, 2008

I will be on vacation next week, but see the following as some things that Public Services could measure or list for baselines:
-- reference interactions
-- website hits on pages describing programs or collections
-- staff hours required for x number of storytimes for x number of children
-- current teen programming, hours spent, teens reached
-- adult programming offered and adults attending (*sigh*)
-- hours spent on selection work
-- amounts weeded from the collection - not sure if this is a baseline as we did some long-overdue weeding in the past few years (not typical of future years)
-- age of collection might be a better baseline and help us with a future benchmark
-- numbers of programs offered for summer and staffing required; also funding required for this
-- a future goal is improving instruction services; a benchmark would be what we offer now (formal and informal)

the qualitative baselines are tougher.

-- we will need to brainstorm, with Marjorie, about our outreach to various Laramie communities.
-- we should begin an overview of the strengths and weakness of our collections. ESL, for example, is one we are weak in, will need to strengthen as Laramie diversifies, and will require an infusion of some outside cash - these materials are very costly!

Those are thoughts off the top of my head.


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