During my four years as department chair of the library, I have pondered the issue of assessment. Libraries have long collected usage statistics: library attendance, instruction sessions, material check-outs; however, like other academic departments, there has been a shift to focus on learning outcomes assessment. It’s not enough that 1,500 books circulated and 10,000 students visited the library. Are they learning anything? How do we know?
We offer a 1-unit Information Literacy class and have gone through two cycles of Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) assessment. Additionally, we have made it through two cycles of Program Learning Outcomes (PLO) assessment and one cycle of Administrative Unit Outcomes (AUO) assessment. And we’ve learned a lot and have updated our programming efforts as a result. It is important work.
Yet I feel the need to revisit the traditional usage data because I think it is useful in revealing the overall health of the library. Each year the library, along with other academic departments, completes an Annual Unit Plan. The template does not ask for library usage data. We completed our first Program Review and that template did not ask for usage data either. Perplexing. So, we added it in using a nifty infographic. (I got this idea from blogger David Lee King and wanted to share it with you).
What are your thoughts on the shift from relying on usage data to a focus on outcomes assessment? What is the focus at your institution?