Over summer I attended the 11th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services. It’s the first time I’ve attended this conference and I was really impressed with the content of the sessions I attended. It was fairly international in terms of attendance, with delegates from USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa… (and that’s just the people I happened to meet during the breaks!). This meant that the conference had a real variety in terms of attendees and speakers, which helped provide a much broader context. Many of the presentations I attended were from academic libraries, though I did also make sure to attend some from different sectors to see what we can learn from them.
One highlight for me included a session I attended on piloting surveys using cognitive interviews (from Ithaka S&R who administer large scale international surveys for academic staff). The techniques discussed were useful for me to consider when we plan our surveys on behalf of Library and Learning Resources, though some of the methods would be difficult given our relatively small sample size.
I also attended a session from University of Manchester who use Tableau software to create a statistics dashboard for library management with an overview of library usage statistics to support data driven decision making.
I found it very interesting to hear about the different types of roles people at the conference have, and in fact one of the poster presentations shared research on this and the training/support needs of those who work in this area. Some attendees have a role which focuses solely on the performance measurement of their library (sometimes even as part of a team), whilst others have some element of performance management for their library alongside another role (such as librarian, marketing officer, or senior manager). The focus of performance measurement for each organisation seemed slightly different, though there were many commonalities in terms of measuring usage of resources, space, and library staff expertise.
From talking to others, it seems there is a perception that all other libraries are ahead of their own! I heard many people (both in their presentations and when talking to them during the networking opportunities) apologise for the less than perfect approach they take to measuring performance. I think as a profession we need to cut ourselves some slack here – very little data collection (if any?!) is ever perfect, but collecting data and using it is infinitely better than not collecting it or not using it.
Many of the people I spoke to agreed that there is a need for more sharing within the profession, both in terms of performance measurement methods and strategies for communicating findings; this could be through events such as the Northumbria Conference and Library Assessment Conference (and their conference proceedings), or via professional networks such as mailing lists and social media.
I came away from the conference inspired and enthused and hope to be able to use some of the methods in our own research, both for BCU Library and Learning Resources, and for our external projects.