INLS 782: Library Assessment

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"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less."

-- General Eric Shinseki, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Course description

PLEASE NOTE: This syllabus is under development. This course will be offered in Fall 2010, and I will probably be tweaking the syllabus right up to the last minute. Return to this page often for the latest.

Research and evaluation are not the same thing: research is what you do to make evaluation possible; evaluation is one possible use for research findings.

This course will be composed of the following Units:

  1. Introduction to evaluation, broadly construed, and approaches to evaluation that are common in libraries. The guiding questions for this unit are as follows:
    • What is evaluation?
    • What constitutes a good evaluation?
    • What is the difference between evaluation and research?
    • What approaches to evaluation are used in evaluating libraries?
  1. Overview of library operations and services, and how those are evaluated. Guiding questions:
    • What are the functions of a library? What activities and operations are engaged in by the library? What services are provided by the library?
  1. Critique of existing evaluations of library operations and services, and investigation of existing evaluation instruments. Guiding questions:
    • What approaches to evaluating various library operations have been tried?
    • What data collection instruments already exist for evaluating library operations?

There is a catch-22 involved in this course: conducting an evaluation depends on the appropriate use of methodology, but you will most likely not yet have taken INLS 780: Research Methods. We will make heavy use of various methodologies in this course, especially for your assignments. But this is not a course on research methods. We will therefore address specific methods as appropriate for the work in this course. For a more systematic approach to methodology, take INLS 780.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • Develop the ability to identify library functions and services that must be assessed.
  • Develop the ability to plan, design, and implement an assessment program in a library.
  • Gain skill in analyzing and interpreting the data from an assessment, and in presenting that data for diverse audiences.


Jeffrey Pomerantz
Associate Professor
School of Information and Library Science
Office: 306 Manning Hall
Office hours: Tu/Th 11-12:30
Phone: 962-8064
Twitter: @jpom

Textbook & reading

There is one required text for this course:

Matthews, J. R. (2007). Library Assessment in Higher Education. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

This book is available in the Student Stores and on reserve in the SILS library, as well as from the online bookseller of your choice.

All readings will be assigned on the course Schedule. Readings not from Matthews will be available on the free web, as an ejournal, or via the Library's ereserves. Readings are also listed in my course delicious feed.

Additional reading

Other good books on evaluation generally and evaluation in libraries specifically include:

Baker, S. L., & Lancaster, F. W. (1991). The Measurement and Evaluation of Library Services. Arlington, VA: Information Resources Press.

Davidson, E. J. (2005). Evaluation Methodology Basics: The Nuts and Bolts of Sound Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Durrance, J. C., & Fisher, K. E. (2005). How Libraries and Librarians Help: A Guide to Identifying User-centered Outcomes. Chicago: American Library Association.

Patton, M. Q. (2008). Utilization-Focused Evaluation. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Also the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sponsors a biannual Library Assessment Conference. Conveniently, this conference will be taking place right in the middle of this semester, on 25–27 October 2010, in Baltimore. You should go.

I've also aggregated a bunch of library assessment-related RSS feeds: stay tuned


Develop an Assessment Project

Develop a Library Assessment Plan

Grading rubric & other policies

See my course grading rubric.

See my course policies.


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