From learning what programs are working for patrons to being able to communicate the value of libraries to legislators and stakeholders more effectively, one thing is becoming more and more clear: having reliable data and the tools to analyze it are among the keys to a successful library system. Data can help to confirm suspicions, prove hypotheses, and offer evidence for the success of library programs. It can also dash expectations or surprise sleeping biases, forcing the rethinking or reinvention of a program that isn’t living up to its potential. Data, analyzed and contextualized, can also make it easier for librarians to tell their stories to legislators and stakeholders when the time comes to make the case for library budgets.
Reading the new HORIZON Report for Higher Education 2014, I’m inspired as usual by the work of Educause and the New Media Consortium (NMC). This year’s study continues the direction. In fact, a new framework for presenting challenges and trends accelerating technology adoption and the key technologies for higher education makes the report even more useful for anyone and everyone involved in teaching and learning.
So I was at the Information Desk in Widener not long ago, and business was uncharacteristically slow (the thing I like best about working the Information Desk is that it’s usually hoppingly busy, and the kinds of questions that come in range from, “Where’s the bathroom?” to “Can you help me locate this 16th-century manuscript that’s essential for my thesis?”) when my friend and colleague, Joshua Parker, stopped by to say hello. Our discussions always cover a host of topics, but a favorite is about kinds of organizational structures (if you read the post linked from Joshua’s name you’ll see that he is that rare bird, a library manager mensch). He had some noteworthy things to say and some useful resources to recommend for reading, which I’ve found interesting and which I’m going to pass on to you folks. They’re not your usual library organization or management titles, however.
What would happen if your library’s website disappeared? You’d probably get a lot of phone calls. f I had to guess, most would be about: Finding library items, renewing library items, and library hours and locations. This thought experiment gives us some perspective about the things library websites should be focusing on—the critical tasks users are trying to accomplish. It also offers perspective on the aspects of our websites that are comparatively unimportant—everything else.
When librarian Elke Bruton from the State Library of Oregon (pictured) and four of her colleagues attended Lead the Change! Oregon at Portland’s Central Library in April 2013, they were told they should give a report when they got back. But, she tells LJ, “We said, we don’t want to do that. Out of context, it doesn’t mean anything.” Instead, the team met to digest their own takeaways and turn them into training for their coworkers.
Welcome to the 2014 LJ Movers & Shakers. The 50 individuals recognized here are passionate about what all types of libraries can do to enhance lives—for adults, teens, schoolchildren, infants, and toddlers. If there’s a common theme among their profiles, it’s that as much as the library is a place to go, it is also a place on the go—to wherever patrons or potential patrons are. The Class of 2014 brings the total number of Movers to over 650. It was difficult to select just 50 people to honor from the more than 225 nominations we received. There’s not one Mover, however, who hasn’t told us that they couldn’t succeed without their colleagues, so, in effect, the Movers & Shakers represent hundreds more who work in and for libraries.
Whether a library is designing a building or a program, the first premise of designing for impact is figuring out what impact you’re trying to make and how you’re going to assess whether that impact is occurring. One of the most common buzzwords in librarianship today is “outcomes, not outputs.” In other words, measuring not quantitative metrics of what libraries do, such as circulation or visits, but what impact those activities have on the lives of their patrons.