Assessment & Analytics Community of Practice “Kick Off” : A Recap

Yesterday here at Temple University Libraries we kicked off a new approach to developing our culture of assessment, an Assessment & Analytics Community of Practice discussion to which all staff were invited.

The Kick Off  focused on two recent research projects conducted here: a qualitative interview project with religious studies faculty and the Ithaka S+R /Temple faculty survey. What I want to facilitate at these sessions is the opportunity for staff to think together about how we connect user research to strategic library practice. To that end, I asked the Ithaka Research Team members to consider these questions, provided here with some key points:

In terms of the work you do with faculty, what was the most significant finding?

  • Faculty (religious studies) are using social media to create informal communities to a greater extent than we thought. Many use Twitter to keep up with other researchers in their field.
  • Faculty are incredibly busy.
  • While faculty do want a wide audience for their scholarship, they perceive “open access” as less targeted than publication in more traditional vehicles.

In understanding faculty work practice, and how the library can support that, what were the particular benefits of the research method? What was problematic?


  • Interviews provide robust data and good “story-telling” potential.
  • Processing that data take time; we were fortunate in having our audio interviews professionally transcribed.
  • Yet even with a small sample (12) we were able to discern themes.
  • In the end, a narrative actually was easier to write with the qualitative data compared to the quantitative.


  • Surveys are hard to design. While they provide a way of gathering from a broad group, the question format can be limiting, and we never know if respondents understand the question in the same way.
  • We worried about skewed results, i.e. respondents were mostly faculty who like and want to support the library.
  • Survey data takes time to analyze. We spent lots of time massaging the numbers, and it was not easy to turn those numbers into a good (and even-handed) narrative.
  • That said, the “hard numbers” may be more usable for “talking points” and advocating for the library’s value to the University, particularly as we compare our results with other research institutions.

In using the findings to consider next steps (actions, not additional research), provide an example. Connect something you learned to something you will do.

  • Services like document delivery to faculty offices are important as they save the time of scholars.
  • There is plenty of room for educational outreach. Areas like open access, open educational resources, institutional repositories  are not commonly understood. There is also room for educating faculty about how we can support their needs in scholarly communication, e.g. negotiating a license with a publisher
  • Providing liaison librarians with “talking points” related to survey findings would be helpful, particularly those that point to the librarians’ value towards improving student critical thinking and research skills.
  • There are implications here related to collection development as well, particularly as we see the extent to which faculty use media in their classrooms and assign media-related assignments to students.

Some thoughts in general:

No method provides ready “next steps” for action. And much of what we learned was not surprising, nor “ground-breaking”. Our faculty are, for the most part, like faculty at other research institutions. So it behooves us to pay attention to the literature – to other research. An example was the recent Ithaka S+R report on Rethinking Library Liaison Programs for the Humanities, and its insights into changing paths for library work with faculty.

Next steps:

We had a great turnout yesterday, with staff from Health Sciences, Research & Instruction, Outreach & Communications, Access & Media Services, Special Collections Research Center, Administration, Library Technology, Scholarly Communication, and Digital Library Initiatives.

We’re already planning the next few months’ session – there is lots to talk about and lots of interest in assessment activity – usability and undergraduate education are upcoming topics, as well as a working group for Alma Analytics skills-sharing.

Thanks especially to members of the Ithaka Research teams : Rebecca Lloyd, Justin Hill, Kristina DeVoe, Annie Johnson, and Lauri Fennell for sharing their thoughts to make this first program a success. (And Fred Rowland, present in spirit)

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