Assessment and evidence based library and information practice

by Lorie Kloda
Assessment Librarian, McGill University

I have held the position of Assessment Librarian for almost three years, and been involved in the evidence-based library and information practice (EBLIP) movement for over a decade. Since taking on this position, I have been trying to make sense of EBLIP in my job – trying to understand how these two concepts complement each other, overlap, or even contradict one another.

In a 2006 article, “EBL and Library Assessment: Two Solitudes?” Pam Ryan, then the Assessment Librarian at the University of Alberta, asked the question regarding assessment and EBLIP, “Are these separate movements within librarianship forming theoretical bridges? Is some sort of merger, fusion, or takeover in the future?” It’s almost 10 years later, and I think this question still remains unanswered. I think that part of the answer lies in the way in which assessment and EBLIP relate to one another, not just on a theoretical level, but on a practical level.

In my work, I see assessment as having two (not mutually exclusive) goals: one, to inform decision-making for quality improvement to anticipate and meet users’ needs, and two, to demonstrate impact or value. There are, however, some occasions (OK, there are a lot of occasions) when one cannot conduct assessment. Hurdles to assessment include a lack of time, data, resource, experience, and skills. In cases where one cannot conduct assessment, whatever the reason, one can make use of evidence: credible, transferable findings from published research, to inform decision making.

One of the roles of an assessment librarian, or really, any librarian working in assessment and evaluation, is to foster a culture of assessment in the organization in which they work. According to Lakos and Phipps,

“A culture of assessment is an organizational environment in which decisions are based on facts, research, and analysis, and where services are planned and delivered in ways that maximize positive outcomes for customers and stakeholders.”

I understand the above quote to mean that librarians need research, analysis of local data, and facts in order to plan and make decisions to best serve library users. A culture of assessment, then, is also one that is evidence-based. I find this idea encouraging and I plan to spend some time thinking more about how the steps in EBLIP and assessment overlap. While I think the realm of library and information practice is still far from a takeover or merger when it comes to assessment and EBLIP, I think the two will continue to mingle and hopefully foster a culture which leads to increasingly improved services.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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