Toward Developing Measures of the Impact of Library and Information Services

By Durrance, Joan C.; Fisher-Pettigrew, Karen E. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Toward Developing Measures of the Impact of Library and Information Services


Durrance, Joan C., Fisher-Pettigrew, Karen E., Reference & User Services Quarterly


A convergence of factors, both within and outside of librarianship, has created an environment conducive to the development of what has in the past seemed too difficult--measures that will be able to determine the impact of library services. These factors include: advances in research that improve evaluation approaches; demands for public sector accountability; and governmental activities aimed at determining service outcomes. They will influence the development of a new generation of evaluation tools for librarians and other professionals. This article examines these factors within the framework of today's key evaluation questions, "What differences do public services make?" Using data from a recently completed IMLS-funded study, the authors identify and discuss impacts of library community information services as well as implications for the development of context-centered evaluation tools.

Factors Influencing Changes in Approaches to Public Sector Evaluation

Advances in Evaluation Scholarship

Researchers are making contributions to a paradigm shift by turning the evaluation lens away from institutions and toward people's activities. In the process they are beginning to provide public sector professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to turn the evaluation lens away from the institution and toward users of services.

Patton's definitive book on evaluation is a landmark contribution to understanding utilization-focused approaches to evaluation. It not only traces the development of these approaches, it also synthesizes many social service evaluations and presents approaches to focusing a particular evaluation, evaluation questions, methods, data analysis, and presentation of findings. (1) Patton puts measuring impact, or end results, at the top of his hierarchy of evaluation. Table 1 is based on this hierarchy.

The Aspen Institute's Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives produced a rich array of evaluation research, including two major reports on evaluation research and a database of measures for community research (www.aspenroundtable. org). These reports, developed by some of the evaluation field's finest researchers, provide a rich store of relevant theoretical and methodological approaches as well as a cogent discussion of the challenges and complexities associated with "fundamental questions about how to ascertain the ways in which an investment of resources has paid off." (2) This work clearly details the incredible difficulties faced by evaluators who seek to determine outcomes of community services. These researchers stress the need for evaluators to ground their work in theory, in particular the theory of change, and to incorporate contextual factors. Finally, they recognize that "the practice of evaluation is itself a profoundly political and value-laden process, involving judgments about the validity of program objectives and choices about how progress can be measured." (3) The work of these researchers is vitally important to developing an understanding of the complexities of this type of evaluation.

In Local Places, Global Connections: Libraries in the Digital Age, Schement also articulated the importance of understanding the context in which citizens seek information and adopt new technologies. He warned that libraries "lag in [their] understanding of the evolving social context--a context in which libraries will have to justify themselves," and suggested that libraries consider "how Americans [will] live their lives as citizens, as economic actors, and as social beings." (4)

Digital library researchers have begun to examine the social aspects of the design, use, and impact of information systems. (5) Bishop and her colleagues argue that combining these approaches with participatory action research

   ... focuses digital library design and evaluation directly on the digital
   divide. Participatory action research demands relevant outcomes for
   marginalized members of society. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Toward Developing Measures of the Impact of Library and Information Services
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.