Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Quality Infrastructure: Measuring, Analyzing, and Improving Library Services

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

The Quality Infrastructure: Measuring, Analyzing, and Improving Library Services

Article excerpt

The Quality Infrastructure: Measuring, Analyzing, and Improving Library Services. Ed. by Sarah Anne Murphy. Chicago: ALA, 2014. 186 p. Paper $60 (ISBN: 978-0-83891173-0).

Organized, comprehensive assessment of a library's infrastructure (broadly defined as its programs and personnel) is a necessity but one that can too easily fall by the wayside. Most libraries will run the occasional user survey, but how many gather assessment data with a focused, systematic plan? Lack of time, expertise, training, administrative support, and staff are common barriers that prevent libraries from engaging in assessment.

Sarah Anne Murphy, currently the coordinator of research and reference for the Ohio State University Libraries, has compiled eleven interesting and useful examples of how some academic libraries and information organizations have addressed these universal problems. There is certainly no shortage of useful materials on academic library assessment; see, for example, Joseph R. Matthews' Library Assessment in Higher Education (Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2007; 2nd edition forthcoming in Fall 2014) and SPEC Kit 303: Library Assessment (Washington: Association of Research Libraries, 2007) by Stephanie Wright and Lynda S. White.

Murphy's collection of case studies is a worthwhile addition, especially because it emphasizes the need for libraries to devote the necessary staff and resources to their assessment programs. "A library can only continuously improve and effectively respond to the needs of the individuals it serves," writes Murphy, "by dedicating the human, financial, and capital resources required to support effective assessment" (viii). Each organization profiled in the book has allocated the resources necessary for assessment, and each one provides an overview and background of its existing assessment program, an explanation of its theoretical framework, a description of its staff roles, and examples of specific activities and programs that have helped effect lasting improvement and change.

It is clear from these essays that excellent assessment programs are not launched overnight. For example, authors Steve Hiller and Stephanie Wright shed light on how much time and effort was required to bring the University of Washington Libraries to its current "culture of assessment" (2). …

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