Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Self-Assessment in Librarianship: An Exploratory Study of Current Practices and Future Possibilities

Academic journal article Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research

Self-Assessment in Librarianship: An Exploratory Study of Current Practices and Future Possibilities

Article excerpt


In investigating the personal self-assessment practices of librarians, this research sets out to open the discussion around how we as librarians define, realize, and reflect on our work within the library profession. As a preliminary step in that discussion, our paper examines existing practices and asks librarians with various roles and in various settings what practices and support they believe might be helpful to them with regard to self-assessment. While this research does not set out to provide a set of guidelines or best practices relevant to all institutions, we highlight some key findings that may help individual librarians to reflect on their own self-assessment practices, and library administrators to consider how to support a culture of self-assessment at their own institutions.

For this paper we considered self-assessment broadly, as a cyclic and iterative practice of assessing one's own work through a range of strategies both formal and informal, private and shared. The definition used in our interviews is included in our Literature Review and in Appendix A. Strongly linked to self-assessment is the concept of reflective practice, the activity of exploring a completed project or experience through writing, and considering how to apply what was learned to future practice. For the purpose of this paper, we consider reflective practice to be one of the most valuable frameworks for self-assessment, but recognize that self-assessment can involve a range of additional individual and group activities. We chose a relatively broad definition of self-assessment so that we could recognize the diversity of practices taking place across our profession.

Literature Review

By and large the literature relevant to the topic of self-assessment within libraries comes from the education domain within our field, that is, from teacher-librarians. Self-assessment in teacher-librarianship is championed as a learning tool for students to improve their research skills, and for librarians to develop effective and innovative programs. Donham writes about how teacher-librarians can support the development of self-assessment practices for lifelong learners. While she stops short of talking about self-assessment for the teacher-librarians themselves, inherent to her discussion about lifelong learning is the assumption that these practices learned in student life need to continue on in professional life. We borrowed Donham's definition of self-assessment for the purposes of this study: "self-assessment is a means of developing internal standards and comparing performance to those standards [...] It requires looking in three directions: back at completed work, down at present work to determine next steps, and forward to the future to apply to the next learning opportunity what has been learned" (15).

In Weber we see an example of a school librarian actively using NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Guidelines of Professional Practice for Librarians, to assess her own work. Weber worked with the Guidelines to develop a self-assessment form that acknowledged the diverse responsibilities of a professional librarian, and then worked with her supervisor to incorporate the form into her annual review process (56). She explains that the new form transformed the "routine inconvenience" of previous annual assessments into a "thought-provoking" and "refreshing process" (57).

Fredrick offers us an example of a school librarian using the idea of self-assessment towards the practice of program assessment in school libraries. For Fredrick assessment is not limited to the domain of students, but is also the job of librarians. Self-assessment for librarians means not just the assessment of one's instruction or management style, but also assessment of how this work relates to library programs more generally. Fredrick offers a step-by-step process "for assisting school librarians as they undertake the process of self-assessment in tandem with program assessment" (23). …

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