The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services

By DeLong, Linwood | Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services


DeLong, Linwood, Partnership : the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research


Matthews, Joseph R. The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 372 pp. 50.00 USD. ISBN-10: 1- 59158-532-5. ISBN-13: 978-1-59158-532-9. 8

In this very substantial treatment of the question of how to measure and evaluate library services, Joseph Matthews has chosen to place the emphasis very much on evaluation. He laments the failure of many library administrators and directors to engage in meaningful evaluation of library services, their tendency to regard the gathering of statistical information as equivalent to evaluation, and their tendency to rely on the implicit "goodness" of libraries as justifications for the services they offer.

The opening chapters of this book deal with evaluation issues and models as well as with the issues that arise from qualitative and quantitative forms of measurement and evaluation. In the subsequent chapters Matthews applies a variety of evaluation techniques to topics such as library users, the library collection, electronic resources, reference services, technical services, interlibrary loan, online systems, library instruction and information literacy, and customer service. The concluding chapters draw the reader from the specific to the more general: the economic and social impacts of libraries, communicating the value of library services to a wider audience, and methods to determine whether libraries provide life-long benefits to library users.

Most chapters begin with a "service definition," followed by a detailed discussion of the topic, a summary of the discussion, and very substantial footnotes and bibliographical information. One of the values of this book is the very wide range, geographically and historically, of evaluation and measurement studies that Matthews has consulted and his brief reflections on these studies. He notes areas where little research or evaluation has taken place and where more needs to be undertaken.

Interestingly, Matthews does not include a chapter on library space as a service, and he misses the opportunity for an in-depth discussion of issues such as the use of library space for cultural events (poetry readings, book launchings, displays of artwork or handicrafts, etc.) or for human conveniences such as refreshment services, places for group study, or access to wireless Internet connections. There is a detailed discussion of electronic journals and e-books but curiously no discussion of other library electronic services such as Web site guides, pathfinders, or even the library's own Web site.

The book is impressive in its breadth of coverage of this topic, in particular its discussion of the variety of types of evaluation and measurement. Whereas administrators of academic or public libraries will find much to benefit from in this book, administrators of special libraries may be disappointed at the limited discussion of the evaluation of the services they provide. …

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