Data speaks volumes: evidence-based delivery of library services in a user-centered library

MacKenzie Mannion, Caitlin

Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018, 30 July - 2 August 2018 Gold Coast: Roar Leap Dare
[Peer reviewed] This conference paper discusses the emerging trend in librarianship to rely on evidence and data, rather than opinion and anecdotes, to guide the planning, delivery, and assessment of library services that are truly user-oriented.
With the ever-increasing focus on the needs and experiences of our users, librarians are compelled to reposition themselves as providers of services and support. Libraries are now more than the sum of their collections, and are becoming hubs for creation, instruction, and research. With this increasingly service-oriented approach to the profession, librarians must view their work and services through lenses of critical inquiry, assessment, and thoughtful design. Above all libraries are increasingly expected to plan, deliver, and assess their services based on evidence and data. This evidence-based approach to librarianship demands greater attention in professional literature and best practices.
This paper consists of a review and discussion of evidence-based practices in librarianship, as well as a case study of one academic library’s project to assess reference programming using systematic data collection and analysis. Academic librarians in a small Sino-Foreign university situated in cosmopolitan China explored demand for and use of reference services among their users, a diverse and multinational population of undergraduate students and faculty. Data collected included traffic patterns and circulation activity as well as a system to categorize reference transactions by genre. The resulting data-driven system was used to guide the library’s scheduling and staffing of in-person and virtual reference services. In addition, it was a key tool for training library staff and interns for reference work. As one of the library's first attempts at planning, delivering, and assessing reference services to a small but highly engaged population of academic users, this approach exemplifies the successful use of evidence-based planning in a user- and service-oriented culture.

Deakin, ACT: Australian Library and Information Association
New York University of Shanghai