Friday, April 08, 2011

UNYSLA Spring Meeting: Toot Your Own Horn: Measuring & Meeting Your Objectives

Today the Upstate New York Chapter of the Special Libraries Association has its spring meeting and the theme was "Toot Your Own Horn: Measuring & Meeting Your Objectives". The speakers were Jim DelRosso, Sean Branagan and myself.

Why Assessment Matters: Defining Your Results -- You can see my slides below. My key message is that we -- libraries, librarians, library services/projects -- need to capture how we are impacting our users in the near-term as well as for the long-term.   (Yes, think long term!) The data and stories are important for demonstrating our worth to our administration or management.   Yes, we do great at capturing numbers such as circulation or number of users, but not always how our services have changed or impacted our users.   Can you assess the impact that is occurring now?  In the future, can you do another assessment to see what the continued impact has been?
Plural of Anecdote: Assessing the Success of a Digital Repository -- Jim DelRosso talked about the Digital Commons@ILR and how they have assessed it.  Three things stood out to me:
  • Define your target audiences and then create personas to represent each target audience.  (Jim said he got this from someone who is in the Boston area, but I didn't catch the name.)  The persona is created by understanding what the demographics of the that audience (group of users) is, as well as other information that makes that group of users different from other groups of users.  The persona is the "picture" or description you can refer to so when you talk about your target audience (users), you have persona to help you can visualize what that audience looks like. 
  • Jim DelRosso
  • You need data and the anecdotal stories.  In fact, sometimes the data will tell you a story OR point out that there is a story there that you don't know.  Jim noted that we always tell stories.  He also said that we make up stories when we see data, so why not provide the stories rather than having people make up stories that could be misleading?
  • Sometimes you only need one story (or one data point).  Jim told a story about one use of the Digital Commons that got other people interested in it as well as outside recognition.  One use.  Don't ignore stories even if they are based on what seems like a small use or data point.  They could be very powerful evidence.
Branding and Message Development -- Sean Branagan talked about how you develop a brand and told a number of stories.  Your brand should be distinctive and communicate what makes you -- your library, your service -- different from others.  It occurred to me that libraries don't do a good job at talking about what makes our individual libraries unique (and why each library thus needs to exist).

One activity that Sean advocated that we do is to create a 500-word story about our specific libraries or services (one story per library or per service).  The story (narrative) should communicate what the service is and how it should be used, its benefits, etc.  It needs to talk about the service from the user's point of view.  Once you have that narrative, start cutting the number of words used.  Go from 500 words to 125 words, which means you need to select your word more carefully and think about what is important to communicate about the service.  Once that is done, edit down to 50 words, then down to 25 words.  After you have described the service in 25 words, edit down to 10 words and then to three words. The three-word description is likely your tagline or slogan; however, you may find the 10 or 25 word description to be appropriate to use on different marketing pieces.  It is likely that the 125 and 500 word versions will be narratives that could continue to be used internally to remind staff about the vision of the service.

I can see the benefit of creating personas and stories, yet I know that neither is easy and that many will not stop to do the exercises.  However, I can see the benefit in both and will look to incorporate those activities into one of the classes I teach (Planning, Marketing and Assessing Library Services).

Finally, I have to give thumbs up to the ice-breaker activity Chris Miller had us do. He gave each of us a piece of paper that contained a space for us to each write a question we would ask others over lunch.   The paper then has spaces for 11 names and answers.  Our task was to ask our interview question (e.g., where is your favorite place to go for a walk?) to 11 different people and write down their answers.  After lunch, each person was introduced and then we chimed in with any pieces of information we had learned about him/her.  With ~25 people in the room, it took a half hour to get through everyone, but it was fun and informative!  We all learned something new about each other and it definitely was different than the normal introductions.  I can see using that exercise again.

The Upstate New York Chapter will have another meeting in the fall.  The web site and the chapter's email list will be used to announce it. 

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