There’s an intriguing–and challenging–article just out (Jan 26) from LIBRARY JOURNAL: Data-Driven Libraries: Moving From Outputs to Outcomes. Yes, we need more data on outcomes of library services, and we need systematic ways to collect it. Continuing to encourage libraries to “go forth and commit outcome-based evaluation” without any systematic framework isn’t helpful, and certainly hasn’t generated much (if any) data that could be aggregated at state and national levels. Yet, it is quite possible to collect outcome data far more systematically than is being done at present, and a plan to do just that is being developed for Colorado. (Watch here for a link, when available.) Rumor has it that a national effort in this direction is also in development. It will be interesting to see what it delivers.
At the same time, we can’t afford to neglect the issue of output statistics about library services. We especially need data on newer outputs. Some newer outputs are being subsumed into existing ones, like e-book circulation into circulation and virtual reference transactions into reference. What about newer outputs that have no place to go–like visits to library websites and uses of library Wifi access? Minimally, it is urgent that IMLS and the states begin to collect these newer outputs for public libraries. (Likewise, NCES, for academic and school libraries.)