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Assessment at Concordia

The following post is submitted by guest blogger Greg Argo of Concordia University Library, St. Paul, and summarizes his presentation at CLIC’s Kick-off Program on October 26.

The CLIC Year of Assessment has been a good motivator for the Concordia Library to prioritize assessment activities. After working intensely from 2005-2008 on information literacy assessment initiatives for a university-wide grant project, the intervening years have seen various independent assessments like Website screenshot markups, Faculty Retreat “captive audience surveys” and Google Analytics. Now it is time for us to get back in the assessment mindset, and we will be applying assessment activities toward both 1) our users and 2) our student workers.
The overarching goal of our next phase of assessment with users is something more systematic, repeatable and sustainable than what we’ve done in the past. More than measuring how much users like us, how good we are, and so on, we’d like to measure how the library is being used, the level of familiarity with specific services, and how we might better meet our users’ expectations. To that end, we’ve created survey tools for both students and faculty.
Our student survey is short and varied and was modeled on existing library assessment programs (the University of Washington Triennial Survey, for instance) and design suggestions from student workers. One off-the-wall suggestion we will try in hopes of getting a greater completion rate is a less stilted tone, replacing Likert scale values like “very important” and “somewhat satisfied” with scales (still labeled with the familiar numerical continuum) bearing less formal values like “not too shabby” and “speed of light.” We are hoping to get a clearer picture of where students are starting their research and which services of ours they are aware of.  Students also gave us good suggestions about how to increase our response rate. We will be following up with each user we touch via the various library processes – chat, email, interlibrary loan, account problems, and hold shelf notifications, as well as trying a trickle-down effect through student groups.
Our faculty survey is focused on our partnerships with them, with a mix of open-ended questions and questions with answer options which may suggest to them new ways of doing things that we haven’t previously been able to suggest. We’re hoping to find out their preferred strategies for communications and outreach, any and all ways they may be interested in integrating the library into their teaching, and fail points in their use of the library. We are also looking at assessment as an opportunity for outreach, so each faculty member will be contacted individually by their subject liaison librarian to both request they take the survey and either start or rekindle a working relationship.
Starting this year, we’ve hired more student workers as student supervisors in the hopes of increasing productivity and accuracy in student work. These supervisors are playing an important role in new student worker assessment initiatives. They are tracking and correcting shelving mistakes of new student workers, and leaving details about the mistakes. They are also submitting “student supervisor end of shift forms” which track who was working, what tasks were accomplished during the shift by both students, if homework was done, and so on. Also, mandatory student worker quizzes on various pertinent topics are being assigned every few weeks. All of this info will help Zach, the student worker supervisor, keep track of who has learned what as well as inform his evaluations.
All of our assessment activities are being executed with the help of Google Forms. The functionality has gotten our creative juices flowing, and we like how they simplify Web authoring, data collection and management, workflow tracking, collaboration, and data presentation. Concordia has implemented Google Apps at the enterprise level for email and calendar, and the benefits of an integrated platform make Google Forms and Apps great tools for our assessment activities.
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