XIV

Evaluate programs and services on specified criteria.

Discourse

Libraries and information services are constantly evolving. New technologies, developments in the literature, economic conditions, patron demands and a myriad of other factors offer challenges and opportunities for institutions both private and public. A key component of librarianship is discerning the value, coherency and impact of programs and services. This competency speaks to a summation of a librarian’s skill: a knowledge of the whole body of library and information science, ranging from theory, to management, to ethics and to outreach is predicates sound analysis and evaluation. Without the latter we in the field can find ourselves in dire straits. Major catastrophes and abortions can be attributed at least in part to a failure to critically evaluate certain services. The “Slow Fires” immediately comes to mind: a national crisis in which our records printed on acidic paper are vanishing in the multitudes on a yearly basis due to corrosive chemical forces which were overlooked by a generation of librarians. Yet more immediate, modest and provisional challenges arise on a yearly basis: should one’s institution shift to digital journals over print, develop a collection in this subject area or that or develop a strategy plan to cater to expansion or quality control? These are a few of the specific questions a good librarian must be able and willing to answer, and doing so requires a broad understanding of the issues, politics, theory and social realities of the field.

And evaluating these programs and services along a specified criteria is key. Specific criteria allow for a librarian to judge the applicability of services and programs to provisional institutions. It is not enough to simply judge the good of a program or service in a broad, theoretical sense: instead an evaluation must be done in the context of neccesity, economic situation and institutional flexibility. This latter quality requires a thorough understanding of the community, the institution and the especially the people, a point which I speak to in my “applied work” section. Wayne Disher of SJSU staff promotes the idea of performing a “walk about” in the community or environment of an institution facing a program or service change in order to better understand the patron. Disher’s methods might be unconventional judging by the literature but nevertheless are effective at forming the basis of an evaluation; before any serious critique or evaluation can take place, becoming intimately familiar with the principals is absolutely necessary. Failure to perform on the latter point might result in developing solutions which are not in the best interest of the patron or community at large. Such solutions are leaps in the dark.

Technology is another element which perpetually compels the librarian to re-evaluate his programs and services. While in the past library services could remain relatively static and traditional, the expansion of digital services and the primacy of web 2.0/3.0 technologies has fundamentally challenged the way libraries and information services function. Because of this the librarian is today is frequently considering the adoption of technologies he observes becoming popular in the public eye, which may potentially destabilize the library service. Coomb’s enumerated Web 2.0 pillar of “radical decentralization” immediately comes to mind – the services the patrons often enjoy lack a hierarchical, top-down design but rather empower the users to contribute and shape the information retrieval systems they operate. A service like Wikipedia is infinitely more approachable and interactive than the old information silos of the past. As librarians we must constantly struggle to compromise between what the patron wants, and what properly suits our information services. This is the heart of evaluation in the contemporary age as institutions completely digitize their collections, become increasingly dependent on folksonomies, “wikify” their portals and surrender their sole dictatorships on a day by day basis. The keen librarian must be able to evaluate this maelstrom of potential change and solutions, adopt what is useful and abandon the rest. Something as simple as investing in plain text database access and decreasing funds from print journals can have a serious impact on the institution at large: librarians of the day are no longer academics alone, they also play a crucial role in policy. Sound policy makers must make informed decisions, and this is why this competency is absolutely essential to mastering library and information science.

Applied Work

My coursework at SJSU has focused extensively on the critique, contrast and evaluation of programs and services along specific criteria. These sort of analyses are perhaps what I am best known for, and I have dedicated thousands of hours of study over the years to be able to lay bare complex systems. What follows is a series of studies, comparative analyses and reports which serve as thorough examinations of programs and services through the lens of specific characteristics and qualities. In consideration of this small excerpt from my corpus of critical coursework I have mastered the ability to seer through complexity and produce useful evaluations.

The first piece of evidence demonstrating applied work is an analysis of Wikipedia as a Web 2.0 information retrieval system. The paper specifically focuses on user access and examines Wikipedia against professional criteria for sound information retrieval. The paper demonstrates my ability to consider a specific criterion in the scope of a larger, mysterious system.

The second piece of evidence is a comparative study between the strategy plans of two libraries: East Baton Rouge Parish Library and the Coy C Carpenter Library. Obvious strengths and weaknesses of the strategy plan documents are presented and analyzed in order to consider the ideal professional specimen.

The third piece of evidence is a comparative report reviewing the contrast and depth of difference amongst library collections. Again here two libraries were chosen for purposes of contrast: Northeastern Seminary Library and Boston University African Studies Library. The subject area, scope, format, type of materials and other specific criteria are considered as the documents are evaluated.

The fourth piece of evidence is a report aiming to evaluate information retrieval and user access methodology at The University of Alabama, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library’s website. Specifically the usefulness and effectiveness of access-related information was analyzed in order to consider the needs and expectations of the patron user.

Wikipedia (PDF)

East Baton Rouge Parish Library vs Coy C Carpenter Library (PDF)

Collection Development Policies: Northeastern Seminary and Boston University African Studies Library (PDF)

The University of Alabama, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, a Critique of Web Presence (PDF)

Bibliography

Abel, D. (2009, September 4). Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books. The Boston Globe. Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/0 /04/a_library_without_the_books/

Coombs, K. A. (2007). Building a Library Web Site on the Pillars of Web 2.0. Computers in Libraries, 1 (27). Retrieved from http://infotoday.com/cilmag/jan07/Coombs.shtml

De Rosa, C. (2005). Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources.  Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/reports/2005perceptions.Htm

Holt, G.E. (2005). Beyond the pain: understanding and dealing with declining library funding. The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 18 (4), 185-190.

King, D.W. & Montgomery, C.H. (2002). After Migration to an Electronic Journal Collection: Impact on Faculty and Doctoral Students. D-Lib Magazine, 8(12). Retrieved from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/december02/king/12king.html

Krause, C. (2009). Wikipedia.

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