Budgetary concerns plague most libraries. Nearly two thirds of school libraries are funded inadequately and teacher librarians are often forced to decide between resources as to their value to the collection and the community (Softlink, 2017). With monies being so tightly constrained, resources, especially expensive digital resources need to prove their value to school in order to retain their subscriptions. Teacher librarians can use a variety of indicators to illustrate the value of their collection and output measures are frequently used to determine the value of a resource and service.
Matthews (2015) defines output measures as the “degree to which a library’s resources and services are being utilised… the more the resources and services are being used the better” (p.211). Borrowing rates, subscription rates, database statistics are all measurements of how often a resource and service is borrowed and or utilised. An under-used resource is not achieving its highest potential and thus other services should be prioritised instead of it. Whilst easily quantifiable, these statistics point out how frequently a resource and service is accessed. It does not highlight though if the information in the resource was used and converted into knowledge. It also does not highlight if the resource had a positive affect. A great example of resources that have low rates but high affect would be print magazines. At my school library we have a print subscription to a few magazines that we send to the teachers lounge, once they are no longer required in the library. These magazines, according to the data, are never loaned before they are moved on, but the positive affect they have in the staff lounge is immense. We rarely find those magazines in their entirety. Quite often there will be recipes and or idea pages snipped out of them. They then migrate to the art room where they end up as collage material for students. The output data would say that these magazines have little value to the school community but the truth is very different.
Matthews (2015) points out that outcome measures are more significant and should have a higher value as they indicate how the user’s life was changed as a result of the resource and or service. The value lies in that the focus is the user/customer and not the resource itself. Outcomes include attitudes, values, inspiration, knowledge, understanding as well as enjoyment and creativity. Some long term outcomes are difficult to measure and categorise as they often happen years after the student has graduated. An example of short term outcome measurement are assessments that evaluate a user’s knowledge and skills. Whereas a long term outcome measurement could be a person’s social status, lifestyle and income. Both examples show how the measurements are transient from learning to a social and economic change. In other words, outcomes are placed on a continuum and whilst harder to measure, have a greater value in their result.
Matthews, J., (2015) Assessing outcomes and value: it’s all a matter of perspective. Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 16 Issue: 3, pp.211-233, https://doi.org/10.1108/ PMM-10-2015-0034 Permanent link to this
Softlink. (2017). 2017 Australian and New Zealand school library survey. Retrieved from https://www.softlinkint.com/downloads/2017_Softlink_Australian_and_New_Zealand_School_Library_Survey_Report.pdf