Get Help
Skip to Main Content

Library Assessment Committee

Getting Started ...

Having a good environment for assessment means

  • Understanding what assessment is
  • Understanding why assessment is important to improving library services for users
  • Knowing the importance of gathering data about user needs, desires, and behavior
  • Having the supervisor provide the time and resources to engage in assessment activities
  • Having access to tools and systems to analyze data
  • Having access to tools and systems to interpret data
  • Knowing how to gather data
  • Knowing how to analyze data
  • Knowing how to interpret data
  • Having access to training to improve skills in assessment activities
  • Using assessment results to inform changes in library services, systems, processes, performance, and/or policies.

So, think about these questions:

  1. What barriers exist affecting your engagement activities?
  2. How would you define library assessment?
  3. Can you identify an area that you think could be improved?
  4. What else would you like to express about assessment in the Library?
  5. What library services or operations do you think would benefit from a focused assessment?

Research Methods

Qualitative research, or exploratory research, is primarily used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. 

Participant Observation 

Definition: Appropriate for collecting data on naturally occurring behaviors in their usual contexts. Observational research attempts to capture life as experienced by the research participants rather than through categories that have been predetermined by the researcher.


Definition: Optimal for collecting data on individuals' personal histories, perspectives, and histories. Participants are encouraged and prompted to talk in depth about the topic under investigation without the researcher's use of predetermined, focused, short-answer questions. 

Focus Group

Definition: A form of qualitative interviewing that uses a researcher-led group discussion to generate data. Effective in eliciting data on the cultural norms of a group and in generating broad overviews of issues of concern to the subgroups represented. 

Case Study 

Definition: Approach in which one or a few instances of a phenomenon are studied in depth, usually refers to the intensive study of a small number of cases, or a single case. A ‘case’ can be an individual person, an event, or a social activity, group, organization or institution.


Suggested Readings:

Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector's Field Guide

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods: A Guidebook and Resource

The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods 


Quantitative research, or empirical research, refers to any research where something can be statistically or mathematically measured. There are four types of quantitative research design: 

  1. Experimental 
  2. Quasi-experimental
  3. Non-experimental
  4. Correlational


Definition: A study where the researcher is able to manipulate an independent variable and measure its influence on a controlled group of randomly assigned participants. Allows the researcher to draw cause and effect conclusions using inferential statistics. 


Definition: Studies that lack random assignment of participants but otherwise and have a similar purpose and attributes as an experimental design. Allows the researcher to make comparisons between two groups in a situation where it might not be possible or ethical to create a randomly assigned group of participants.


Definition: Systematic empirical inquiries with the purpose to describe phenomena using descriptive statistics. 


Definition: Provides a quantitative measure of the relation between two variables but does not measure causation. 


Suggested Readings:

Analyzing Quantitative Data: An Introduction for Social Researchers

Quantitative Research for the Qualitative Researcher

Analyzing Quantitative Data: From Description to Explanation

Quantitative Data Analysis: Doing Social Research to Test Ideas

Mixed Methods Research

Definition: The term mixed methods refers to a research design that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods in a single research study (such as focus groups and non-experimental research). 

Multi-Methods Research

Definition: The term multi-methods refers to a research design that uses two or more qualitative methods in a single research study (such as in-depth interviewing and participant observation) or by using two or more quantitative methods (such as a survey and experiment) in a single research study.

Suggested Readings:

The Oxford Handbook of Multi-Method and Mixed Methods Research Inquiry 

A Concise Introduction to Mixed Methods Research

Sample Library Assessment Plans