Current Assessment Projects

The projects listed below are from various library units and the Library Assessment Working Group is not directly involved in many of them.

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Table of Contents

1.      Library-Wide Assessment

2.      Reference Services Assessment

3.      Web Usability Studies


Library-Wide Assessment


IDEALS as Assessment Data Repository

Investigators: Library Assessment Working Group

Summary: The Library Assessment Working Group is investigating the desirability and feasibility of using the IDEALS repository as a clearinghouse for assessment efforts and data. While IDEALS' collection development policy does allow the submission of data sets, possible issues include requiring data sets to meet minimal reliability standards (i.e. is the methodology transparent enough that other projects could repeat the assessment program?) and to provide enough contextual information to make interpretation and comparison possible.


Government Printing Office and Federal Depository Library Program User Surveys

Investigators: Government Printing Office, UIUC's Government Information Services

Summary: The GPO is running two separate surveys to evaluate the use of FDLP libraries, the accessibility of government information online, completeness of collections, and users' perceptions of both print and online government documents. The first survey is accessible at this link:


Room and Gate Count Analysis

Investigators: Eric Phetteplace (GA), Social Sciences Division, Undergraduate Library

Summary: The LAWG Graduate Assistant has been developing "macro" programs which operate out of Microsoft Excel to ease the burden of processing customized data fields in Desk Tracker, including the library-specific Room Count forms which several libraries utilize as well as the more universal Gate Count fields. These macros should enable librarians to assess traffic and use of space patterns at their locations. An example outcome could be discovering insufficient numbers of outlets for laptops, seats, or scanners in a particular space.


Chemistry Library User Survey

Investigators: Tina Chrzastowski

Summary: The Chemistry Library is soliciting feedback from users by means of a survey handed to patrons in the library. The survey asks questions about use of the physical space, use of print collections, why patrons came to the Chemistry Library, and what other library they would use instead.


Reference Services Assessment

Assessing Music Reference Services in an Age of Vanishing Reference Desks

Investigator: Kirstin Dougan

Summary: Budget and staffing challenges as well as increased call for assessment and evaluation are affecting academic music libraries. In addition, patron needs and expectations are evolving and more of our collections are migrating online. How do we know that the services we offer are meeting our patrons' needs? This paper looks at assessment in general and WOREP and the READ Scale and how they can be used in music libraries.

Delivering and Assessing Music Reference Services

Investigator: Kirstin Dougan

Summary: The nature of music collections and their use means that patrons have always required specialized guidance from librarians to access what they need. Currently, library patrons' expectations are growing as collections and their delivery modes evolve. Music reference services must adapt to effectively address these needs. This article examines the challenges to delivering effective music reference service, the basics of reference assessment, and how assessment models such LibQual+, the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program, and the Reference Effort Assessment Data Scale can help librarians build patron-centered music reference services.

Desk Tracker Standardization

Investigators: Eric Phetteplace (GA)

Summary: In an attempt to standardize the way in which various Desk Tracker fields are interpreted by disparate library units, the Assessment Website is hosting a series of documents which provide definitions and examples for commonly used features (URI: Currently, there are documents related to the Description, Patron Type, RRGIS-This Question is About, and Referred to Specialist fields. While libraries are encouraged to develop their own unique forms, it would aid cross-unit comparisons and reduce training redundancies to have a one-stop repository for fields used in multiple locations.


READ Scale Implementation

Investigators: Kathleen Kern, Carissa Phillips, David Ward

Summary: While current Desk Tracker forms can provide information on the length and subject of reference interactions, these are weak and inaccurate proxies for question complexity. The READ Scale, developed by Bella Gerlich of Dominican University, ranks questions on a 1-to-6 scale based on the sophistication and knowledge required to answer a question. A pilot project of implementing this scale is being planned, currently involving the Undergraduate Library and the Reference, Research, and Government Information Services department.


Staffing by Design

Investigators: Kathleen Kern, David Ward, Eric Phetteplace (GA)

Summary: Using Fall 2010 semester Desk Tracker data collected at the Undergraduate Library and the Main Library's Information Desk (staffed by the Reference, Research, and Government Information Services department), this investigation is looking into the desirability of a virtual reference desk which would handle remote reference modes such as IM/Chat, SMS, and email. The Desk Tracker data has yielded a wealth of information on topics as such which times of day are busiest in which reference modes, which modes are preferred by which patron types, which patron types ask questions during certain times of day, and which question subjects come through which modes of communication.


Web Usability Studies

What a Comparative Usability Study Told us About a Website Redesign

Investigators: Kirstin Dougan, Fulton Camilla

Summary:Library Web sites must compete against easy-to-use sites, such as Google Scholar, Google Books, and Wikipedia, for students’ time and attention. Library Web sites must therefore be designed with aesthetics and user perceptions at the forefront. The Music and Performing Arts Library at Urbana-Champaign's Web site was overcrowded and in much need of a user-focused redesign. This article presents a usability study that compared participants’ use of the old site versus the new site to determine if performance improved on the redesigned site.


Investigators: Merinda Hensley, Jenny Emanuel, Suzanne IM (GA)

Summary: Study examining the LEARN site's (URI: content and navigation.  Currently being reviewed by IRB. The goal of this study is to determine how Illinois library users interact with LEARN portal webpages in order to make informed improvements to the site and increase the efficiency of site navigation.


Librarian Search Habits

Investigators: Jenny Emanuel

Summary: Ethnographic research on how different ages and demographics search for information differently.  Will commence in November of 2010.


Mobile Wayfinding Application

Investigators: Jim Hahn

Summary: Studied student usage of a mobile wayfinding application developed by Jim Hahn.


Undergrad Library Homepage

Investigators: David Ward, Jim Hahn

Summary: Currently involved in usability testing for current and future versions of the UGL home page (URI: A recent redesign included adding an IM/Chat widget on the UGL home page as well as images of recent acquisitions.


Undergraduate Research Methods Project

Investigators: Robert Slater, Lisa Hinchliffe, Camilla Fulton, David Vess, Melody Allison, Rudy Leon

Summary: Interviewed twenty undergraduate students, mostly freshman and a few sophomores, and asked them to talk about and demonstrate how they engaged in doing research for a recent class assignment (among many other things). The study undertook an initial analysis of the data to establish a model of information seeking behavior for Illinois Undergraduate Students. Each of the investigators has been applying the findings to our own work (on the web and related to in person services). However, there is still some analysis to do to issue a full report.


User Study of Current and Prototype Library Gateway

Investigators: Robert Slater, Camilla Fulton

Summary: IRB approval is in place and students will be brought in over the next few weeks to participate in some usability studies of the Library Gateway (URI: First, students will be asked the same questions about the current and proposed new sites. Then the investigators will provide a comparative analysis of their use of and thoughts about both versions. There will be three to four rounds for this study, and the prototype Gateway will be modified based on feedback from each iteration of users, and then new users will be given the opportunity to assess the each updated prototype.