The first week of December found me down in Houston for the Library Assessment Conference. Held biennially, this was my first time attending LAC – along with many, many others – and my first time in Houston. As I was attending on behalf of the Assessment Committee, I went to sessions that covered the breadth of assessment in libraries. If you’d like to see my full notes in Google Drive, let me know; otherwise, here are some highlights…

  • The assessment conference kicked off with, well, assessment: a breakdown of conference income and expenses. 60% of expenditures went to catering, so we were instructed to not feel guilty about getting an extra croissant and to eat well and drink hardy at the conference reception!
  • Surveys and focus groups tell us what and how but not why
  • Libraries need high, medium, and low intensity work spaces, but have them often through happenstance not intention
  • Existing space restrictions do not have to restrict innovation in spaces and services
  • Libraries may not be the most diverse when looking at people, but when looking at who we serve, the breadth of our collections, and the spaces we provide, we are often the most diverse department on campus
  • If only studying current users, we’re excluding populations on campus; non-expert users can feel intimidated and unwelcome
  • We need to step back and explore news ways of knowing; practicality does not automatically equal reality or value
  • Metrics make us default to an us/them comparison, which is not helpful – and can be a false equivalency
  • Create a culture of inquiry: care less about assessment per se and more that people are asking questions, wondering why
  • How you manage a change after is as important as how you manage before and during

I wasn’t sure if I would know anyone at LAC, but happily bumped into a friend from my ALA Emerging Leaders class and met several fellow North Carolinians, which was fun. I flew out of Houston on Friday, just as Winter Storm Diego arrived there, bringing torrential rains but mild temps (it was 73 when I left). It was an intense, insightful three days, and I am grateful I had the opportunity to attend and represent ZSR.