Getting to know the Orbis Cascade Alliance Assessment Team: an Interview with Meredith Farkas

Meredith Farkas is an Assistant Professor and the General Education Instruction Coordinator and Social Science Librarian at Portland State University, and writes about libraries, instruction, and assessment at “Information Wants to Be Free”. We asked Meredith some questions about her role as a member of the Orbis Cascade Alliance’s Assessment Team and their effort to collect assessment tools from Alliance members.
LART: What is the Alliance Assessment Team?
Meredith: The Orbis Cascade Alliance saw the need for a group to focus on assessing the impact and value of various Alliance services as well as to support Alliance members in their efforts to assess and demonstrate their value to their own institution. We were formed in Fall of 2012 and this is our current charge:
  • Recommend a process to embed assessment/metrics into all future strategic planning efforts and into the charges given to all new initiatives.
  • Develop a common data set to support consortial and local assessment efforts.
  • Provide an online Assessment Toolkit to support assessment activities.
  • Develop materials that help members communicate the value of the Alliance.
  • Update the NWCCU accreditation standards statement on the Alliance website.
  • Continue to work with Alliance members to provide guidance and support for assessment activities at the local and consortial level.
I’m part of a sub-committee that is focused on providing guidance and support for assessment activities of Alliance members. 
L: What is the purpose of the clearing house? 
M: I’m one of those people who hates reinventing the wheel and hates the idea that someone already solved a problem I have, but that I have no access to the answer. We want to collect assessment tools that have been used successfully in Oregon, Washington and Idaho libraries so that we can provide a clearinghouse of useful assessment tools that all Alliance members can use, modify and learn from. There’s a lot we can learn from each other’s successes if we take the time to share them.
L: What would you ideally like to see happen with the Assessment Team’s assessment tool clearinghouse? 
M: I know it’s hard for people to get motivated to share things; it’s just more work and doesn’t always feel like it will benefit the person adding content directly. However, if we all get more into the habit of sharing, when we do have to take on an assessment project that’s new to us, there will be less of a need to start from scratch because there will be a clearinghouse of assessment tools that we can look to. I know when my library was developing learning outcomes, it was amazingly helpful to be able to look at what other libraries had done. We weren’t starting from scratch.
I also hope that this will help not only those looking for assessment tools, but those who are not yet sold on the value of assessment. Orbis Cascade Alliance members are all over the place in terms of their assessment activities and commitment to assessment, and sometimes seeing what other libraries have done is what a library needs to get started with an assessment program (or even a single activity).

L: What kinds of assessment tools would you like to see in the clearinghouse? 

M: Any and all assessment tools are welcome! No tool is too big or small. I hope to see everything from rubrics and small satisfaction surveys for a single area, to major library-wide assessment tools. Here are some ideas we provided to get people started, but really, anything you used that you think might possibly be helpful to others would be great to add.
  • Website assessment (usability testing scenarios/tasks, etc.)

  • Instructional assessment

  • Library service point assessment (reference, circulation, information desks, technology help desk, etc.)

  • Collections-focused needs or satisfaction assessment

  • Resource Sharing assessment (ILL / Summit)

  • Library space assessment

  • Internal library operations assessment (staffing, spending, productivity, etc.)

  • General library assessment to determine patron needs or satisfaction

Would you like to contribute your assessment tools to this project? If you have used any assessment tools that you’d be willing to share on a freely-available Alliance website, please visit this site where you can upload and provide information about your assessment tool.

If you are uncomfortable sharing the assessment tool with your name or institution attached, you can indicate this on the form and that information with be left out.

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