SAA and ACRL/RBMS Launch Joint Effort to Develop Standardized Statistical Measures for Holdings Counts and Public Services

As archivists and special collections librarians, we are becoming increasingly mindful of the need to gather, analyze, and share evidence concerning the effectiveness of the operations we manage and the impact of the services we provide. Yet the absence of commonly accepted statistical measures greatly impedes our ability to conduct meaningful assessment initiatives and the evaluation and establishment of best practices. Recognition of this two-pronged challenge has manifested itself in a number of ways including an assessment-themed issue of RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage; assessment-related sessions at the meetings of our professional associations including ALA and SAA; presentations  centered on special collections at the biennial ARL-sponsored Library Assessment Conference; and grant-supported initiatives led by ACRL, ARL, and other organizations to help our allied professions to build and foster a culture of assessment and to demonstrate the value that libraries and archives bring to their communities and society at large.

Within this context, SAA and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of ACRL have appointed two joint task forces charged with developing standards that will define statistical measures for describing the extent of collection holdings and common public services operations in archival repositories and special collections libraries. Each task force consists of ten members, five appointed by SAA and five appointed by ACRL/RBMS, including co-chairs representing each organization.

Emily Novak Gustainis (Harvard University) and Martha O’Hara Conway (University of Michigan) are co-chairing the SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Holdings Counts and Measures for Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries, which is charged with developing guidelines that will provide metrics, definitions, and best practices for quantifying collection holdings. The SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on the Development of Standardized Statistical Measures for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries, co-chaired by Amy Schindler (University of Nebraska Omaha) and Christian Dupont (Boston College), is charged with developing statistical measures and related metrics for evaluating and comparing public services within and across institutions, including visitor and paging counts, reference transactions, reproduction orders, and events.

The task forces will hold open meetings at SAA Annual and ALA Midwinter and Annual meetings. The task forces will maintain their agenda, minutes, and working documents on their respective Holdings Counts and Public Services microsites hosted on the SAA website. They will aim to complete their draft standards by August 2016 for review by the SAA and ACRL standards committees and eventual approval by SAA Council and the ACRL Board of Directors. Because the standards development processes will involve consultation with SAA and RBMS members and experts from other organizations, there will be many opportunities for your participation. Please feel free to contact any of the co-chairs with your comments or questions.