'Let your performance...

by tosca on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

...do the thinking.'
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

In which Tosca realises that this is going to be one of those weeks where she has more questions about libraries and, as is usual lately, offers no answers whatsoever. For the simple reason that she doesn't have any answers. I don't know that there are perfect answers at all, actually. This time around I'd like to know why we measure the success of our services by playing a numbers game. Is it really an accurate depiction of how well we're doing? Or of how many people we're actually reaching? Do stats/reports/numbers really mean that we're providing the best quality library services that we can?

I'm meant to be writing about what music I'm listening to at the moment but I'm not going to. It doesn't mean that I'm not listening to anything. I just have questions that I'm turning over in my head a fair bit lately and need to put down in words somewhere. Why not here.

When I worked in the branches I came to see fairly quickly that everything we do is about numbers: door counts, children who register for the summer reading programme, teens who complete the teen reading programme, adult book club participants, preschoolers and parents who attend storytime, staff who complete a book handling course, visits to high schools, group tutorials, community orientation, etc. For all of these we collate statistics and reports to match up against predetermined objectives to figure out if we're on target for the year or not, and even to see if our numbers are down over this time last year. Or the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. You get the idea. I understand that. What I want to know is...why? Why do we measure our success this way? Why does it have to be quantified? I know for a fact that a branch daily door count (for example) doesn't really reflect the true customer busy-ness of the day. It might read 845 people, but it doesn't necessarily mean that we actually served 845 people. Neither does it mean that we served any of them to the best of our ability. It most certainly doesn't mean that every single one of those customers got exactly what they were after. Realistically, that number - 845 - says nothing about the true reach or quality of what we do. So...why is it a numbers game? Why is it about quantity (hard measures) and not quality (soft measures)? And if we were to get rid of the numbers...what would we replace it with? A hybrid mix of hard and soft measures? All soft? How would we measure the true success of our organisation? What would that success look like? Who determines when we're successful? And would staff, managers, leaders be ready for it?

Like I said, more questions and no answers.

Incidentally, as to tonight's missing 'earworm' post, I'm listening to Supernatural's original soundtrack. It loops over and over in my head. In a good way. My favourite track would have to be Dean's dirty organ by Christopher Lennertz which is, as the title would suggest, heavy on guitar and organ. And not about porn music even if the title makes you think that, although maybe it does have that slightly cheesy 70s porn music-feel just a little but hey, it's for Dean Winchester (the character) so it wouldn't be totally out of place.

One comment

Numbers are easy to collect, and it's a habit that's difficult to change (as most habits are).

One measure of success that is widely used in businesses is the Net Promoter Score which essentially measures customer loyalty with one question "Based on your experience today how likely is it that you would recommend this store to your friends and family?"

When I worked for a mystery shopping company this was *the* question that NZ and Australian businesses used to measure their success and reward their staff. Perhaps libraries could include something like this in their customer satisfaction surveys...

by Sally on August 24, 2011 at 9:12 AM. #

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