CAMEO Handbook

Chapter 6 Looking-Around-Inside-the-Library

"Looking-Around-Inside examines the library's current condition. All aspects of library services are fair game: building, collections, services, staff, management programs, and budget allocation. Libraries with multiple service outlets may study them individually or collectively and may evaluate communication and service patterns among the branches and central library." (McClure 1987, 18)


Sometimes the simplest information to collect is about the library itself and how it is used. By analyzing information about the library's collection, facilities, and services and how those resources are used by the public, library planners can often identify areas for change.

The tools for Looking-Around-Inside that are outlined in this chapter include

  1. the simple WorkSheets #1(C-D);
  2. a tool for simple analysis of the library's resources developed by Roger Greer and Martha Hale (WorkSheet #6); a checklist for a Library Walkaround (WorkSheet #7(A-C);
  3. an extensive guide to evaluating current library performance;
  4. and information on state and national resources for comparative data on library performance.

Levels of Effort

Figure 6.1 is an analysis of the levels of effort for library performance measures. Outlined briefly below is Levels of Effort information on the other options for Looking-Around-Inside.

Figure 6.1 Library Performance Measures Organized by Level of Effort
Basic Level of Effort
Moderate Level of Effort
Extensive Level of Effort
Registrations as a percentage of population
Library visits per capita
Reference fill rate
Circulation and holdings data
Circulation and holdings data
Title fill rate
Circulation per capita
In-library materials use per capita
Subject fill rate
Turnover rate
Reference transactions
Browsers' fill rate
Program attendance per capita
Document delivery
Library expenditures

Analyzing the library and its resources

For a simple and easy approach to Looking-Around-Inside, WorkSheet #6, Analysis of the Library and Its Resources, prepared by Roger Greer and Martha Hale, is appropriate. Using this tool, one can develop a brief history of the library, conduct a Walkaround evaluation of the facilities, analyze book and non-book resources, look at service availability, evaluate users and non-users, and describe special relationships between the library and the community.

Library walkaround

In The Dynamic Community Library, Beth Wheeler Fox (Fox 1988, 70-73) supplies a practical checklist to guide an evaluation of the library's image. The library's Planning Committee, Friends of the Library, a director from a neighboring library, or a system or state library consultant might help conduct this activity. WorkSheet #7 (A-C) is a reproduction of the checklist for the Walkaround and provides an excellent approach to help you take an objective look at your library to identify strengths and needed changes.

Evaluating current library performance

This chapter will describe measures of library use, categorize these measures by level of effort, and relate the measures to roles.

Most libraries already collect many of the data elements that measure library use (basic level of effort). Some can be easily collected by keeping track of library use over a short sample period of time (moderate level of effort). Still other pieces of information require a survey of the library's users (extensive level of effort).

Below are several suggested measures of library performance. Many of these are from the Public Library Association's Output Measures for Public Libraries (Van House et al. 1987, 35- 72), a detailed guide to collecting information about library and material use that has become a standard planning and evaluation tool. There are some data elements described here in addition to PLA's output measures, particularly in the chapter on measures of materials use. The twelve output measures described in the Public Library Association's manual include:

A library does not have to collect all the data indicated below. One calculates only those measures that relate to chosen roles or specific decisions the Planning Committee or library trustees want to make.

The measures help the Planning Committee evaluate how well the library is doing and how many people are being reached. The best use of the measures is for the library to compare itself to itself over time. Comparisons between libraries are sometimes misleading since another library may have different population characteristics, service priorities, or missions. Libraries choosing and implementing different roles in the Role Selection Activity would show very different results in the measures of library performance.

After calculating each measure, or gathering other data about the library and its use, it is helpful to ask "Why is this figure what it is?" High is not always good and low is not always bad. It depends on the roles selected by the library. A low score in circulation per capita means nothing to a library with a large non-circulating reference collection. Data are just numbers. It remains for the Planning Committee and Library Board to interpret them and then make decisions for change to better serve the library's clients.

Many of the measures are presented as per capita measures. This compares statistics about library usage to the number of people living in the library's service area. Even this supposedly simple piece of information can be difficult to get at times or be misleading. Some libraries have difficulty determining the number of population served because the area served is not presented in census data, such as all the people living within a school district. Some libraries also have substantial use from people who live outside of the library's service area which can artificially raise scores. One library in Ohio had 125% of their population as registered borrowers because of the heavy use of non-residents.

In the discussion below, the Output Measures as well as additional measures are organized in the following categories:

Measures of Library Use