Technology Planning Evaluation
Technology plans are important resources and guides that libraries develop to help direct initiatives and create a clear path to improving services for both patrons and staff.
Evaluation helps to not only see how far we have come, but also what else can be achieved. The best way to think of the technology plan is as a dynamic document, something that changes with the library. If the library doesn’t achieve a goal that was written down 12 months ago, it doesn’t necessarily prove that the library was unsuccessful. Something could have changed to make that goal unnecessary or unexpected events changed the needs of the library. An evaluation provides the opportunity to review progress, make changes and form new strategies.
Of course, there are situations where a goal isn’t reached because of a problem. Maybe there was a lack of understanding as to who was responsible or when a task should have been completed. The task could have been forgotten completely. By performing an evaluation, the library can identify the areas that need to be improved and create a clarity that can help avoid the same problems in the future.
The most common mistake that libraries make with evaluation is that they don’t look at evaluating the goals; they look at evaluating or reviewing the plan annually as a whole. The best results will come from looking at the goals throughout the life of the technology plan and monitoring progress to determine if the goals are being met. Whether it’s monthly, quarterly, or some other schedule, there needs to be a method of continual evaluation. This can sound like a lot of work and be time consuming, but technology is often discussed during staff and board meetings and in meetings with vendors. Take advantage of existing policies and procedures and incorporate them into a more formal evaluation process.
Evaluation can be done in many ways and the type of evaluation may depend on how challenging the goal or objective is. For instance, if a library wants to increase the speed of the Internet connection, the evaluation component may be something simple such as achieving a 20% increase in speed. No matter the goal or objective, there should be a method for determining progress or accomplishment. Here are some measurements that can be used:
Timeliness of implementation
Patron interviews or surveys
Staff interviews or surveys
Reaching a specific target
Usage reports – how often is a service/product being used
Return on investment – anecdotal or clear evidence that a service/product is saving staff time and resources or is making library services more accessible to patrons
Other questions to consider:
How often will the goal be reviewed to measure success? If technology goals are discussed at library board meetings and staff meetings, those would be examples of review periods. If it is a large project, such as implementing a new automation system, the committee meetings would be a chance to discuss progress.
Who is responsible for performing the evaluation? Who will they report to?
The elements that go into an evaluation will depend entirely on the library. Every library is different and the technology plan and how it is evaluated should reflect the needs of the library. If there are other factors that need to be considered that are important to your library, include them. Remember that the goal is to create a dynamic plan, not something that exists simply to fulfill a requirement. A successful plan is going to be one that the library will actually use.
Many libraries perform an annual update to their plans and keep adding to it, acknowledging areas that were successful and writing new goals and strategies. The following questions can be considered as part of the review process:
Who is responsible for updating the plan?
How will you determine if the technology plan was successful in meeting the goals of your library?
What goals and objectives in the technology plan were met?
Were there any unexpected benefits to having the technology in place?
What goals and objectives of the technology plan were not met? Why?
What is the plan for meeting unmet goals and objectives?
Are there any goals that are no longer relevant and can be deleted from the plan?
What developments in technology can be used to improve library service?
It’s a lot of work, right? But all this hard work won’t be for nothing. Technology allows libraries to provide patrons with access to information and resources in so many different ways and every year we see more developments and opportunities. It can give staff members a chance to contribute their ideas for the future and allow your supporters to learn more about the great things in store for the library. Even the simplest accomplishments count, and evaluation can be used as a tool to help your library move toward better service.
Originally published in December 2011, the content has been updated.