The ARL E-metrics project will build on and enhance related work that the investigators at Florida State University (McClure and Bertot) have been doing in the public library arena with grant support from the national leadership grant program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Through a 1998 grant, the two developed a core set of statistics described in Statistics and Performance Measures for Public Library Networked Services published by ALA in late 2000.
With another IMLS grant ($226,000) announced in September 2000, McClure and Bertot will develop a process whereby the public library community, state library agencies, policymakers, researchers, and others can have accurate and timely national data that describe networked services, resources, and activities. The major problem to be solved in this project, as in the ARL E-metrics project, is how to standardize information provided by the vendors that provide electronic resources to libraries.
Two other IMLS National Leadership Grants for 2000 will focus on research in public libraries. St. Louis Public Library received $219,239 for a project with two goals:
- To develop and demonstrate use of a comprehensive outcome-based model that public librarians can adopt or adapt to plan, evaluate, and improve children's access to, and use of, technology in an urban public library using market research techniques
- To train St. Louis Public librarians, and subsequently librarians nationwide, to adopt or adapt and apply this outcome-based mode to plan, evaluate, and improve school-age children's access to and use of technology
The University of Michigan School of Information received $317,000 from IMLS for a two-year project that will design Web-based, interactive evaluation tools that public librarians can use to measure the effectiveness of their digital community information. In an earlier IMLS grant (1998), Michigan researcher Joan Durrance studied the way public libraries use electronic community information to assist patrons and found that librarians were not satisfied with their methods of service evaluation. Through this second grant, Durrance and Karen Pettigrew of the University of Washington will develop context-based tools that take into account how citizens and communities benefit from public library digital community services, and how these services build community.
Results of a 1999 IMLS grant became available late in 2000. The study of "The Impact of the Internet on Public Library Use" consisted of a national random telephone survey of 3,097 adults conducted during the spring of 2000. Co-principal investigators were George D'Elia of the School of Information Studies, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and Eleanor Jo Rodger, president of the Urban Libraries Council.
The study looked at characteristics of public library users, Internet users, and those who used both the public library and the Internet. Among the key findings was that 40 percent of the survey respondents used both the public library and the Internet but rated them differently. Libraries received higher ratings for ease of use, low cost, availability of paper copies, accuracy of information, and helpfulness of librarians. The Internet received higher ratings for ease of getting there, time to get there, availability, range of resources, expectation of finding what is sought, ability to act immediately on the information obtained, up-to-dateness of information, fun, enjoyability of browsing, and ability to work alone. For additional information, see http://www.urbanlibraries.org/Internet%20Study%20Fact%20Sheet.html.
In the fall of 1994 the U.S. Department of Education funded a $1.3 million project on "An Assessment of the Role of Public Libraries and School Libraries in Education Reform." This project involved two major surveys, a series of site visits, and a set of commissioned papers. Although work was delayed by the three-week government shutdown in late 1995 and early 1996 and numerous changes in the Department of Education, some results were finally released this year. For an invitational conference in February 2000, the contractor (Westat, Inc.) produced a "General Audience Report," which is available in the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) publication ED 440 627. This report summarizes the survey results and contains service stories from the site visits. Later in 2000 two of the commissioned papers were posted on the Web as part of Volume 3 of School Library Media Research, an electronic publication from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) (available here). The two papers were Shirley Fitzgibbons' "School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning" and Bernice E. Cullinan's "Independent Reading and School Achievement." Two other papers will be posted in 2001: Gary N. Hartzell's "The Implications of Selected School Reform and Approaches for School Library Media Services" and Steven Herb and Sara Willoughby-Herb's "Preschool Education Through Public Libraries."