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Assessing and Demonstrating the Value of Information Services


Rachel L. Walden, Kayce Gill, Heather Laferriere, Camille Ivey, Philip Walker

Eskind Biomedical Library  

Vanderbilt University 



Rachel L. Walden, MLIS, Health Sciences Informationist 

Kayce Gill, MSIS, Health Sciences Collections Librarian 

Heather Laferriere, MLIS, Health Sciences Informationist  

Camille Ivey, MSIS, Health Sciences Informationist 

Philip Walker, MLIS, Director  


Eskind Biomedical Library  

Vanderbilt University 

Editor’s Note: We invited the authors to submit this article in follow-up to a Medical Reference Services Quarterly article (1).  

Demonstrating added value can be very challenging, and the current literature primarily discusses the use of numerical data, such as citation analysis and usage reports, to demonstrate return on investment for collections or impact on scholarly activity (2-4). However, value is not only in a library’s collections but also in the library staff who support the institutional mission. Vanderbilt University’s Annette and Irwin Eskind Family Biomedical Library (EBL) has been experimenting with several methods to supplement the collections data with data on services performed by the library staff. A four-phase project (pilot survey, revised survey, library statistics tracking form, and Scholarly Activity and Collaboration LibGuide) was designed to demonstrate the biomedical library’s added value to the university and medical center (1).  

The primary goal of the Impact Survey was to document library stakeholders’ projects and the library’s role in those projects. Survey questions focused on scholarly output, library usage, and librarian assistance in the form of consultations, literature searching, or resource training. If librarians provided assistance, branching logic was added to determine if they were acknowledged or listed as a co-author on the project. This last area was of most interest to the authors because it strengthens the library’s perception as a research partner.  

The second phase was revising the survey to collect more demographic information, expand the status categories, offer additional response options for the type of resources or assistance used by respondents, and add a general comment box. Though the original survey focused on information services, the revised survey created a more inclusive report because it reflected the entire library staff’s contributions rather than only those of the librarians. In addition to improving the quantitative data, the comment section provided great content for Eskind Library’s annual reports and staff evaluations and uncovered a possible issue with the focus on publications. Several respondents noted that their research had not been completed or submitted when they received the Impact Survey. The limited data available due to a low response rate and the lengthy life cycle of the research and publishing process were insufficient to sustain the Impact Survey as an annual project. 

The third phase was revising the EBL online statistics form, which all library staff use to track daily interactions with patrons, to capture some of the essential components of the Impact Survey. The revised form provided library staff an opportunity to tabulate more than traditional reference tick marks and have the reference statistics “say something.” A review of fiscal year 2021 online statistics data limited to reference or consultations revealed 1,372 transactions (60%). While this form addresses the issues of low response rate and longitudinal data capture, it does not address librarian acknowledgment or co-authorship.  

To address that problem, the final phase was the creation of the EBL Scholarly Activity and Collaboration LibGuide to document and publicly communicate librarian activities, services, and personal research interests. The publications and presentations pages include projects where Eskind librarians are authors or co-authors. Additionally, it cannot be understated how important acknowledgements can be in the library’s communications with its stakeholders. Thus, a separate page includes all research projects where library staff members were acknowledged for their contributions. The Scholarly Activity LibGuide has been a great marketing tool when demonstrating value to library, school, and university administration. 

Sustaining a library’s ability to address the health sciences information needs of two institutions requires calculated and creative data collection, visualization, and dissemination (5). These time-intensive and sometimes time-sensitive endeavors enable staff to grow professionally, which strengthens the perception of the unit and solidifies its value to the institution(s) while incessantly avoiding the perception of expendability (6). This project and its unanticipated evolution were part of an intentional and strategic effort to identify processes and platforms to meaningfully communicate the various endeavors in which EBL librarians are called upon to participate. The library remains focused on demonstrating its value by engaging with users and being perceived not as a support unit but as an integral partner in the academic, research, and clinical enterprise. 


  1. Walker P, Laferriere H, Walden RL, Ivey C. The Never-Ending Evolutionary Saga of Assessing and Demonstrating the Value of Information Services in a Biomedical Library. Medical reference services quarterly. Oct-Dec 2021;40(4):369-382. 

  2. Pan, D., Wiersma, G., Williams, L., & Fong, Y. S. (2013). More Than a Number: Unexpected Benefits of Return on Investment Analysis. The Journal of academic librarianship, 39(6), 566-572.    

  3. Price AN, Fleming-May R. Downloads or outcomes?: Measuring and communicating the contributions of library resources to faculty and student success. The Serials Librarian. 2011;61(2):196-199.  

  4. Tenopir C. Building evidence of the value and impact of library and information services: methods, metrics and ROI. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. 2013;8(2):270-274.  

  5. Hamasu, C., & Kelly, B. (2013). Assessment and evaluation is not a gut feeling: integrating assessment and evaluation into library operations. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 101(2), 85–87.  

  6. Giuse NB. The next challenge: where do we go from here? Journal of the Medical Library Association. 2007;95(1):1. 

May 10, 2022

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