Performance measurement – A state of the art review

Author: Henk Voorbij

The Handboek Informatiewetenschap (Handbook Information Science) contains about 150 contributions from experts on various subjects, such as budgeting, collection management, open access, website archiving, digitization of heritage collections, information retrieval software and gaming in the library. The Handbook is published as a loose-leaf paper version and as an online version (http://www.iwabase.nl/iwa-base/). Unfortunately, it is not well known.

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Articles are being updated every ten years. Recently, I was requested to update the article on Performance Indicators, originally published in 2000 and authored by Peter te Boekhorst. My contribution starts with definitions of core concepts (for example: what is the difference between statistics and performance indicators). It continues with general guidelines that may be helpful to libraries which aim to develop their own instrument for performance measurement. Among these are models such as the classical system approach (input – throughput – output – outcomes) and the Balanced Scorecard, and international standards, such as provided by ISO and IFLA. In the Netherlands, there are well developed benchmark instruments for university libraries and libraries from universities of applied sciences. I am involved with the development of these systems and analysis of the data since many years and describe my experiences in depth, in order to provide an example of the caveats and benefits of performance measurement. The last three chapters address potential additions to traditional performance indicators: user surveys, web statistics and outcomes.

Updating an earlier version offers an excellent opportunity to depict the progress in the field. Two things struck me most. One is the fast rise of the concept ‘Key Performance Indicators’. There’s no agreement in the literature of what this concepts actually means. Some use it loosely and do not make a genuine distinction between performance indicators and key performance indicators. Others have very pronounced ideas of its meaning: there should be no more than ten KPI’s, they should be measured daily or weekly, they should be coupled to critical success factors rather than strategic goals, and they should be understood by a fourteen year old child. The other thing is the growing interest in outcomes, the popularity of LibQual+ as an instrument to measure user satisfaction and the upsurge of new technologies such as web analytics. I can’t wait to see the 2023 version of the paper.

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