Brian Mathews is a blogger at The Ubiquitous Librarian. Recently, he posted the following article, “Too Much Assessment Not Enough Innovation.” The title grabbed me. I thought back to a lecture that David Lankes (June 13) gave on the same topic, kind of. A passage from Mathews article really sums up a view that I embrace whole heartedly, “We want to make libraries more efficient, but what if the thing we’re making efficient isn’t a thing that people need anymore? What if libraries need to be something else.” Consider the OED.
The Oxford English Dictionary is just about one of the neatest electronic resources available no matter what your subject of study. Recently I uncovered the Historical Thesarus option on the OED’s site (if you have not yet looked at this it is worth your time). This feature is complicated to use yet invaluable to researchers. Considering the capabilities of the Historical Thesaurus I really cannot imagine what else Oxford could do to improve the OED. Now what? Now we teach.
Librarians have got to get into the classroom and department meetings and make people aware of these resources. There are countless assignments that we could design with teaching faculty using the OED/Historical Thesaurus and the benefits would be tremendous First, we could teach students how to think about their information critically. Secondly, we could integrate a meaningful assignment in the curriculum, by this I mean meaningful to the librarian, the instructor, and MOST IMPORTANTLY the student. If I see one more awkward rubric that contorts library instruction around the need of the librarian I am going to scream. Finally, we can use assessment to test our learning outcomes.
To have the actions of the library entirely beholden to assessment is a bad idea, as Brian Mathews and David Lankes have both pointed out. When used properly, and not as a blunt tool, assessment can do wonders for our libraries and our instruction.