Skip to content

3 numbers to determine ROI in the for-profit college library

April 5, 2012

Ok, I’ve run my quarterly reports.  I have huge amounts of numbers.  I can tell you how much of anything.

So what??  Who cares?

The sad answer to that question my friends is that no one does.  I would be willing to bet that not one member of your administration (particularly Sr. level) cares one iota if 100 books circulated in your library during a 12 week term.  They care about one thing and that is – retention.  Yep, that’s the magic metric number.  If you are working in any kind of academic library then you need to start talking in the currency the school understands.  How many students successfully made it through the term?  Everything you report on should be tied to that number as closely as possible.

If you do any research on the topic you will see that traditional academic libraries have been able to claim a certain amount of success in regard to increasing retention numbers at a college/university.  But what about you, what can you show?

Retention is a huge monstrous topic and as a small library operation I don’t have time to make every connection that I think is possible.  But I will share 3 specific correlation’s that I look at every term to see if anything is going on.

1. Circulation and academic excellence – do the students checking out books have a higher GPA than students that don’t?

2. Library usage/attendance and academic excellence – do students using library services/programs have a higher GPA than students that don’t?

3. In-class instruction and faculty absenteeism – do the faculty using library services have a higher attendance rate than faculty that don’t?

Those are the 3 numbers I focus on because those are the numbers that are looked at by our Dean.  Those are the numbers that matter to my college.  Every term, those are the numbers that get reported to our corporate office.  So somebody wants to know about them.  Here’s the best part, once I give these metric people start asking me questions.  I’m taking more seriously by members of our staff and they quickly find out that I know a lot more than they think I do.

What 3 numbers do you report and how do you create value with them?  Let me know and share with some of your colleagues for their opinion too.

 

Advertisements
10 Comments leave one →
  1. Alice permalink
    April 5, 2012 12:10 pm

    This is very interesting but your school must be larger than mine. We have 195 students at our campus. We have library sign-in sheets, but few students sign in. I can count weekly circulation on one hand. I thought of asking for an automatic counter, that counts people who walk in the door. The library has “regulars”– mostly the Med. Assisting students, and the “never-shows”, mostly the cosmetology students. But it’s all anecdotal, nothing scientific.

    • April 5, 2012 1:12 pm

      We have about 600-650 students at our school Alice. Our circulation is also very low and I totally understand by “regulars” and the “never-shows”. On my own I have very low numbers, but I work for a company that owns 43 campuses. Total student population is over 17,000. THAT number is important and my main goal is to make Sr. level administrators curious enough to wonder what those numbers would look like combined. The library or resource center can help them with that retention number if it is properly utilized but first, first I must create understanding of potential. And I’ll tell you what, I get a little closer to the top tier every time I talk to someone new. I’m beginning to make some headway.

      Bigger then that though are the number of students going to ALL for-profit colleges. Last I looked it was almost 10% of all college students (anyone know if that’s still correct?). What opportunities are lost with THAT number? What obligations do we have as a profession and society to those individuals?

  2. Karen permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:20 pm

    What about students using your online library? Or how about – do students who receive library orientations have higher GPAs?

    This also sounds like very cumbersome to gather the numbers?

    • April 5, 2012 3:37 pm

      Hi Karen, thank you for sharing. Those are also great numbers to look at! It can be a bit cumbersome at times but hey, “anything worth doing”, right? 🙂

  3. Lee permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:55 pm

    Karen asked the question while I was thinking about your blog entry, but I’ll include it anyway because there’s a different aspect I want to ask about.

    generally:
    “They care about one thing and that is – retention.”
    Alice noted awhile back that They also care about accreditation.

    The Questions, with more questions:
    1. Circulation and academic excellence – do the students checking out books have a higher GPA than students that don’t?
    – so you can map your circulation log against the enrolled student database?
    – can you count online resource use as circulation (thanks Karen!)?

    2. Library usage/attendance and academic excellence – do students using library services/programs have a higher GPA than students that don’t?
    – so you track all users by name/ID, to map against the enrolled student database?
    – can you control for program area/degree?

    3. In-class instruction and faculty absenteeism – do the faculty using library services have a higher attendance rate than faculty that don’t?
    – this question isn’t clear to me: are you measuring faculty who attend library instruction sessions with their classes? or are you tracking faculty use of library services? or are you measuring attendance/absentee numbers (again, by student) against attendance at scheduled library instruction sessions?

    & a little video for after hours:
    http://www.careercollegelounge.com/pg/blog/group:92/archive/1275364800/1277956800

    • April 5, 2012 4:31 pm

      Hi Lee great questions. Here are the answers I have – though admittedly everyone will have different situations to work within.

      1. ” – so you can map your circulation log against the enrolled student database? – can you count online resource use as circulation (thanks Karen!)?” Yes, I can and do map that circulation log with the student database. Our campus management software will print reports based on any combination of filters that I can export into Excel and then map with my circ data (also in Excel). My stats with online resources aren’t always able to be mapped to a specific student so I do loose some info but I can make school wide correlations, i.e. school retention for the term was up 2% from last term and database usage goes up and or down too.

      2. ” – so you track all users by name/ID, to map against the enrolled student database? – can you control for program area/degree?” Again yes I can delineate that data and map it against the library records. I actually find it easiest to do that by program/degree as opposed to student by student.

      3. ” – this question isn’t clear to me: are you measuring faculty who attend library instruction sessions with their classes? or are you tracking faculty use of library services? or are you measuring attendance/absentee numbers (again, by student) against attendance at scheduled library instruction sessions?” You could certainly track both but I look at faculty that have their classes attend some sort of library instruction. For example – an instructor would like for me to come in and explore medical resources to students in an intro allied health class. I go to that classroom and expose students to what is available in the library for the program, how to use those resources, etc. Our campus tracks the % of students that were absent in every instructors class (or a classroom retention rate). The hope is that the more frequently faculty have the library come into the classroom the higher their classroom retention will be. If nothing else it makes for a more engaging classroom environment.

      I feel I should add here that there is no real statistical measure for this data right now. I’m just collecting numbers in the hopes that someone will want to talk to me (and they are). And certainly nothing can be PROVEN with any of this. This is a conversation starter in some ways. With every journey there is a first step and in the campus climate I am currently in my first step is to position myself as a valuable part of the education team. I can’t do that if I can’t talk their talk.

      Great conversations – thank you!!

  4. For profit librarian permalink
    April 6, 2012 4:52 pm

    I know that proving we serve a purpose to continue to exist is one of our most important functions in the for profit environment. However, I am uncomfortable tracking individual student activities, grades and retention. This seems antithetical to the fundamental right of user privacy that so many of our other library colleagues fight for.

    I finally can track database usage once I made it clear that sole relying on a state funded database, while we have a self funded database, is not exactly ethical. The password was changed to access the state funded database and I did not seek out the new password.

    It seems that you have far more respect in your academic community than most for profit librarians. How did you accomplish that? Any reports or attempts at information literacy classes here are ignored at best or insulted at worst.

    • April 9, 2012 2:51 pm

      Hello, welcome and thank you for the comments.

      I can understand your hesitation, this isn’t a public library and there is a fine line in terms of privacy at an institution like this. FERPA must be followed at all times and those are the standards I follow to be sure I’m not inappropriately using student information. Ultimately though you need to do what you feel comfortable with, everyone needs to sleep at night. 🙂

      In terms of respect I would first say that it’s all relative and is a mix of controllable and uncontrollable factors. When I came on board here I knew from the beginning that if I wanted to be taken seriously I had to prove I could understand the work my administration was doing. To me, libraries are about information which means I can be relevant to everyone because everyone needs info. So I went about showing my administration that the information they needed and wanted I could help with. I listened to what was important to them and then delivered content that was supportive to that end – even though it had no direct link to what I was providing to the school and without asking, they would just get something in their inbox or on their desk. I became a personal librarian for, the Dean, the Campus President, Career Services and yes – even the admissions team. If I heard them talking about something, if they had questions about something (anything) I helped them find information and answers. All the time. That is controllable. And doing that showed people on campus, that wouldn’t have looked twice at me before, that I could bring something of value to every part of the campus and frequently I am *sought out* when there are information needs now.

      The uncontrollable parts are that I work with some cool people and they have great personalities. Plus I’m located in North Carolina and they are very good to for-profit college libraries in NC.

      I would encourage any librarian in a career college to look at what knowledge managers do and explore how you can bring some of that into your current job. When people realize that there isn’t much of a limit with what I can provided for them, the light bulb turns on. 🙂

      Cheers!

  5. lindsayharmon permalink
    April 11, 2012 2:05 pm

    I really like the idea of relating library statistics to student achievement. However, I work for an institution that is reluctant to share these numbers, even among the faculty and staff. Did you have any difficulty getting this data? If so, how did you persuade your administration to grant you access?

    • April 11, 2012 7:14 pm

      Hello Lindsay, thank you for the comments and questions. No I didn’t have much of a problem getting that data from my administration. My argument went something like this: this school is accredited which means we must have a library. If we must have a library I would like to prepare a cost benefits comparison on the library for you. I will need to have access to student achievement data in order to find correlations between library usage and student persistence and achievement. The two links below should provide you with some literature to help back your case. I did my homework, put up a PowerPoint and showed them why this was important to THEM. I used metrics they cared about. Tuition, enrollment, retention – I *didn’t* talk about circulation, information literacy, peer reviewed, etc. My focus was showing them what would happen to the stuff they cared about. Everything else is just by product from their perspective. And I don’t mind at all… Good luck and keep us informed!!

      http://www.ala.org/research/librarystats/roi http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=return+on+investment+academic+libraries&hl=en&as_sdt=1%2C39&as_sdtp=on

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: