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Library Assessment

quiet study


Our Assessment Plan is based upon our Mission + Values + Goals and shaped by our Strategic Plan and an annual Institutional Effectiveness Report for the College. We choose to assess goals for each cycle through a variety of methods that address each area of our core functions:

  • Services + Spaces
  • Collections + Discovery
  • Student Learning

Project summaries

Goal 3: Improve discovery of and access to the full scholarly record, sub-point "e": develop robust collections to support our curricular and undergraduate research needs
Streaming Film
Technology and the film industry have changed significantly since we began collecting film. The shift over the years from collecting VHS tapes and DVDs to the use of film and gaming in the curriculum, combined with sea changes in the film making and producing industry (including content delivery) has had an impact not only on teaching and learning, but also on the library budget.

The libraries have always needed to balance curricular need and desire for innovation with the cost of materials, but recently, the cost of providing access to streaming film has become a pain point.

As a result, the libraries have begun to conduct an assessment of the use of streaming film to better understand its role in the curriculum in order to inform the budgetary pressure we're experiencing and to discover whether evidence might support our advocacy for additional funds as a result.

Our assessment exercises include:

  • conversations with faculty who use a good deal of film in support of their courses to learn:
    • their curricular needs for content, what their primary sources of content are and what arrangements they might make for students to be able to view films outside of class
    • what drives their choice of film format (is streaming the only option available, is it needed for accessibility reasons, requested for student convenience, or a combination of many things?)
    • how the libraries might best support their needs
  • conversations with campus partners in the Language Resource Center and ITS (academic technologists) to learn of any overlap in support of streaming film and opportunities for efficiencies
  • student focus group feedback to learn how they fulfill course requirements for viewing and how they use the film collection outside these requirements. Since laptops no longer have built-in DVD drives, how do students watch required films? What opportunities could there be in the libraries to support (less costly) film viewing in order to make viewing more convenient and balance the cost of streaming?
  • a deep dive into the statistics of our streaming film packages (Kanopy, Films on Demand, Films for Education, and others) to look for opportunities to save

We'll post a summary of what we learn and what we plan to do about it once the assessment cycle is complete in the summer of 2020!


The MISO Survey addresses all six Library Goals
MISO: Measuring Information Service Outcomes
Swarthmore College Libraries participate in the MISO Survey every three years, keeping the survey questions as similar as possible each time in order to build longitudinal data and to learn of any trends in how our constituents experience and view our services. Read more about the 2016 Survey, what questions we are asking of our 2019 data, what we hope to learn and what we plan to do about it!


The Library Internship Program reflects values that speak to both Goal 2 (student research skills) and Goal 6: Foster a culture that emphasizes excellence and continual learning
Library Internship Assessment: The Swarthmore College Libraries Internship began in 2003 as a multi-institutional Andrew W. Mellon Foundation $1.5 million grant to address diversity in the library profession and recruitment at the undergraduate level. Due to the original success of the program, Swarthmore College Libraries have continued to sponsor the internship with student employment funds since 2010. As the program approached its fifteen year anniversary, we examined our original goals:

  • To address the shortage of professional librarians due to retirement
  • To recruit talented undergraduates early in the hiring pipeline
  • To broaden the racial and ethnic composition of the library profession so that it can better serve increasingly diverse populations

Learn more about the Library Internship Assessment in this White Paper [PDF]


Goal 3: Improve discovery of and access to the full scholarly record
We continued efforts to routinize usability testing in order to inform changes to our online library catalog, Tripod, which is shared by the Tri-College Consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges. In this assessment cycle, usability results and analytics provided evidence that we should continue to offer access to our full discovery knowledge base via the "Articles" search tab, in favor of providing a more highly curated collection of electronic resources.


To address Library Goal 2: Ensure that students develop and apply critical research skills
 Assessment in Action (AiA): We conducted a rubric based evaluation by close analysis of the literature review section in ten senior theses from the Sociology and Anthropology Department. Additionally, we evaluated three entire group projects from a course in the Education Department, Educating Emergent Bilinguals.

In out study, students found and cited a variety of sources but struggled with how to use them. We found that individual students scored well on different combinations of skills; some students cited consistently but struggled to contextualize their sources, others vice-versa. Our assessment highlighted potential zones of intervention in which more students seemed to face challenges, such as contextualizing evidence and maintaining an independent voice while discussing ideas from outside sources.

As a result, we'll adjust library instruction to more intentionally emphasize research as a process of exploration and building rather than an accumulation of sources. We will also explore strategies to better understand student facility with research based writing.