A benchmark is a point of reference from which performance is measured against. Benchmarking is the process of comparing the processes of an organization to industry "best practices" or to practices of successful organizations in the area being evaluated. The goal of benchmarking is to add value, focusing on processes, rather than the end result. There are several types of benchmarking perspectives, for an overview see "What are the different types of benchmarking?". In 2005, the Libraries developed internal process based benchmarks establishing targets in the areas of facilities, collections, resource sharing, technology, public services, fundraising and staffing (2005 Library Benchmarks). In 2010, the cycle completed and progress towards the benchmarks were evaluated and reported on (2010 Library Benchmarks).
A Focus Group is a traditional market research technique where a handful of participants are brought together for a moderated discussion on a topic. The technique is particularly helpful in marketing, planning, or evaluating services or products providing qualitative data for analysis. The intent is to solicit people's perceptions, beliefs, or attitudes about a product or service. Group members discuss a common topic, and often in the process discover a common language or shared similar experiences. Wikipedia provides a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the technique as well as descriptions of different varieties of focus groups one can conduct. Associate Professor Glenn David Blank of Lehigh University's Computer Science Department provides step-by-step instructions for the planning, and conducting of a focus group.
Surveys or Questionnaires:
Surveys or questionnaires are common methods of systematic information gathering from a sample population. The Libraries use surveys extensively to learn about our user base, and to assist in assessing internal needs. ARL's LibQual survey has been conducted every third year since 2002, assisting the Libraries to better understand our user's opinions of service quality. There are a myriad of varieties of surveys that can be conducted. Strengths of surveys include that they can be designed to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to provide a more complete picture for researchers, and they can be administered entirely online or in print needing the involvement of relatively few individuals. Colorado State University provides a Survey Research Writing Guide discussing different strengths and weaknesses of the methods. As of 2011, the Libraries subscribe to Survey Monkey a surveying and questionnaire tool, used internally and externally, assisting in decision making processes. Contact Al Cornish for login credentials.
There are a variety of applications and methods for conducting task analyses. A task analysis involves direct observation of a subject attempting to complete a specific task or tasks. Subjects are often directed to think aloud to assist the researcher in documenting the cognitive processes occurring in addition to any physical activity in the process. The goal is often to identify bottlenecks that prohibit the subject from completing the task or to identify improvements, that once made will ease the burden when interacting with the product. Task analyses are a common method employed in the Libraries when conducting usability studies of web-based products like the Libraries website or WSU Worldcat. For a better understanding of the types of tasks often used in web-based usability studies, look at this example designed for usability testing of WSU Worldcat.
- Association of College & Research Libraries. Assessment Bibliography. ACRL, 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2011. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/infolit/bibliographies/assessmentbibliography.cfm#library
- Bevin, Nigel. Task Analysis UsabilityNet.org, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2011 http://www.usabilitynet.org/tools/taskanalysis.htm
- Blank, Glenn David. Conducting Focus Groups. Lehigh University, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2011.http://www.cse.lehigh.edu/~glennb/mm/FocusGroups.htm
- Crul, M.R.M. & Diehl, J.C. "Benchmarking." Design or Sustainability A Practical Approach for Developing Economies Germany: Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. 73 - 81. Design for Sustainability. Web. 23 Aug. 2011. http://www.d4s-de.org/manual/d4sChapter06.pdf
- Diller, Karen, and Sue F. Phelps. Multiple Methodologies for Space Assessment to Support Learning. Washington State University, 2010. Pdf. 08 Aug. 2011. http://libraryassessment.org/bm~doc/diller_karen.pdf
- Foraker Labs.Usability Testing. UsabilityFirst.com, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2011 http://www.usabilityfirst.com/usability-methods/usability-testing/
- Home page. SurveyMonkey.com. SurveyMonkey, 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2011. http://www.surveymonkey.com/
- Home page. What are the different types of Benchmarking?. Beginner's Guide, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2011. http://www.beginnersguide.com/quality-control/benchmarking/what-are-the-different-types-of-benchmarking.php
- Lankford, William M. "Benchmarking: Understanding the Basics." Coastal Business Journal. 1.1 (2002): 57 - 62. Web. 23 Aug. 2011. http://www.coastal.edu/business/cbj/pdfs/benchmark.pdf
- LibQual. Association of Research Libraries, 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2011. http://www.libqual.org/home
- Palmquist, Mike, et al. Writing Guide: Survey Research. Colorado State University, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2011 http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/survey/index.cfm
- U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. Focus Groups. Usability.gov, n.d. Web. 8 Aug. 2011 http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/learn/focus.html
- U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. Task Analysis. Usability.gov, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2011 http://www.usability.gov/methods/analyze_current/analysis.html
- Wikipedia. Focus Group. Wikimedia, 21 July 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2011 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focus_group
- Wikipedia. Statistical Survey. Wikimedia, 15 July 2011. Web. 8 Aug. 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_survey