Monica Brinkley presents the EQUINOX Project, which is further developing the area of performance measurement and quality management in libraries. This is being achieved by expanding current international standards for library performance indicators to include performance indicators for electronic library services. The EQUINOX project will also propose and test an integrated performance measurement and quality management system for libraries, which will facilitate the implementation of these practices in libraries.
In times of increasing costs and decreasing resources, European libraries are increasingly required to justify their budget allocations and prove the high quality and performance of their services. This has brought about an increased focus on performance measurement and quality management in libraries. During the past two decades research has been carried out in this area and several practical guides to implementing quality management and performance measurement have been written , ,  and . This work has culminated in the international standard ISO 11620 Library performance indicators , which provides libraries with step by step instructions on how to measure the performance of various aspects of library services. Despite the availability of such guides, the implementation of quality management and performance measurement in libraries is still at a very early stage and many libraries have yet to put these management techniques into practice.
One drawback of the work described above is that the focus has been on traditional library services. However, more and more of the library's services are being delivered electronically. These services are being made available at considerable cost to the library and it is essential that library management be able to measure the performance of these services and satisfy themselves as to the value they offer the library's users. The research carried out in this area to date has been limited. McClure and Lopata's key work on assessing the networked environment  while useful, focuses on broader networked services offered by computer services departments rather than specifically on library services. CERLIM (The Centre for Research in Library and Information Management) at Manchester Metropolitan University has also carried out some initial work in the area .
The EQUINOX Project is a two year research project, now in its 10th month, funded under the fourth framework Telematics for Libraries programme. There are two main strands of work in the project, both of which are aimed at facilitating the further implementation of performance measurement and quality management practices in European libraries.
The first main strand of work aims to address the need for research in the area of performance measurement of electronic library services. Building on earlier work on the measurement of traditional library services and on initial work carried out by CERLIM (see above), the EQUINOX Project Team is developing a set of performance indicators for electronic library services. In the second strand of work a software tool is being developed, which will facilitate the library manager in measuring the library's performance and implementing quality management practices in the library. Both these areas of work are discussed below.
The project has seven partners, comprising both library and technical partners from throughout Europe, namely:
As has been said previously, the International Standard ISO 11620 provides libraries with a step by step guide to performance indicators that will give managers a clear view of how the library is performing. Because these indicators are part of a standard they also allow for benchmarking between libraries, that is, comparing one library's performance with that of a similar library. The main drawback with this standard is that the indicators defined refer very little to electronic library services, which are becoming an increasingly important part of any library's services. As Peter Young  has pointed out, simply applying traditional measures and indicators to electronic networked services does not work. These services are sufficiently different from traditional services in all respects to require their own measures. It is this requirement that the EQUINOX project team has attempted to address.
An initial set of suggested performance indicators for electronic library services has been developed by the project team, drawing from work in relation to traditional performance indicators, the work of McClure and Lopata, earlier work at CERLIM (see above) and the practical experience of the project team members. These indicators are listed below.
The following definitions are taken from, or based upon, a working draft of the revised ISO 2789 :
Additional definitions not included in the working draft of the revised ISO 2789:
Note: The term "library" is used throughout the performance indicators but can be taken to refer to an information service irrespective of its title.
Each performance indicator has been carefully defined, including a step by step methodology for data collection. The methodologies recommended are currently being tested in three library environments. Any problems encountered in this test phase will feed into the further refinement of the performance indicators and their definition. Once the project team members are satisfied with the methodologies and definitions these will be published on the project web site  and through the literature. A series of EQUINOX workshops will take place throughout Europe to further publicise this and other work of the EQUINOX project. Any feedback and comments on the initial list of performance indicators above and on the later definitions and methodologies is very welcome either directly to the author or through the project web site. The project team hopes that the work of the EQUINOX project will lead to international agreement on a set of performance indicators for the electronic library and that this may then be used to update ISO 11620. To this end, feedback and discussion amongst the library community during this developmental phase are essential.
In parallel with the work described above, the EQUINOX project team has been carrying out work leading to the development of an EQUINOX software tool - a performance measurement and quality management system for libraries. The aim of this work is to make it easier for libraries to implement performance measurement and quality management by providing them with an integrated system for managing these practices.
The EQUINOX information system will allow library managers to select performance indicators within quality frameworks of relevance to their own libraries' aims and objectives. The system will facilitate the input of the data needed for those performance indicators from a variety of sources. Values for each performance indicator will be calculated from that data according to predefined methodologies and the results will be displayed graphically, as shown in Figure 1. As this data builds up over time, the system will display the values of each performance indicator as a time series, allowing the manager to see at a glance whether the library's performance is improving or otherwise.
Figure 1: Graphical display of data in the EQUINOX software tool
(Click to view large colour version of image)
The system design is based on an analysis of user requirements in relation to both quality management and performance measurement. In addition, library and technical partners have worked closely together in the development of the functional specification for this system to ensure that the resulting system will closely match the requirements of the library manager. The system is designed to operate on networked computing platforms already widely in use in libraries and will use recognised tools and standards based software. The interface is designed to look and feel like a web browser, with the use of consistent screen layouts throughout and hyperlinks.
The system consists of two functional components: an administrative function and a review function. The administrative function is designed to be used by one or more members of library staff, who are responsible for management or quality information. This function is used to input data, which has been collected manually or extracted automatically from the electronic systems in use by the library. The system then uses this data to calculate the values of predefined performance indicators. The review function will be used by other members of library staff and particularly by library management to review the results of these calculations. This function will allow management to view the results of performance indicators over time and the extent to which the library is meeting its objectives in terms of those performance indicators.
The EQUINOX system is currently under development. Once the development phase is complete the system will undergo three test phases. Alpha testing of the system will occur in a real library environment. Following amendments to the system resulting from this initial test phase, the system will undergo beta testing in two or more of the partner libraries. The system will once again be amended as necessary following beta testing. The final phase of the EQUINOX project will involve a large-scale demonstration trial, during which the EQUINOX system will be used by approximately thirty test libraries throughout Europe. The feedback received from these test sites will inform the final exploitation plan developed by the project team.
The EQUINOX Project aims to facilitate the further implementation of performance measurement and quality management in European libraries. By developing an internationally agreed set of performance indicators for electronic library services, the project is addressing a significant gap in the current international standard ISO 11620. The project is proposing and testing a model for a quality management and performance measurement system for libraries. This system will greatly facilitate the library manager wishing to implement quality management practices and should make data collection, collation and review more manageable. To ensure that all aspects of the project are embedded in the reality of current library practice throughout Europe, we welcome your feedback and comments through the project website (http://equinox.dcu.ie/) or directly to the author.
Dublin City University Library
Dublin City University
Monica Brinkley is the EQUINOX Research Officer for Dublin City University Library. She has previously been involved in the research project BIBDEL: Libraries Without Walls, which investigated the delivery of library services to remote users. Monica has worked both as an academic librarian and a lecturer in Library and Information Studies.
For citation purposes:
Monica Brinkley, "The EQUINOX Project: Library Performance Measurement and Quality Management System", Exploit Interactive, issue 3, October 1999
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