Building Scorecards in Academic Research Libraries: Performance Measurement and Organizational Issues

Vivian Lewis, Steve Hiller, Elizabeth Mengel, Donna Tolson


Objective – This paper describes the experiences of four prominent North American research libraries as they implemented Balanced Scorecards as part of a one-year initiative facilitated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The Balanced Scorecard is a widely accepted organizational performance model that ties strategy to performance in four areas: finance, learning and growth, customers, and internal processes.

Methods – Four universities participated in the initiative: Johns Hopkins University, McMaster University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Washington. Each university sent a small group of librarians to develop their Scorecard initiatives and identified a lead member. The four teams met with a consultant and the ARL lead twice for face-to-face training in using the Scorecard. Participants came together during monthly phone calls to review progress and discuss next steps. Additional face-to-face meetings were held throughout the year in conjunction with major library conferences.

Results – The process of developing the Scorecards included the following steps: defining a purpose statement, identifying strategic objectives, creating a strategy map, identifying measures, selecting appropriate measures, and setting targets. Many commonalities were evident in the four libraries’ slates of strategic objectives. There were also many commonalities among measures, although the number chosen by each institution varied significantly, from 26 to 48.

Conclusion – The yearlong ARL initiative met its initial objectives. The four local implementations are still a work in progress, but the leads are fully trained and infrastructure is in place. Data is being collected, and the leadership teams are starting to see their first deliverables from the process. The high level of commonality between measures proposed at the four sites suggests that a standardized slate of measures is viable.

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