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Team Profile: Assessment

Team profiles spotlight groups across Harvard Library. In this Q&A, we spoke with Mark Shelton, Assessment Librarian.


Who they are: Assessment Team

  • Karina Grazina—administrative fellow who is helping Mark to bring assessment strategies into Harvard Library in a cohesive and cooperative way.
  • Mark Shelton—assessment librarian. He handles institutional-level assessment work, as well as data reporting to groups like the Association of Research Libraries and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

What is a project that you’re working on?

Mark Shelton: The project Karina is working on is very important. She has been interviewing assessment librarians around the country to get an idea of what they have done well and where they have run into roadblocks in their efforts to create a culture of assessment. We are now talking to many different folks here at Harvard to get an idea of what they are doing in this field and what their needs are. We hope to figure out how best we can respond, bring folks together in a cooperative and collaborative way, and raise awareness of the benefits of assessment. Since we are just a few people, getting this knowledge and these skills into the many hands and minds of librarians and staff here will definitely reap rewards. 

What are some accomplishments that your team is most proud of?

Mark Shelton: We recently submitted the statistics for fiscal year 2015 to the Association of Research Libraries. It is a huge process to gather, tabulate, and analyze the data that makes up our submission, and we get support from every part of the library. Information and Technical Services; Library Technology Services; Access Services; Finance; Research, Teaching, and Learning; and Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research all provided data. This was the first time in five years that we got our data submitted before the deadline, which could not have been done without the help and prompt attention of so many around the Library.

What is one big challenge your group is facing?

Mark Shelton: The challenge we face is the result of scale. Data comes from so many different sources and systems. For example, everyone who contributed to the Association of Research Libraries statistics is pulling data from a different source; or in some cases, reporting data off of a pad of paper. Pulling all of this together, as well as all of the other data, can be quite a task. We are trying to figure out how we can make this process easier and potentially less time-consuming, so we can spend more time benefiting from the data than is spent gathering it.

How do you feel your team impacts the Harvard Library community?

Mark Shelton: We offer the opportunity for the Library to tell its story. Some of that story is about how we measure up, while other parts of the story are about how far we have come. We can use data to determine if we are getting to where we want to be and whether we are achieving what we want to achieve. Some of the data could make us uncomfortable or may raise questions. This is a good thing because it helps us respond to the challenges that we face, while also giving us opportunities to succeed and celebrate. As a library, we embrace questions and research, and assessment gives us a chance to do that.

Article published on January 6, 2016.