In addition to evaluation and data collection, self-assessment has become a valuable management tool. Two successful examples under the spotlight nowadays, focus on two key areas of library services: public technologies and interlibrary loan. They are the Edge Initiative and the Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative.
The first step with self-assessment is to understand how services are currently provided by your organization. This is done by completing a detailed checklist . For each question, the library indicates if the service/program/procedure is operational or is planned to be implemented. The result is a snapshot of your organization.
Last year Edge released a Toolkit with 11 benchmarks which evaluate the library’s technology services. The checklist is divided into three main areas: Community Value, that is services and collections (programs, training, and individual assistance of patrons, software, and access to electronic resources); Engaging the Community, that is relationships outside of the library (feedback from patrons, outreach, and partnerships); andOrganizational Management, that is internal issues (staff training, technical infrastructure).
The Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative provides the STAR Checklist, which consists of 64 questions about processes and policies, with four final levels of scoring. Libraries which earn at least one STAR receive a certificate. Most of the STAR libraries are academic libraries in Australia and the U.S.A. (actually some of the questions are academic-oriented), but also a few public libraries stand out.
The second step is to identify the weaknesses of the library, the areas where the library can improve, and work on it. Edge offers several training resources: articles, webinars, other tools, and also some case studies. Some interviews with library leaders involved in Edge can be watched in a dedicated YouTube channel. Library management can use the benchmarks for its technology plans or in determining its strategic goals. Finally, advocacy. The results of the assessment can be showcased to community leaders and demonstrate how your library keeps up with the best practices.
The Rethinking Resource Sharing Initiative advocates for a radical change in resource sharing. Its Manifesto (2007) aims for the reduction of barriers and global access for users. For instance, libraries should offer unlimited renewals if items are not needed locally, loan items regardless of the format, loan new items, and accept credit cards for the payment of fees.
The Edge Initiative is developed by a coalition which includes PLA. 160 libraries participated in a “soft” launch last year and during January 2014 it will be launched nationally. The program will be adopted statewide in seven states, while previewed in other states. Any individual library can participate though. A program will be held at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on Saturday, January 25, at 10:30 a. m. during which library leaders will share the results they obtained and attendees can learn more about how to get involved.
 Checklists are the topic of a popular book by a Boston-based surgeon, Atul Gawande (The Checklist Manifesto. How to Get Things Right, Picador, 2011)