assessment v. evaluation

Most of the library staff we interviewed for this project talked to us about community and/or customer needs.

But I’m having a bit of a quandary as I think this through: I have the “assessment” section of my work separated from the “evaluation” section of my work, and I’m wondering if that makes sense. In my mind, assessment is a separate function. You do it first to identify customer needs (or unknowns) as well as scan the environment you’re playing in. You use this to inform your design or evolution of library services as you map it to your organization’s core competencies & maybe even existing collections and services. Evaluation comes after the first pass of service delivery – it’s the first (and ongoing) look at how you’re doing against the goals you’ve set as a part of your initial planning.

In my literature review of the needs assessment function as it relates to library service places it almost always in the context of evaluation. My question: is anyone doing one and not the other? Do you think of them as separate functions? Or, are they inextricably linked?


  1. cj, 11. September 2008, 13:43

    I think you have it correct. Your assessment should inform how you will evaluate the service, so in that particular piece of the puzzle, they are intertwined, but I think of them as separate processes in terms of the “doing”. You go through an assessment activity in a formal or informal process, this informs the service planning and delivery as you said, and then you should conduct some type of evaluation. This evaluation should then inform your next assessment that starts the virtuous cycle of enlightened service delivery.

    We are trying to do both things with our grant programs, although I am uncertain how successful we are at either one. The impression I get form most libraries is that they do not always formally do the assessment and very rarely do the evaluation. In most cases, I would go with that libraries are doing the assessment and not the evaluation if I had to choose the most commonly experienced situation.

  2. Chrystie, 11. September 2008, 22:35

    very good. thanks for your comments. this may mean that we sort of know the needs but don’t know how good we are at meeting them.

  3. Chrystie, 12. September 2008, 16:02

    update: currently reading “a practical guide to needs assessment” (Gupta, 2007), which situates needs assessment as a type of evaluation, but definitely separates their processes and purpose.