Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as McGregor, F, Benchmarking with the best, Proceedings of the 5th Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, Durham, England, 28-31 July 2003.


Measuring the performance of individual library services and processes is now well developed; it is more difficult, however, to identify best practice or to measure the overall organisational performance of libraries. In the absence of relevant sector-wide benchmarks, the University of Wollongong Library (UoW) adopted the principles outlined in the Australian Quality Council’s (AQC) Business Excellence Framework and then benchmarked its performance by applying for, and subsequently winning, an Australian Business Excellence Award. The Awards process requires evidence on all aspects of organisational performance: leadership and innovation, strategy and planning processes, data, information and knowledge, people, customer and market focus, processes, products and services and business results. Although the applicability of business excellence indicators to university libraries is not immediately apparent, environmental forces have combined to mandate a more rigorous approach to performance measurement. Government accountability strategies are shaping a higher education environment increasingly focused on market share, income generation and commercial opportunities. Student expectations of all university services have sharpened in the context of tuition fees and tough employment markets. Information and communication technology developments have fuelled competition in the information delivery market on a global scale. Performance Indicators, therefore, need to reflect the strategic priorities of the parent body and to provide data to key stakeholders on broad organisational performance such as return on investment and success in creating value. Indicators are also needed to predict competitive position and future sustainability – usually considered to be applicable only to business organisations. Measuring performance against a recognised business excellence or quality framework can deliver a range of benefits for libraries. These include recognition both within and outside the university and library sectors and the reinforcement of a culture of assessment.