Report From ALA: Measures That Matter

Announced in late 2016, Measures that Matter is a collaborative effort by the Chief Offices of State Library Agencies (COSLA) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to organize and rationalize library data for use in assessing the library’s reach and impact in its community. Each fiscal year, state library agencies collect a spectrum of data which is reported back to IMLA. While these agencies are assiduous in collecting data about their activities and their impact, administrators have frequently been unable to leverage the value of such data in their advocacy efforts. The diversity of the data and a lack of appropriate context made comparisons of the data challenging. By adopting a more cohesive approach, the Measures that Matter effort is expected to aid libraries and agencies in demonstrating the value provided to the broader community.  

At the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Library Association, held in Washington DC, an engaged panel offered attendees an update on this work, discussing the findings of the report released on June 18, Measures That Matter Action Plan Step 2.1: A Review of State Public Library Survey Data Elements. That report discussed the various data elements collected by the libraries and ways in which such data might usefully be reported back to IMLS in supporting libraries’ advocacy for funding. This Ithaka S&R blog post offers additional details on the systematic review of state public library surveys that Ithaka conducted on behalf of COSLA.

The panel also offered (via a powerpoint deck) a round-up of the prioritized, on-going action steps being undertaken by various Implementation and Working Groups. In addition to the work pertaining to the data elements described above, these included:

  • Review of the State Added Data Elements, with the intent of formulating new indicators focused on community efforts;

  • Development of Use Cases that meet the educational and informational needs of data users inside and outside of the library field; and

  • Building Data Governance Capacity through the formation of the National Public Library Data Framework.

Of greatest interest to this audience is the approach adopted in building up the data governance capacity. The idea is to form a Public Library Data Alliance (PLDA). As noted on the MtM blog, “The concept for the Data Alliance is to advance public library data gathering and use that aligns with community needs. It was conceived to provide thought leadership, propose strategic actions, and create a communications infrastructure for the field.”  This non-governing alliance is not intended to replace or duplicate existing stakeholder groups currently operating in these areas, but rather to work with such entities as the Library Statistics Working Group that is part of the Institute of Museum and Library Services or the Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee of the Public Library Association.

NISO has offered to serve as the secretariat for the first year of this fledgling PLDA. It is expected that the alliance will be composed of 8 Standing Members and 9 rotating members, representing library systems of various sizes. Currently committed are the American Library Association, the Association for Rural and Small Libraries, the Public Libraries Association, the Urban Libraries Council and the aforementioned COSLA and IMLS. 

The community is invited to become further engaged in this work. Follow @libmeasuremtr on Twitter and by joining the Measures that Matter email list. To join the list, individuals should complete a request form at

For additional details or more in-depth information, the organizations invite you to email them at or at