A new method for documenting libraries’ user-oriented initiatives

Libraries can use BibDok for documenting the results and effects of their various user-oriented initiatives. With documented knowledge of what works and why, libraries are better prepared to qualify their efforts, strengthen their priorities and to communicate their relevance to citizens and politicians.

Organizational evaluationcapacity. Illustration: Ingelise KonradThe welfare society is under pressure economically, and public welfare institutions are therefore obliged to document the effect of their work. BibDok reduces a methodical gap between classical forms of documentation on the one hand, and professional logic among librarians about professional development on the other.

BibDok – what is new?

The new aspect is that BibDok combines evaluation and documentation practice of the professional work with the organization’s strategy development, management and daily cooperation.

This combination is where the method differs from for example classic project management. The method brings together what is generally separated, in such a way that the overriding premises of effect documentation are recognized, but where the applied methods, library-professionally speaking, are perceived as more meaningful. The organizational evaluation capacity can be illustrated as shown on the illustration below.

The two elements, which the method
links together, can be described as follows:

Evaluation and documentation
  • In BibDok, evaluation and documentation is daily practice for members of staff and leaders.
  • BibDok requires competences in terms of knowing, selecting and applying various data collection methods, e.g. interview, observation, statistics etc. It likewise requires skills in handling, interpreting and analysing data.
Strategy, management and cooperation
  • The library uses the strategy for sorting ideas. In the project From model to effect the projectgroup took as a starting point the 4-room model created by Dorte Skot-Hansen, Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen and Henrik Jochumsen, The Royal School of Library and Information Science, Copenhagen
  • The efforts are organized in a project group with both leaders and members of staff – combining strategy and practice
  • Listen, reflect and learn from each other – this provides robust results as they are tested from different perspectives
  • Management provides the framework regarding resources and competency development.
Library leaders’ experiences with BibDok 

In interviews with leaders from the participating public libraries, the leaders point out that Bib-Dok is also a management tool that contributes to the development of the library of the future. It becomes obvious when the library acquires a documented knowledge foundation and applies it to:

  1. Qualifying the library’s efforts by revising one’s assumptions.A leader says, for example: 
    You make your assumptions and begin to solve the task based on those assumptions. Along the way, you find out that the effect is not what you wanted. This means that you either have to change your assumptions or your expectations as to the effect. This is why BibDok is largely a management tool, because, naturally we should not be doing something which has no effect and value for the citizen.
  2. Establishing a closer interaction between practice and strategy.A leader observes:
    Quality is achieved by having a focused staff with the capacity to encompass both the foundation on which you have to rely, e.g. the policies in the municipality, and who are able to transform it into clear objectives and initiatives.
  3. Using narratives to communicate the library’s legitimacy in society.A leader says:
    Instead of saying that it is important that the library is a public space, where friendships can be made, and that it is related to our policies, I tell them the story about a mother, who was visiting together with her Somali boys. It is my impression that this way of developing initiatives has sharpened the staff ’s awareness of the narrative function. The staff have improved their ability to tell a story and they are more focused on what is at the core of their experiences.

The leaders also indicate that it is timeconsuming to use BibDok. We recommend that the libraries start with a smallscale project, which it has already decided upon beforehand, that they look at it as an investment, where you put an effort into something that the library was already going to do. In the long term, this will yield better and more results. The

BibDok method ensures:
  • that the libraries are not working on assumptions that turn out to be incorrect
  • that no new projects are launched without strategic direction
  • that the libraries are better prepared to communicate their justification and the results of their initiatives.

The experiences from the project have resulted in a publication entitled BibDok: En metode til at dokumentere effekt af bibliotekets indsatser (Bib.Dok: A method to document the effect of the library’s initiatives). The publication is a guide on how to act in concrete terms. At www.bibdok. dk you will also find an overview of theories, methods and exercises applied. The Danish Agency for Culture has promised financial support for the experiences to be put to use in the Danish public libraries in 2014 and 2015.

Senior consultant Centre for Leadership and Governance, Metropolitan University College Ingelise Konrad has for many years worked as a leader in the library and culture sector, but now works as a senior consultant with leadership and governance.


  • In 2012-2013 nine public libraries in the metropolitan region of Denmark participated in the development project: From model to effect. The aim of the project was to develop a concrete method for
  1. prioritizing and qualifying the library’s initiatives and collective activity
  2. documenting and illustrating the effect of the library’s initiatives.
  • The method was entitled BibDok.
  • Gentofte Central Library has been in charge of project management. Department of Management and Administration, Metropolitan University College has provided professional guidance, method development and sources of data collection. Centre for Cultural Policy Studies, University of Copenhagen has been knowledge partner in the project.
The project is supported by the Danish Agency for Culture.