Three (or Four) Varieties of Action Plans

September 8, 2019

I've been involved with assessment and research in higher education--primarily in library settings--for the better part of 20 years. And in that time, I've crafted--or helped to craft--numerous action plans after analyzing data from surveys, transactional systems, focus groups, and other sources. A week ago, I came across a post to the ARL-ASSESS listserv that helpfully broke down the varieties of action plans that arise from assessment (Guhde, 2019). The author of the post, Emily Guhde, reported that the Georgetown University Library's work with Ithaka S+R surveys had led to the formulation of three kinds of action plans:

  • Actions to Communicate--aiming to influence stakeholders' awareness, understanding, or perception

  • Actions to Assess--aiming to elicit a deeper understanding of user needs

  • Actions to Adapt--aiming to alter the organization's services and shape its strategic direction

As I reflected on this simple taxonomy, I found that it aligned well with my own experience in research and assessment. In an effort to further test its utility, I collected a list of 48 action plans that my library has sought to execute over the past three fiscal years. Applying the taxonomy to the 48 action plans, I found that it accommodated all but four of them; the exceptions were cases where our assessment had led us to affirm maintenance of existing approaches rather than calling for any change.

My analysis revealed the following distribution and examples:

  • Actions to Communicate (n=8; 16.7%)

    • Increase liaison engagement by implementing a monthly liaison newsletter to departments

    • Increase the number of video tutorials embedded or linked at the point of need on the JFL website

    • Pursue opportunities to partner with other departments in order to reach undergraduate students more effectively

  • Actions to Assess (n=6; 12.5%)

    • Conduct further assessment to understand students' concerns regarding the library facility

    • Monitor use of, and user response to, the Counseling Library resources and services once the space officially opens

    • Log ASRS errors manually

  • Actions to Adapt (n=31; 64.6%)

    • Increase access to electrical outlets

    • Increase the Learning Commons' emphasis on ensuring quick and accurate referrals

    • Pursue opportunities to increase seating supporting group study

    • Seek funding to provide more online journals for health sciences and nursing

  • Actions to Affirm (n=3; 6.3%)

    • Continue offering the workshop as part of the INQR 101 class

    • Continue to offer the Library Services Fair, following the same general structure

    • Continue to pursue opportunities to partner with faculty

The taxonomy that Guhde outlined corresponds well to the reality of an academic library that embraces a marketing approach toward the delivery of services. Those who are responsible for assessing services and operations would do well to formulate action plans in these three (or, as amended here, four) categories.


Guhde, E. (2019, August 30). Re: [ARL-ASSESS] Experiences and examples on making use of survey data [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from!msg/arl-assess/hJiJnaaEQiE/7fRmcyBLBQAJ

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