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SIS Associate Professor Rachel Fleming-May Writes Planning and Assessment Book with SIS Alum & Hodges Librarian Regina Mays

SIS Associate Professor Rachel Fleming-May, left, and Assessment Librarian Regina Mays

SIS Associate Professor Rachel Fleming-May was a public and academic librarian before she decided to pursue her doctorate in information sciences, and that experience has informed what she researches and how she teaches. In both, she “tends to focus on finding better ways to do the things I did as a practitioner with maybe not a lot of theoretical knowledge.”

One of those things was planning and assessment, which she describes as a cycle wherein an organization recognizes a need, creates an evidence-informed plan to address it, launches the planned initiative, evaluates the initiative’s success, then uses data to revise future plans going forward. Fleming-May teaches a course of the same name, so it made sense when she was approached by the American Library Association to write a book about planning and assessment. The book, “Fundamentals of Planning and Assessment for Libraries,” is part of a series the organizations publishes to assist information sciences professionals who may not have had an opportunity to learn skills in specific areas.

“In keeping with the purpose of ALA’s Fundamentals series, this text isn’t designed for experts in planning and assessment, but rather for those who find themselves in an employment position that will require them to do some planning and assessment; this would be good for that, this would be a good introductory text,” Fleming-May said.

Upon being contacted by ALA Publishing, Fleming-May knew she wanted to invite her friend and colleague, Regina Mays, former head of UTK Libraries’ Assessment Programs and Collection Strategy, and also a SIS alumna. Fleming-May says “Regina’s an expert in strategic planning, among other things,” and the two created the MSIS planning and assessment course as part of an Institute of Museum and Libraries grant-funded cohort program at MSIS a few years ago, so it was logical to work with her on this project.

Fleming-May said she wrote most of the book during the summer of 2020. Although the project proved a great distraction from COVID-19, writing it wasn’t without its challenges.

“Writing a book like this is an intimidating prospect in a different way than writing an article or conference paper. Books in this series are designed to be accessible and explanatory, so we tried to do frame our presentation in as accessible a manner as possible,” she said.

Fleming-May describes herself as very pragmatic, and many of her academic pursuits are geared towards providing students and professionals with tools to support their work in information organizations. This book was a great opportunity for Fleming-May to do that in a different way than teaching or academic publishing, though she said it was a little difficult to flip from an academic approach to writing to the more conversational tone.

“I had some anecdotes I wanted to share and opinions I wanted to put in there, so that was actually kind of fun once I got into that groove,” she said.

Fleming-May said she hopes this text benefits those who don’t know anything about planning and assessment and may be unsure how to get started.

“We wrote it with the idea that we’re really starting on the ground floor for people who don’t know much about the topic at all. Getting started with planning and assessment doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating,” she said.