Assessment Initiative: Pilot Visual Reports

Project Lead: Lisa Philpotts


The Boston University Library Assessment Committee regularly gathers constituent feedback about library services and resources through surveys of BU faculty and students. Assessment Committee members analyze survey data and report key insights to constituents via multi-page reports that utilize a combination of narrative, charts, and figures. Additionally, Assessment Committee members distribute documents containing relevant comments to appropriate library staff. All library staff are also invited to presentations about Assessment Committee initiatives, such as user surveys.

To further enable staff to use data to improve services and resource allocation, the Assessment Group proposes to supplement the multi-page report with concise, one or two page visual reports. The visual reports will present the most significant findings from the user surveys using data visualizations and a minimal amount of text.


The purpose of this initiative is to pilot the creation a single visual report of significant findings from the user surveys to see if such a report improves communication among stakeholders.  The Assessment Committee is interested in seeing if such a visual aid enables library administrators to better communicate the needs and impact of BU Libraries to upper level university administrators.

Subsequent reports could be designed for different audiences, such as the public and other BU Libraries staff and could draw from pools of data other than library user surveys.


Well designed data visualizations can reveal trends and relationships within large sets of data that may not have been noticed when conveyed through lengthy text based reports. On the other hand, poorly designed data visualizations may confuse or mislead the reader. Thus, graphs and other forms of data visualization used in the visual reports should adhere to evidence based design principles in order to effectively and accurately convey the findings of the user surveys. The project lead will review design best practices and determine what tools are needed to create the reports.

The project lead has experience with media design and will create the visual report template and final visual report. If additional design help is needed, the lead may consult with Mugar’s Anita Greene scholars.

In order for the project to be sustainable, best practices will be documented and a modifiable visual report template will be saved in a location accessible to library staff.


Funding may be required to purchase the software used to create the visual reports.


The deliverables for this project will consist of

  • At least one visual report for library administrators

  • An electronic visual report template that can be used to create future reports

  • A white paper summing up best practices and tools that can be used to create visual reports.


By July 2013

  • Identify tools that can be used to create data visualizations.

  • Review data visualization best practices.

  • Identify software to be used to create visual reports.

  • Request purchase of software to be used to create visual reports, if necessary.

  • Consult with Linda P on the specific needs of the upper level administrators.

By September 2013

  • Design a prototype visual report template.

  • Obtain feedback on visual report template from Assessment Committee members.

By December 2013

  • Create at least one visual report for use by upper level library administrators.

  • Present final visual report(s) to upper level library administrators.

By March 2013

  • Obtain feedback on visual reports from upper level library administrators.

    • Were they useful? Did they aid in their communication of the survey findings with university administrators? What can be improved?


  • More effective communication with university administrators, as reported by library administrators.