I confess I really do not understand this obsession. I mean, I can understand things like LibQual and how that might be helpful in getting a sense of what areas we might improve upon, but overall, how in the world do you “measure,” with empirical evidence, a student’s learning? How do you measure something like “critical thinking”? With a multiple choice test?
Well, I am hardly one to think that everything worth knowing is measurable, but at the same time, I do think that there are some things to be learned from empirical data. For example, a local Research-1 university just got permission from their IRB to gather data on database usage, book circulation, instruction sessions attended, etc. on individual students in order to correlate that data with the students' "outcomes" (i.e. GPA, graduation rates).
While the data won't show that "Libraries improve student learning," it will at least allow them say, "Use the library in the following ways is positively correlated with GPA and likelihood of four-year graduation". Well, assuming they find a positive correlation, that is. :) If they can do that, they'll likely benefit in future years from a budget standpoint.