Shopping for Sustainability: Re-Envisioning the Secret Shopper Assessment




Boucher, Tricia M.
Boucher, Tricia M.
McClean, Jessica
McClean, Jessica

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Association of Research Libraries


For years librarians have used Secret Shopper assessments to evaluate the quality of customer service patrons receive. These snapshots of interactions at library service points reveal both positive trends in service and opportunities for improvement in training and best practices. However, this application of the data has a relatively narrow value considering the labor-intensive quality of the Secret Shopper assessment—developing scenarios, training participants, following up on assignments, and evaluating data. After collecting four years of Secret Shopper survey data, the question arose: how can we maximize the sustainability of the project by finding novel applications for the information collected? We collect data across multiple modalities (e.g., reference transactions, circulation statistics, door counts, surveys). Examining all the data together paints a much fuller picture of our patrons’ use patterns and attitudes. It should also reveal data gaps that hinder our ability to make informed decisions. Working from an outcomes-based approach, we will consider whether we are using the Secret Shopper assessment appropriately, determine whether there are new applications for Secret Shopper data, and modify this assessment to match our needs. We expect we will use this exercise as the foundation for creating a holistic data collection plan in the future—one that will maximize the use of the data we choose to collect.



secret shopper, mystery shopper, assessment, library assessment, customer service, user experience


Boucher, T., & McClean, J. (2018). Shopping for Sustainability: Re-Envisioning the Secret Shopper Assessment. Proceedings of the Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment (pp. 742-754). Houston, TX: Association of Research Libraries.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI