“Libraries are very good at counting outputs… it’s more difficult to count outcomes,” says Stacey Wedlake, research and communication coordinator for Impact Survey, one of several national projects developed over the past ten years to help public libraries jump that hurdle…
The Job and Career Services Department of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH, has measured outcomes for decades, using paper and online surveys for participant evaluations and an electronic records system designed for counseling centers for secure data storage. However, many libraries don’t have staff with time to learn this approach, and, for the most part, only some of the most recent graduates have these skills…
What explains the current national focus on outcomes measurement? Wedlake is specific: “[We’ve] been talking about the importance of outcomes for many years, but [it’s] reached a tipping point. There seemed to be a shift post-2008. Local governments and taxpayers started taking closer looks at how their money was being spent and wanting institutions to ‘prove’ their value. Outcomes help tell that story [and] give valuable information to librarians who want to improve their serves.”
Read the full article: Koerber, Jennifer. “Meaningful Measures: Assessment. National initiatives step into the gap on the urgent need to capture outcomes.” Library Journal. June 21, 2017.
Actions you can take right now to change the conversation from output to outcomes:
- Write down patron stories, ask their permission.
- Take pictures of services, events, and patrons: these could be service flyers/brochures, patron photos, behind the scenes, pictures from programs and events and more!
- Create an infographic using statistics YOU choose, patron stories, and images from your library. Browse WVLS Design Basics and Infographic Resources.
- Call and visit your city department heads, city council, county board representatives, and state representatives and senators to tell them about the awesome things the library is doing, invite them to stop by the next time they are in town.
- Send your state representatives and senators, your city department heads, and your county representatives letters, patron stories and library pictures, infographics, and invite them to stop by your library.
- Send the same materials to your library advocates and potential library advocates. The more information they have the better when it comes to speaking up for libraries!
Tools for Outcome Measurement
- Project Outcome from the Public Library Association (PLA)
- Impact Survey from the University of Washington (UW) iSchool with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Edge Initiative from the Urban Libraries Council (ULC)
- Measures that Matter (MTM) from the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) and COSLA