Dollars & Sense #25: Teen Services = Good Investment

Yesterday Beth Gallaway wrote about Return on Investment (ROI) and how to make sure to get a good bang for your buck. Beth’s specific focus was on how gaming provides great opportunities to demonstrate ROI.

Continuing on the theme of ROI, how do you:

  • Make sure that administrators, community members, foundations, grant makers, etc. understand the value of all aspects of the job that you do?
  • Demonstrate that the full scope of services for teens is an invaluable part of what the library offers?
  • Guarantee that those who have the bucks will make sure that you have dollars that you need when you need them?

In order to prove that the money spent in teen services is a good investment, it’s important to have data and stories that you can present to others. How do you do that? Focus groups, circulation statistics, door counts, and surveys are traditional methods libraries use. But, in the web 2.0/social networking world, there are several other techniques to employ in order to find out what other’s have to say about your services and their value:

  • Save searches in Twitter and use services like Google Alerts to keep track of any time the library (and specifically teen services) is mentioned online. These web-based tools give you the opportunity to “hear” what others are saying about what you do, without you even asking for feedback. You can find out what might be improved, and discover the good things others are saying about you. You can collect the online mentions and over time weave them into a story that you tell about the quality and responsiveness of services provided.
  • Use a service like Poll Everywhere to get real-time feedback from teens attending events, programs, or meetings at the library. As the activity is going on teens can let you know via SMS what they are thinking.
  • Ask for feedback via your library’s blog. After you’ve started a new service at the library, post on the blog about the service and ask teens to let you know what they think about it. In their comments give teens the chance to tell their stories about the value of the service in their own lives.
  • Google Forms is a quick and easy way to create online polls that you can embed on your web site or blog. With Google Forms you could easily sponsor a weekly poll that asks teens to tell you about what they need from the library’s teen services, and let you know all the ways you are serving them successfully.

One of the useful features of Google Forms is that the information entered into a poll or survey is automatically added to a spreadsheet. The data collected is also made available via that spreadsheet in visual form. In other words, Google Forms provides you with charts and graphs instantaneously so that you have visualizations of the information provided by teens.

In order to demonstrate ROI it’s important to regularly let others know that you are doing a good job. Data visualizations (such as those provided by Google Forms) are a good way to get that information out to others. To create visualizations of the data you collect you can also use a service like Many Eyes, from IBM. With this service you can upload your data and decide what visual technique to use to represent that data.

Another simple way to provide a visual of data that you collect is through creation of word clouds. You can use a tool like Wordle for this. Perhaps you have collected stories from teens about the difference the library has made in their lives. Paste those stories into Wordle as a way to show the main ideas in the stories that teens tell. The words that pop out will highlight to funders why your services are important.

A perfect way to house the visualizations, polls, surveys, stories, and other data that you collect is a Tumblelog. (Tumblr is a popular tumblelog service.) Tumblelogs are a combination of scrapbook and blog and they make it easy to post quotes, photos, images, text, links, stories, etc. in a blog format.

If you create a tumblelog as your scrapbook of information about the value of teen services in your community, you can easily send potential funders the URL of your tumblelog so they can see in one spot all the ROI information you’ve collected. That way they will know in one fell swoop why funding teen services is a good investment.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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