Evaluate to Advocate!

As National Library Legislative Day approaches, we must all be ready to answer the question that hangs over meetings with representatives who are lobbied daily for fiscal and political support:

Why? Why care about library services for and with teens?

It can be difficult for us, who regularly see the fruits of our labors in the smiles, small steps and cool projects our teens generate to encapsulate our stories into sound bites and elevator speeches that resonate with policy makers. Lets make it easier.

advocacy

During the month of April, YALSA’s Advocacy Support Task Force has been using #Act4Teens to tweet out tips to help members reach this month’s featured Advocacy Benchmark:

Collects evaluative data to envision teen services.

In order to share our stories with congress members, local policy makers and stakeholders, we must be able to say what difference we are making in our communities. To do this, we must know what are goals are, and how well we’re accomplishing them.

YALSA’s new Teen Programming Guidelines provide us with the steps to achieve this, starting with identifying the unmet needs of teens in the specific community, through designing programs to address those needs to evaluating those programs.

Teen Programming Guideline #10:

Engage in youth-driven, evidence-based evaluation and outcome measurement.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’re going to be burdening your teens with even more standardized tests. The point is to assess the program, not the students. The outcome for any particular program or service might be an “improvement or expansion of knowledge, skills, confidence, attitude, or behavior” (TPG#10.2).  For instance, one desired outcome for a Teen Homework Center might be that students increase their desire to learn for pleasure. A strategy to reach it might be to have tutors and library staff who help students connect their assignments to a personal interest, for instance, memorizing math formulas by putting them to music in the recording studio. A quick survey or interview with the students will help assess if the students have a more positive view of assignments as opportunities for new learning projects. Tallies might show that the longer students have been members of the Homework Center, the more self-driven questions they ask mentors and tutors or the more books they check out for personal reading. All of this helps assess how your strategies are working, and provides you with an excellent, and meaningful sound bite to use in advocacy efforts, such as:

75% of teens who participate regularly in the library’s Teen Homework Center demonstrate an increased desire to learn for pleasure.

Throw this info into a quick video with the math song, and show some data about how reading and learning for pleasure is one of the greatest indicators of future success, and you have yourself a pretty impenetrable argument in favor of library services for and with teens.

This is, of course, just one example. Increasingly, libraries are using outcome measures to provide this type of evaluative data, not only for advocacy efforts, but also to achieve best practices. The following articles and guides provide a framework for how you and your library can evaluate to advocate:

“After School Programs.” YALSA Wiki. Accessed April 28, 2015. http://wikis.ala.org/yalsa/index.php/After_School_Programs#Determining_.26_Measuring_Outcomes

Andres, Heidi. “Working with Outcomes: A Worthwhile Challenge.” Young Adult Library Services Online. January 11, 2015. Accessed April 28, 2015. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/yals/working-with-outcomes-a-worthwhile-challenge/

Genett, Johannah. “Measuring Outcomes for Teen Technology Programs.”Young Adult Library Services 13, no. 1 (2014): 25-29. http://yalsdigital.ala.org/i/405469-vol-13-no-1-fall-2014/26

Kepple, Sarah. “Intentionally Backwards, the Future of Learning in Libraries.” Young Adult Library Services 12, no. 1 (2013): 33-37. http://leonline.com/yals/12n1_fall2013.pdf

“Making the Case.” American Library Association. November 7, 2008. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/advocacyuniversity/toolkit/makingthecase

 

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