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.
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 recently updated Teen Programming Guidelines encourage the use of evidence-based outcome measurement as a means of developing meaningful programs for young people. The Public Library Association – through its latest field-driven initiative, Project Outcome – is also working to assist with librarians’ efforts to capture the true value and impact of programs and services. At ALA Annual 2016, PLA will launch Project Outcome, designed to help any programmer measure outcomes beyond traditional markers such as circulation and program attendance. Instead, Project Outcome focuses on documenting how library services and programs affect our patrons’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. It will help librarians use concrete data to prove what they intuitively know to be true: Communities are strengthened by public libraries and patrons find significant value in library services.
Lessons from the Field: Skokie (IL) Public Library
At Skokie Public Library, we participated in the pilot testing of Project Outcome in the fall of 2014 by administering surveys for 10 different programs. The surveys were conducted online, on paper, and through in-person interviews. In one example, teens attending a class about biotechnology were interviewed using a survey designed to measure outcomes for “Education/Lifelong Learning.” Participants ranked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with statements measuring knowledge, confidence, application, and awareness. Results showed that 85% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they learned something helpful, while only 43% agreed or strongly agreed that they intended to apply what they just learned. The results demonstrated some improvement in subject knowledge, information that can be useful for advocacy. But it also revealed that there’s room for growth in ensuring program participants understand how they can apply what they’re learning. In an open-ended question asking what they liked most about the program, teens mentioned the chemical experiments conducted during the program. This type of data is something that we can pay attention to when planning future programs.
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: Continue reading