Article: Outcomes, Impacts, and Indicators (2015)

By | 2017-11-09T19:56:53+00:00 November 9th, 2017|Categories: Marketing, Outcomes, Programs, Statistics, Tools|

Outcomes, Impacts, and Indicators
By Samantha Becker
September 18, 2015

Edited Extract:

“Despite all the attention and advice about program evaluation, those responsible for carrying it out still struggle to define their program outcomes, connect those to their program goals  (impact), and figure out how to measure them (indicators).

Librarians often have difficulty talking about what we do in terms of concrete benefits; instead, we often default to the loftiest of our many missions: defending democracy, advancing freedom of thought, instilling the love of reading…. While these deeply held values of our profession should guide our ethics and decision-making, we still have a need and an obligation to measure what outcomes we can and demonstrate our impact on the multitudes who benefit from public libraries in real and significant ways.

Theory of change work is another way of organizing indicators and structuring program information. Instead of using the logic model, the program is connected through a series of “so that” statements that show a progression of steps an individual takes through a program and the change each step is to encourage along the way. The logic model can also be overlaid on the theory of change. The theory of change approach can be helpful if a program is started because someone had a great idea, but no one is quite sure how or whether it will work. In that case, sometimes it’s easier to use the theory of change backward, starting by asking what program participants need to know, have, or do in order to improve their lives or their communities and then working back into your program design.

An example that is seen a lot these days: someone wants to create a Maker space. A local foundation is willing to give a grant, but the library has to fill out a logic model and explain how success will be measured. Many librarians will start with what goes into the Maker space and then what kinds of programs will be held there. Yet when it comes to defining outcomes, they are stumped. “I just want the kids to have fun. How do I define fun as an outcome?” is a common refrain heard at library conferences (and in private mutterings over grant applications).

Theory of change work helps break through these blocks. It asks how and why over and over again until responses are exhausted. If it can’t be defined as a measurable outcome, it hasn’t been sufficiently ­interrogated.

Having fun is a worthy and measurable indicator of a satisfying event or program—it’s an output in this context—but an outcome needs to be connected to a higher level goal that resonates with the community and funders, and the indicator needs to be specifically connected to that. That doesn’t mean you have to (or can) prove that coming to a library Maker space leads to better school performance, but it means that you can show, theoretically, how your program could contribute to better school performance.

The theory of change also tells you what to measure—you are testing your theory.

  • Can the kids make the 3-D game pieces? How many did they make?
  • Did the kids play the game? How many played? How many came back to play again?
  • How many came to the library for other reasons? How many times? What else did they do?

When first doing this work, it’s best to write down most every indicator you can think of that can answer your evaluation questions and prove or disprove your theory of change. Then, starting with whether the indicator measures something that matters, start whittling down the list, getting rid of what doesn’t meet the criteria for a good indicator. Once that’s done, methods for data collection can be considered, with survey questions reserved for indicators that can’t be collected by any other method.

A final word: be creative with your methods. Want to know how many unique program participants you have? Try a loyalty card. Want to know how many participants in a digital literacy class learned how to send email? Have them send a message to the library with a particular subject heading and keep a log.”

The Impact Survey was first used in 2009 to help gather data for the Opportunity for All study reports, conducted by the University of Washington’s iSchool with assistance from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

SELF-e: Six Strong Benefits of Supporting Your Local Author Community

By | 2017-10-30T23:58:51+00:00 October 30th, 2017|Categories: eBooks, Marketing|

Six Strong Benefits of Supporting Your Local Author Community in Your Library

As libraries’ roles extend beyond book lending towards becoming community centers, they are embracing opportunities to give selfpublished authors the attention and resources they need to grow as local creatives who enrich the community. More poignant now than ever is the American Library Association’s (ALA) stance that libraries have a duty to support “programs in the humanities and the arts that encourage people to think and talk about ethics and values, history, art, poetry and other cultures.”

SELF-e supports libraries as transformational spaces, serving everyone from patrons who write infrequently to new writers to readers. Using Pressbooks Public, patrons who do not write often can become people who write regularly, and new writers can turn their manuscripts into polished ebooks and print-on-demand books. SELF-e’s community engagement aspect can help local authors become more established in their communities and beyond by allowing local readers to discover new indie literature and by supporting SELF-e Select authors who participate in its Ambassador program. Finally, SELF-e can turn patrons into more engaged readers by supporting library events that connect them with authors. No matter how libraries benefit from SELF-e’s many paths to making the library a transformational space, establishing a reputation as being transformative increases the likelihood of receiving public funding.

Benefit 1
Having programs that support local authors encourages creativity.

Benefit 2
Serving indie authors will increase foot traffic to the library for non-traditional purposes.

Benefit 3
Local author programs can increase public investment in the library.

Benefit 4
Having author-centric programs increases social capital.

Benefit 5
Having opportunities for local writers may lead to better social relations across diverse groups both inside and outside of the library.

Benefit 6
Building strong literary communities in libraries establishes them as vital to an area’s creative placemaking.

SELF-e and Pressbooks Public are viable resources for authors at any point in their writing journey, from conception to publication. These tools, made available through library systems worldwide, allow authors to produce professional-quality ebooks and distribute them to patrons locally and internationally through their public library.


Jeff Bezos Should Put His Billions Into Libraries [Wired mag]

By | 2017-10-18T20:13:49+00:00 October 18th, 2017|Categories: Library Truths, Marketing, Philosophy/Principles|

Very good words on the value of today’s library…

Jeff Bezos Should Put His Billions Into Libraries
by Susan Crawford, a columnist for Backchannel and a professor at Harvard Law School. She is also the author of The Responsive City and Captive Audience.

Imagine that you are Jeff Bezos. For four hours two weeks ago, you were the richest person in the world. And though Wall Street knocked you down a notch, pretty much everyone thinks it’s inevitable that you’re going to be number one again. You’re starting to be aware of the smell of the tar pits and you’re casting about for a way to put all that loot to some good. You’re eying the Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge and thinking that if you donate half your fortune it should make a difference. You’re comfortable with making older but meaningful institutions great again.

So far, you’ve concentrated on things that might benefit our distant successors—space travel, cancer treatments, AI, and a clock that will keep running for 10,000 years. But you want to do something more immediate. You say you want your philanthropic activity “to be helping people in the here and now—short term—at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.” You are open to suggestions–so much so that you even recently tweeted a “request for ideas.

Though you don’t mention it, I suspect you’re thinking of stepping into an area that traditionally government might have addressed—but now, in an era in which the wealthy are doing better and better, benefits seem to go toward the top while the “urgent needs” of just plain people are left to the grace of a harsh marketplace. Like it or not, citizens are increasingly dependent on the kindness of strangers with billions of dollars,

I have a suggestion for you, Jeff Bezos. How would you like to become the Andrew Carnegie of our time?

Yes, I am talking about libraries. Those places where books sit on shelves, not delivered by FedEx. And so much more. Carnegie made them the center of his philanthropy, and almost became synonymous with them. More importantly, he changed countless lives with his investments in libraries. I have heard that you’re looking for big ideas, and this is one.

Today, local libraries are thought of as slightly retro public institutions. For some reason, major donors don’t get excited about them. OK, there are some notable exceptions to this rule—in my adopted city of New York, for instance, Stephen Schwarzman has his name engraved on the main branch building of the public library; in Kansas City, the Kemper family has donated millions to the downtown branch and a Kemper scion, R. Crosby Kemper III, has been the executive director of the library for more than 12 years.

But the real impact—the one that changes lives and transforms communities—has yet to be made. It turns out that libraries are the very model of the more-than-shovel-ready, here-and-now, urgent-need-and-lasting-impact places that you as a tech philanthropist claim to be interested in supporting in a big way. And libraries’ needs are dire.

You, Mr. Bezos, may not have been inside a library in a while. Things have changed. Today, libraries are serving as essential civic places. Trusted by every part of American society, they’re the only noncommercial places other than city squares where people meet across genders and ages. They provide all kinds of services and programming—just visit the glorious Madison, WI Central Library, where a first-rate makerspace is under the same LEED-certified roof as local service agencies helping people sign up for health care and food assistance.

Librarians are not shushing people, and libraries are no longer only silent cathedrals for solo reading. (They still have reading rooms—don’t worry.) Instead, these great pieces of civic architecture are being repurposed: They’re places that offer classes in computer skills and thousands of other subjects, provide internet access to millions of Americans who can’t afford it, and host innumerable neighborhood meetings.

Libraries these days are providing meals to kids and adults through local food banks, working with local immigrant agencies, offering homework help, and loaning out an amazing array of things, from musical instruments to microscopes. (Yes: the Library of Things.) What they’re up to is dazzling. And in 2013, 94 percent of Americans said that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community. As America gets older and more unequal, its people need new forms of education to thrive—and libraries are ground zero for every public value the country cares about.

The American Library Association says that America’s more than 120,000 public, school, academic, and special libraries are visited more than 1.4 billion times a year by hundreds of millions of Americans in every corner of the nation and from every walk of life. They complement but do not compete with your mighty commercial bookselling venture, Mr. Bezos. At the same time, libraries are chronically under-resourced. Limited hours. Limited staff. Low pay. Constant need for renovation. Overcrowding.

Libraries are attempting to serve people in an era of thin government support, increasing need, and staggering inequality—much like the era that gave us Andrew Carnegie. His response to the problems of his time was to build thousands of public libraries across the country, starting in 1886. Most of those beloved community libraries are still functioning. Carnegie aimed high, wanting to make the world better than he found it. And he succeeded.

Here’s the twist in the story that you, Mr. Bezos, may not know: Carnegie’s money was given on the condition that local public authorities step up with pledges to support and maintain the institutions that he launched. For Carnegie, this structure fit with the idea that communities were being helped to help themselves—a pillar for him. Many cities turned down Carnegie’s offer, and later regretted it.

If you are looking to have your name be kept alive in the memories of generations—or if you simply want a legacy worthy of the fortune you have reaped—you don’t need to start something new or even have it named after you. (You didn’t rename the Washington Post, either, and yet it’s becoming one of the handful of great news sources in the world.) Hidden in plain sight, the local libraries of America are patiently waiting for your attention. (They’re also often really beautiful spaces, and I can tell that you like design. Just down the street from your headquarters is Rem Koolhaas’s terrific Seattle main library, with areas named after donors and relatives of Paul Allen, Microsoft, Charles Simonyi, and Boeing.)

Whether or not the local library a random American uses today was actually built by Carnegie, he or she knows what that philanthropist did. More important, if a philanthropist was someone who wanted to get a glimpse of what his money did, he would be proud of what his money had accomplished.

Tragically, the federal government and the states are constantly cutting back on library funding. You would almost think that politicians don’t want members of the public to have access to the very knowledge that would lead them to make informed decisions! But those politicians are ignoring the fact libraries are citadels of civilization and economic ladders for those otherwise stuck on the bottom rungs. Why not use the lever of your money, Mr. Bezos, to spur public authorities to do their part? Just like Carnegie did. It is hard to imagine a better use of billions.

 8/9/2017 – Backchannel is a digital magazine that delivers readers the most revealing technology stories in a single weekly dispatch: no fluff. Learn more here.

TOOLS: Advocacy Tools for Librarians: How Americans Value Public Libraries (Pew)

By | 2017-10-12T20:48:48+00:00 October 11th, 2017|Categories: Marketing, Reports/Plans, Tools|

The Internet & American Life Project of the Pew Research Center has produced a series of reports presenting new research on library services, trends in reading habits and patron needs in the digital age. This three-year research program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and informed by an advisory group, focus groups and surveys of library users, non-users, and librarians.

Report: From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers (March 2014)
Advocacy Toolkit (doc) | Advocacy Toolkit (pdf)

Report: How Americans Value Public Libraries in their Communities (December 2013)
Advocacy Toolkit (doc) | Advocacy Toolkit (pdf)

Report: Parents, Children, Libraries, and Reading (May 2013)
Advocacy Toolkit (doc) | Advocacy Toolkit (pdf) | WebJunction Webinar

Report: Library Services in the Digital Age (January 2013)
Advocacy Toolkit (doc) | Advocacy Toolkit (pdf) | WebJunction Webinar

Report(s): Libraries, patrons, and e-books (June 2012) and The rise of e-reading (April 2013)
Advocacy Toolkit (doc) | Advocacy Toolkit (pdf)|

REPORT: December 11, 2013 Full Report PDF
Summary: How Americans Value Public Libraries in their Communities
By Kathryn Zickuhr, Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell and Maeve Duggan
Public Libraries’ Importance and Impact
Importance of public library services

Extract: Overall, 91% of Americans either have ever used a public library or said another household member uses a public library.4 We asked these respondents who have personal or family experiences with libraries a series of questions about how important they consider various library services, including various library resources and activities.

There are notable patterns in many of the answers about the importance of library services among those who have personal or family experiences with public libraries. In general, women, African-Americans and Hispanics, adults who live in lower-income households, and adults with lower levels of educational attainment are more likely than other groups to say these services are “very important.” Those ages 30-64 are more likely than younger or older respondents to say many of the services are “very important,” as are parents with minor children. Urban residents with library experiences are more likely than rural residents to say some services are “very important” to them.

Adults 65 and older are the age group most likely to say that none of these library services are very important to them, and generally rate most services as less important overall. For instance, among those ages 65 and older with some public library experience,65% say that having a quiet and safe place to spend time at the library is important to them and their families overall, compared with 75% of all respondents who say this is important.

Copyright 2017 The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center. The Center is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts

JOURNAL: The Political Librarian

By | 2017-10-04T20:08:59+00:00 October 4th, 2017|Categories: Marketing, Philosophy/Principles|

The Political Librarian is dedicated to expanding the discussion of, promoting research on, and helping to re-envision locally focused advocacy, policy, and funding issues for libraries.

It encompasses a variety of perspectives to the journal and draws contributions not just from those working in the field of library and information science. Submissions are sought from researchers, practitioners, community members, or others dedicated to furthering the discussion, promoting research, and helping to re-envision tax policy and public policy on the extremely local level.

The Political Librarian team is grateful for the generous contributions of the Washington University Libraries for hosting the journal and providing every-ready support.

Transcendance: When Libraries Really Provide Value

By | 2017-09-30T19:07:12+00:00 September 29th, 2017|Categories: Library Truths, Marketing, Philosophy/Principles|

Researcher Eric Almquist and colleagues have identified The 30 Things Customers Really Value” covering most fundamental human needs. These 30 “elements of value” are fundamental attributes in their most essential and discrete forms.

They fall into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, social impact.

In a blog post, Steven Bell explains the four categories:

“At the base of the value pyramid is functional value. These are fairly basic services such as save people time, simplify things for them or facilitate their organization (think the Container Store).

The next highest order value is emotion. When a company like CVS offers wellness services or Disney offer fun experiences it appeals to our sense of emotional well being. When community members express affection for their library (e.g. “I love my library”) that signals an emotional connection. Engaging community members in ways that connect them to our libraries emotionally provides a unique value element.

Beyond emotion lies life changing value. Educational organizations offer the value of acquiring new skills or abilities that can lead to life changing opportunity. Offering a community to which members can belong is valued by those who with to be a part of something bigger then themselves – and it can be life changing. A library literacy program volunteer achieves life changing value by contributing to an organization that does change lives and improves the quality of the community.

At the top of the value pyramid is social impact. There is only one value associated with this category, self-transcendance. This is comparable to Maslow’s self-actualization on the hierarchy of needs. Few of us achieve it, and far fewer organizations can deliver this type of value.”

Bell says that it appears libraries “mostly deliver functional value,” and asks the important question,  “how do we deliver higher levels of value that get community members emotionally engaged with the library?”

Steven Bell is currently Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, and was previously Director of the Library at Philadelphia University.

TOOL: ROI – Library Use Value Calculator

By | 2017-09-25T23:47:50+00:00 September 25th, 2017|Categories: Marketing, Statistics, Tools|

Return on Investment
Figuring out your public service return on investment is a great way to tell the story about how valuable your library is to the community. Click here to download the customized excel spreadsheet, or here.

Communication Services provides Library Advocacy Services

Since 2005, Communication Services has worked with dozens of libraries to help them achieve financial stability and sustainability. Now that libraries must live within a 2% Tax Cap World, it is more important than ever for libraries to make sure they are seen as an essential community services that deserve funding because of the important programs and services they provide.

MORE: Customization of a Library Use Value Calculator from the Maine State Library


Key Reports