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.

CHART: COPYRIGHT TERM and the Public Domain in the United States

By | 2017-10-15T01:14:01+00:00 October 15th, 2017|Categories: Reports/Plans, Tools|

This Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart was first published in Peter B. Hirtle, “Recent Changes To The Copyright Law: Copyright Term Extension,” Archival Outlook, January/February 1999. This version is current as of 1 January 2017. The most recent version is found at For some explanation on how to use the chart and complications hidden in it, see Peter B. Hirtle, “When is 1923 Going to Arrive and Other Complications of the U.S. Public Domain,” Searcher (Sept 2012). The chart is based in part on Laura N. Gasaway’s chart, “When Works Pass Into the Public Domain.”

The goal of the Copyright Information Center is to provide Cornell faculty, staff, and students with Cornell-specific and general information about copyright. The Website serves as an information clearinghouse and contains Cornell policies, general information, reference materials, and information on the University’s copyright awareness and education programs.

Cornell University Library
Amy Vanderlyke Dygert, Director of Copyright Services
Chloe McLaren, Digital Programs Associate
Oya Y. Rieger, Associate University Librarian, Scholarly Resources and Preservation Services

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

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