Evaluation in Libraries
Evaluation is a vital tool for providing effective, high quality library programs. Evaluating your programs can provide the data to help you understand what works and what doesn't for particular programs, patron groups or communities. In doing so, evaluation data can help you manage staff and resources and communicate your library's impact in the community. You can accomplish this whether you are a director, a department head, or programming staff. Below are links and materials to help you get started or to help you improve on the road to evaluation. Please contact Karren Reish at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-241-0021 if you have any questions.
There are a range of quality evaluation techniques, but the materials here focus on Outcome Based Evaluation (OBE). OBE is a systematic way to plan user-centered programs and to measure the program's impact on the user. Instead of measuring what you did (number of classes), you measure what difference you made in your patron's life (got a job after the taking the resume class).
OBE evaluation can take you from counting widgets to understanding how you are improving your community. The Library of Michigan supports OBE both for the effect it can have and because it is the evaluation technique that the Institute of Museum and Library Services encourages for use with LSTA funded projects. It is becoming the evaluation technique of choice among non-profits as well, including United Way organizations.
For programs that OBE may not be appropriate for, the Library of Michigan also supports the Stakeholder Evaluation technique.
For those libraries who want to understand their community needs in terms of technology, the University of Washington Information School has designed an Impact Survey that libraries may use.
- ALA Libraries Transforming Communities - find resources to do the work in your community and read case studies from libraries across the country using the methods
- MCLS Harwood Cohort - find links to social media and lists of participating libraries
- Community Engagement Group for Michigan and Indiana Harwood Lab participants
Indiana University School of Information and Library Science's Shaping Outcomes course is an outcome-based evaluation course. It can be reviewed online for free or taken as an instructor moderated course for a fee. The instructor led course runs three times a year and is four weeks long. The instructor guides students through the development of an evaluation plan for a program of their choice.