Monday, February 20, 2006

Library outreach: measuring success

One of the questions that was raised on Friday had to do with measuring outreach efforts. If you go to a local store to do demonstrations of the library's databases and sign people up for library cards, how do you measure the event's success? One library, who does such efforts, says that they measure success by the increased usage of library services.

The traditional measurement of success for libraries are things like:
  • Number of library card holders
  • Number of books borrowed
  • Number of database searchers
  • Number of people who come into the library building
None of these truly measure the library's impact, especially when we begin to think outside of the box. How do you measure:
  • The impact on parents who can shop at the mall while their kids use the library branch that is located in the mall?
  • The economic impact of those who did career research at a library?
  • The joy of teenagers who go to a LAN party at a library and the impact of them "not being on the street"? (LAN parties are for playing networked computer games.)
  • The knowledge gained from using a library?
  • The decisions made from using consumer health information from a library? (BTW there is a project in the Albany, NY area that mails consumer health information to people's homes on-demand.)
  • The number of people who improved their lives because of something the library did?
  • The curiosity peaked from using digitized materials?
Anecdotal stories always help to communicate the successes. Given how library services are evolving, we need to do a better job of capturing those stories and finding new ways of capturing meaningful numbers, especially when we're delivering services to people outside of the traditional library setting.

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