Working with Outcomes: A Worthwhile Challenge

Written by Heidi Andres a Teen Services Librarian with Cuyahoga County Public Library in Northeast Ohio. She received outcome measurement training as a fellow in the Treu-Mart Youth Development Fellowship Program of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

smiley face evaluation by Flickr Creative Commons user BillsophotoAs a librarian involved in the implementation of youth program outcome measures, I was extremely interested in Johannah Genett’s article, “Measuring Outcomes for Teen Technology Programs,” in the Fall 2014 issue of YALS. Reading this article, I was eager to see how another library system (Hennepin County Library) collects outcome measures for youth programs in comparison to my organization, Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL).

In the fall of 2012, Cuyahoga County Public Library formed a youth planning team with the mission of creating outcome measures for youth programming across our 27 branches. This team was comprised of CCPL administrative youth staff, three Teen Services librarians, including myself, one Children’s Services librarian, and representatives from an outside youth development organization. Although the three teen staff members had received outcome measurement instruction, learning outcome measurement theory and actually creating and applying the tools proved to be two very different sides of the same coin. Constructing outcomes, indicators, and measurement tools was an eye-opening experience, one which enabled the team to closely examine the library system’s youth programming priorities and goals. The process focused on answering some vital questions: Why do we do what we do? What are our programming strengths, and where can we improve? What kind of impact do we want to have on the young people we serve, and how do we achieve this through the programs we offer? It was our hope that measuring outcomes would not only give us answers to these queries, but also provide staff with insight they could use to develop future youth programs with outcomes in mind.
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YALSA Public Library Evaluation Tool – Just for You (Fall 2013)

woman thinking photo by the italian voiceIn her fall 2013 article on using the YALSA Public Library Evaluation Tool, Sara Ryan (Teen Services Specialist at Multnomah County Library) provides a great set of tips and practical ideas on how to successfully evaluate teen library services AND how to use information from the evaluation in order to plan for the future. Her article covers how to:

  • Convince administration that evaluating teen services will benefit the library
  • Conduct the evaluation
  • Communicate the results
  • Create change based on what the evaluation reveals

Ryan makes it clear in her article, that the evaluation is not something that can be accomplished alone. It actually takes the whole library – from the administration who need to understand and support teen library services evaluation to colleagues who help to perform evaluation activities and analyze data collected.
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