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The Impact of the Library on Lives

We all collect data in our work on libraries, but is it the right data to be able to tell the story of our library’s impact on people’s lives?

When a member of Congress asks – “how has the library helped my constituents?” are we able to answer?

We can talk about total books circulated, but not about how many people sought jobs or retrained for careers at the library. girl reading a book
We can show total reference questions answered, but not how the library has improved the reading ability of schoolchildren.

This is a problem, because our data should be showing the fundamental role the library plays toward solving society’s critical issues – helping people to educate themselves and raise themselves out of poverty, improve their health and nutrition, increase their reading ability, find and apply for jobs, and learn to use technologies.

What are the new metrics for demonstrating the library’s impact on people’s lives? In iMapLibraries, we’re exploring new metrics for “putting libraries on the map” for special programs and services offered in libraries such as:

classes and workshops (computers, ESL, workforce readiness, health, e-government assistance and more)
senior services (such as homebound delivery programs)
Spanish services (such as reference services in Spanish, workshops in Spanish)
Special spaces available (such as fab labs/Makerspaces, homework centers, meeting rooms etc.)

But libraries do more to help people in our community, and here are some metrics that could help to show that:

How has the library helped people retrain and improve their employability? [Circulation of — test-taking prep books and software for GED and other exams, use of test prep digital resources in the library; counts of reference questions answered on exam prep]
How has the library helped people seeking jobs? [Counts for – use of job seeking books and digital resources, attendance at workshops on resume writing and job seeking skills; counts of reference questions answered on job seeking and resume writing]
How has the library helped people start small businesses? [Circulation of – books on starting a small business and writing a small business plan, attendance at workshops on small business; counts of reference questions answered on starting a small business and writing small business plans]

How could we track these new metrics of the library’s impact on lives? Some possibilities:

in-house usage reshelving counts of “how to” books left out each day on technology, exam prep, job seeking and small business startup;
circulation statistics for exam prep, job seeking and small business startup items checked out with a library card; and,
attendance statistics for workshops from signup sheets, library card checkins, head counts, or filled/empty seat counts during the session

Does your library have a way of tracking and counting data that helps you to show an impact on people’s lives? Please share your ideas in the comments or email me at imaplibraries@gmail.com – I’d love to hear about it!
— Lorri Mon, Associate Professor at Florida State University, for iMapLibraries

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One Response

  1. […] We all collect data in our work on libraries, but is it the right data to be able to tell the story of our library’s impact on people’s lives? When a member of Congress asks – "how has the library …  […]

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