In this book, Eliza Dresang, Melissa Gross and Leslie Edmonds Holt bring together the rationale and how-to of outcome-based planning and evaluation (OBPE). Why? From page 15:
Using outcomes provides a systematic way to find out if services are meeting or exceeding the goals set for them, what works best for the people who use services, and how to change programs and services as the kids in a community change. In addition, outcome-based evaluation helps determine how to best use available resources and get the additional resources needed to provide library service to children in the service area.
Plan what you want to evaluate. Involve the opinions of those you are serving. It only makes sense, but how many of us do it? I am struck by the three Levels of planning the authors describe in chapter 4. It’s so simple to start small, to get a feel for it, but how often do we move to the big evaluation project without stated outcomes or avoid the big planning/evaluation project because it is daunting? OBPE does not have to be scary. They write about Level 1 on page 44, “A trial run on a smaller basis sometimes clears the way for a more concerted or longer-term effort.”
Starting with Level 1 (basically a one-time program plan with stated goals/outcomes followed with an evaluation) is one way to develop evaluation skills and create a culture of evaluation. On page 55, the authors write:
After understanding the conclusions drawn from the data, the library staff should be willing to make changes that will improve success from the users’ point of view. If a library is not ready to accept evaluation results, or make changes suggested by those results, there are some things to do before launching a major OBPE project.
The authors also recommend creating formal surveys for staff to make outcome-based planning and evaluation a more natural part of the work environment. Another option mentioned is to bring in consultants.
If your library is not a culture of planning and evaluation, even if you are meeting the needs of your community, budget cuts will make (if it hasn’t already) your programs vulnerable. Grants are becoming even more competitive. Dynamic Youth Services through Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation has made me more aware of something I knew was important but something I saw as upper management responsibility. It is my responsibility as a children’s librarian to evaluate the usefulness of the programs I plan and change them accordingly. I think I do that, but using the models provided in this book will move me beyond think to know.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services offers a guide to grant opportunities as well as sample applications, information about outcome-based evaluations, a project planning tutorial, and more.
Next I will read Super3: Information Skills for Young Learners by Michael Eisenberg. Please grab a copy of it and add your response to the next Professional Reading post. You are also encouraged to add your thoughts about any of the books I have responded to in past posts. I am always looking for professional book suggestions as well.