Blogger Early Childhood Programs and Services committee

Save Time and Alleviate Evaluation Stress with these 8 Questions

Emotions are high, and energy is low. Chocolate overflows on every youth services workroom counter. As soon as we hand out the last incentive, relief roars across the children’s floor. Summer was great. Summer is done. Now it is time to buckle down, plan for the slower pace of fall, and think about plans for next year.

Yes. That’s right. We get to do this all again. How will you evaluate this summer’s learning program and plan for next year’s while you are still recuperating from the summer sprint?

Evaluate this summer's learning program
Image from Canva

That is when team members make solemn vows to each other. 

Next year we will not overbook ourselves; next year we will leave space to enjoy the process; next year, we will plan earlier… plan better… plan…

Next year. 

Always next year.

Then next year comes and we forget all over again just what we swore we wouldn’t do again. Save yourself time and stress by ending summer learning with this effective planning tool.

Evaluating library summer learning programs with these 8 questions.

  • What were this year’s challenges? 
  •  What were this year’s opportunities? 
  •  What was the hardest day this summer? 
  •  What was the average stress level of staff? 
  •  What was the top feedback about the program? 
  •  What processes worked and didn’t work? 
  •  What was the high point of this year’s experience? 
  •  What surprised you the most about the program this summer?

That is my plan on day 1 post summer learning. I have noticed that our babies and toddlers as well as teen numbers lag behind our school age numbers. I am curious why that is? Is there a barrier we haven’t acknowledged? Is there something in the nature of the program that parents of these small library users don’t respond to? Or that teens don’t respond to? By asking myself the above questions, I will be able to assess and evaluate our library’s summer learning program in a way that goes behind the statistics I have.

See what other libraries have done in response to evaluating summer learning programs

The Changing Face of Summer Reading

Summer Reading Crunch Time Decor

Enticing Summer Reading Alternatives for Kids Who Hate to Read

Record and evaluate this summer's learning program challenges and opportunities.

Numbers don’t tell a story

Too often we get trapped in the numbers game. We assess our programs based on the number of registrations, completions, program attendance, and door counts. Numbers matter, that’s true, but numbers don’t tell a story and it is THAT story that will help us plan and assess programs for next summer. We need that story so we can make clear decisions on what inputs and outputs we need. Or how to make the best use of the precious dollars we receive. Or why numbers might have been down in one area and not another. Yes, numbers will help us with tactics and metrics but a story will make our objectives impactful in the communities we serve.

Do yourself a favor. WRITE IT ALL DOWN before the lull of downtime erases the urgency from your mind. Get it on paper (or, well, the computer) before you forget. Document the good, the bad and the ugly so next year you might just save yourself a little bit of sanity in the midst of summer learning chaos.

Make that one vow you keep.

What has been your most impactful evaluation tool in summer learning assessments?

Check out these additional Summer Learning Resources

Measuring Summer Learning in Libraries

Accelerate Summer: public libraries evolving summer reading programs to expand summer learning opportunities

Jessica Smith is co-chair of the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee. She works as a Youth Services Manager in a busy inner ring suburb library of Cleveland, Ohio.

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