President's Message: Measuring Outcomes Holds Promise for Strengthening AdvocacyPeggy Rudd, Texas State Librarian and President of ASCLA
We in the library community have placed considerable stock in advocacy. We assist in establishing and nurturing Friends organizations to support local libraries; we train trustees and Friends group members in the art of political persuasion; we publish newsletters, annual reports, and such to promote public awareness; we testify as resources before elected and appointed bodies. At the national level, we have supported two White House Conferences on Library and Information Services, both of which focued attention and energy on advocacy.
Advocating for libraries is dogged, determined work that is virtually ceaseless. The Friends Sourcebook, 3rd ed., edited by Sandy Dolnick describes advocacy this way: "Advocacy means standing up for themlibrary system." (p. 64) We all stand up for libraries as a public good. Armed with anecdotes (stories) of positive impact and output statistics (circulation, library and program attendance, reference questions, etc.), all of us advocate for libraries in our own sphere of influence. But are we armed as well as we could be? I don't think so.
Measuring outcomes holds tremendous promise for helping to strengthen our advocacy efforts. Outcomes are benefits a person receives as a result of participating in a program or receiving a service. Outcomes may relate to greater knowledge, improved skills, and changed attitudes, behavior, condition, or status. Measuring program outcomes makes it possible for us to amalgamate benefitsacross an entire group of persons. For example, if a parent tells us that attending a preschool storytime helped him learn how to share books more effectively with his child, we have a single anecdote. If we ask all of the parents that participate in a preschool program whether participation has helped all of them share books more effectively with their children, then we may find that of the thirty parents that participated, twenty-eight responded that storytime participation was "very helpful." Now we don't just have a single parent's anecdote, we have a statistic that speaks to the outcome of the program. This is powerful stuff!
Want to know more? Want to be able to apply outcome measures effectively in your own library setting? Then you will want to attend the ASCLA President's Program on Sunday , June 26, 2005, 8:30 - 10:00 A.M. titled "Advocacy is Not Enough: Using Evidence-Based Outcome Measures to Demonstrate Library Impact." The program is designed to give attendees an overview of the outcome measurement model, examples of successful uses of outcome measures for planning and evaluation, and information on additional resources. I hope to see you there!