Libraries today are less about what they have for people and more about what they do for and with people. Library professionals promote opportunities for individuals and progress for communities. Libraries of all kinds add value in five key areas (the E’s of Libraries): education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment, and engagement. They are advancing the legacy of reading and developing a digitally inclusive society.
The American Library Association launched a new public awareness campaign, called “Libraries Transform,” in 2015. Libraries Transform seeks to shift the mindset that “libraries are obsolete or nice to have” to “libraries are essential,” and change the perception that “libraries are just quiet places to do research, find a book, and read” to “libraries are centers of their communities: places to learn, create and share, with the help of library staff and the resources they provide.”
The Libraries Transform campaign is designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact, and services provided by library professionals and libraries of all types. The campaign showcases how libraries transform both communities and the lives of individuals, how libraries continue to transform to meet rapidly changing 21st-century needs, and how library professionals continue to transform to meet the evolving needs of the communities in which they serve. Central to the campaign is the use of provocative “Because” statements that challenge individuals to rethink what they know about libraries.
More than 1,500 libraries have registered to participate in the campaign and are using campaign materials in their communities. The campaign website has additional background about the campaign, links to the “Because” statements, videos, a map of participating libraries, and links to promotional materials.
Intuitively, we understand that libraries have value and are worthy of support by the community and government. At the same time, current economic challenges increasingly demand that the value of libraries be demonstrated through performance measurement. Historically, libraries have measured performance by counts of circulation, visits, and program attendance. Today there is shift in expectation that libraries will measure not just counts, but outcomes. Outcomes are results, measured by changes in patron behavior. One of the biggest challenges for libraries today is to demonstrate how people’s lives are changed through library resources, programs, and services.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) defines outcomes as “achievements or changes in skill, knowledge, attitude, behavior, condition, or life status for program participants.” There are many outcome-based evaluation models and projects. In this document, the value of academic libraries as demonstrated by learning and success outcomes is demonstrated through the ACRL Assessment in Action program, funded by an IMLS grant. In the section on public libraries, readers will find information about Project Outcome, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. School libraries will benefit from the results of a grant project, Causality: School Libraries and Student Success II (CLASS II), funded by IMLS. This project brings school library researchers together to develop a plan for research that measures the effects of school libraries and librarians on student learning.