Performance Measurement

Introduction to Project Outcome

Results thumbnail image FREEOutcome Measurement Made Easy with PLA’s Project Outcome
A free PLA on-demand webinar
Instructor: Emily Plagman

Project Outcome offers an innovative and easy-to-use platform for public libraries to measure the impact of their programs and services. Staff are able to easily measure patron outcomes using the field-tested surveys, quickly analyze their data using ready-made reports and interactive data dashboards, and take action using the results. This on-demand webinar provides an overview of the toolkit and examples of how libraries have been able to benefit from using Project Outcome. More…

About Project Outcome

Wherever public libraries are working, possibility lives. Project Outcome is a FREE toolkit designed to help public libraries understand and share the true impact of essential library services and programs by providing simple surveys and an easy-to-use process for measuring and analyzing outcomes. Project Outcome also provides libraries with the resources and training support needed to apply their results and confidently advocate for their library’s future.

While many public libraries collect data about their services and programs, what is often lacking are the data to support what good they are providing their communities, such as programs serving childhood literacy, digital and technological training, and workforce development. With Project Outcome, patron attendance and anecdotal success stories are no longer the only way libraries can demonstrate their effectiveness. Developed by library leaders, researchers, and data analysts, Project Outcome is designed to give libraries simple tools and supportive resources to help turn better data into better libraries. 

Measuring outcomes helps libraries answer the question, “What good did we do?” An outcome is a specific benefit that results from a library service or program. Outcomes can be quantitative or qualitative, and are often expressed as changes that individuals perceive in themselves. Project Outcome helps libraries measure four key patron outcomes—knowledge, confidence, application, and awarenessin seven key library service areas:

  • Civic/Community Engagement
  • Digital Learning
  • Economic Development
  • Education/Lifelong Learning
  • Early Childhood Literacy
  • Job Skills
  • Summer Reading

The Project Outcome toolkit provides libraries with FREE access to quick and simple patron surveys, an easy-to-use Survey Portal to collect their outcomes, ready-made reports and visually interactive Data Dashboards for analyzing the data, and various resources to help move libraries from implementing surveys to taking action using the results. Libraries are encouraged to use their data to support and promote future action – from allocating resources more efficiently, to advocating new resources more effectively, to providing support for future library funding, branch activity reports, and strategic planning.

Project Outcome provides three tools for libraries to measure their outcomes:

  • Immediate Surveys: Measure patron-reported learning
  • Follow-Up Surveys: Measure patron-reported adoption/application
  • Outcome Measurement Guidelines: Measure long-term impact (coming soon)

Project Outcome's First Annual Report

The Public Library Association (PLA) has launched the first Project Outcome Annual Report. Access the 2016 Annual Report to analyze survey results, learn what patrons benefited from most, and see what Project Outcome and participating libraries did in the first year to make Project Outcome a success.

PLA’s Project Outcome is a FREE toolkit designed to help public libraries understand and share the true impact of essential library services and programs by providing simple surveys and an easy-to-use process for measuring and analyzing outcomes. Project Outcome also provides libraries with the resources and training support needed to apply their results and confidently advocate for their library’s future, helping them turn better data into better libraries. To learn more about Project Outcome and to register for free, visit www.projectoutcome.org.

Project Background

Project Outcome is managed by PLA and builds upon a 2013 initiative led by then-PLA president Carolyn Anthony (former director, Skokie Public Library), who established a Performance Measurement Task Force to develop standardized measures of effectiveness for library services and promote training and implementation tools for using the data collected. The Task Force is comprised of a diverse group of public and state library leaders, consultants, data researchers, and analysts. After collecting outcome data from 2013 PLDS survey responses and conducting pilot tests in 27 libraries in late 2014, the Task Force identified the seven essential library service areas for Project Outcome to assess that could be easily and directly linked to improving or changing a patron's knowledge, confidence, application, and awareness.

PLA launched the Project Outcome Immediate Surveys and online toolkit on June 26, 2015 at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. Upon release, the Task Force quickly started working on the next set of performance measures for libraries to capture community impact. Throughout 2015–2016, the Task Force developed and tested the Follow-Up Surveys that were released to the public on June 24, 2016 at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando. 

The work of the Task Force caught the eye of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their generous funding support has enabled PLA to accelerate and expand the reach of Project Outcome. PLA is dedicated to sustaining the project's work beyond the terms of the grant and aims to add Project Outcome to the long list of other successful PLA services, such as Every Child Ready to Read and Turning the Page.

What’s Next and Getting Involved

This exciting three-year project will support the development and implementation of outcome measures and also generate communication and training tools to help libraries effectively apply their findings. These additional tools will be just as important as the surveys in creating an industry-wide shift in measuring effectiveness. To learn more and to register for free, visit www.projectoutcome.org.

PLA believes performance measurement is a key next step in library development and the work already begun by the task force signals this commitment. In June 2014, the PLA Board of Directors approved a three-year strategic plan with a strong emphasis on development of outcome measures, further supporting this work.