Using Project Outcome with Storytime and Teen Programs to Improve Programming and Better Meet Community Needs
Plano Public Library (PPL) uses Project Outcome surveys with a wide range of programs and services so they can better meet the needs of their highly diverse community and strengthen outcomes for patrons. Serving children, teens, and families is a core part of their programming, and a large part of the library system’s outcome measurement has focused on this population.
- Library Name: Plano Public Library
- Library Location: Plano, Texas
- Library Size: Large (5 branches, service area: 275,000)
- Immediate Surveys Used: Early Childhood Literacy, Digital Learning
Data Drives the Creation of New Storytime Programs, which Broaden and Deepen Community Access to Early Literacy and Social Skill-Building
After a month of participating in a library storytime program (including Babes in Arms, Toddler Time, Rhyme Time, and Preschool), PPL administered Project Outcome’s Early Childhood Literacy survey to gather basic feedback from caregivers and learn if they were experiencing the intended gains in support of children’s basic literacy skills. In addition to providing evidence of positive outcomes, some caregivers reported their children had challenges being in such large groups due to sensory issues. As a result, the library decided to offer “sensory storytimes” at two of their branches with a smaller group size of 10 caregivers and children. A library leader explained, “We have gotten some incredible feedback from our parents about how we are helping their children by adding this program, and how their children are better able to interact with other children.”
PPL also learned from the surveys that caregivers really enjoy programming that includes books in different languages. In response, PPL added a new series called Storytime Around the World, in which library staff read books in Arabic, Chinese, French, and Spanish in three-week cycles. The added programming has attracted both new families as well as prior storytime participants, and staff has observed that families often stay to use other library resources. Excitement about the new series has activated patrons to spread the word. A participant in a Chinese storytime shared the event information on a Chinese community Facebook page, which brought in many new people who had not previously known about the library’s Chinese language materials. Consistent with these observations, PPL has seen an uptick in circulation of materials in the languages featured in the new series. A staff member explained, “Whether or not… they're new library users, we've definitely seen them connecting with the library and library resources in a way that they haven't before. I think at the Maribelle M. Davis Library where they had the Story Time Around the World series, the circulation of [the books in the Junior World Language collection] doubled within about a year.”
Data Drives Improvements in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Services and in Community Awareness of all Library Programming
PPL’s teen outreach program brings technology and related activities to local schools, and PPL used Project Outcome’s Digital Learning survey to measure impact and get feedback from the teens. Teens shared how much they liked the technology, so PPL created STEAM robotic kits designed specifically for teens. “And all of them are checked out and on hold and not available!” a staff member shared. PPL also put Project Outcome Early Childhood Literacy surveys inside STEAM kits for all ages. The results showed that parents and children were using the kits to learn something new together and parents really appreciated how the kits supported interaction with their children. The surveys also revealed that many parents were not aware of the STEAM programs offered in the library, so PPL published a brochure describing the library’s programming to be distributed three times a year and included it in the STEAM kits. “And a third to half of those brochures don't come back in the kits... So [ultimately, the surveys] helped us to find a different way to relate to the patrons in the library,” a library leader explained.
Data Guides and Helps Procure Funding for Arts Programming
PPL used the Project Outcome Early Childhood Literacy survey to measure the impact of an arts program for preschoolers and to get feedback from caregivers. After learning that patrons would also like a version of the program for teens, the library used the survey results to get funding for the expansion and fulfill grant reporting requirements. A staff member explained, “[Caregivers shared] how beneficial the program was, how they're doing projects they wouldn't have thought of to do at home…, using supplies that they don't have at home… So having that information, I could write a grant that shows 'This is what the community wants, and we want to provide it.' And then, I also use the survey [results] to report during the grant period, talking about what the patrons liked most about the service, or programs...and what else they'd like to see the library doing.” Based on survey results, PPL also added more information about artists and techniques to the program curriculum. A staff member shared that a patron said “their child wouldn't have had an opportunity to do art without the library.”
Factors That Supported Successful Use of Project Outcome
PPL has one library leader who manages the survey work, including deciding when to conduct Project Outcome surveys so that patrons are not over-surveyed. In addition, PPL has an organizational culture that supports the use of outcome measurement. The library takes part in the Edge Initiative, and staff are invested in using tools that help them understand community needs and tell the library’s story in different ways to different audiences.
PPL plans to continue using Project Outcome surveys and reaping the benefits of such use, in the form of better-informed decision-making, adaptive programming, and stronger, more widely experienced impacts for their community members. PPL will also continue communicating the value of the library in monthly reports to the city leaders, including the Deputy City Manager and department heads.
Prepared by ORS Impact, September 2017