Introduction to Project Outcome
About Project Outcome
Wherever public libraries are working, possibility lives. Project Outcome is a FREE toolkit designed to help libraries understand and share the 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 programs and services, what is often lacking are the data to indicate the benefits libraries 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 ways 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 program or service. 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 awareness—in eight key library service areas:
- Civic/Community Engagement
- Digital Learning
- Early Childhood Literacy
- Economic Development
- Education/Lifelong Learning
- Job Skills
- Summer Reading
The Project Outcome toolkit provides libraries with FREE access to quick and simple patron surveys, an easy-to-use survey management tool to collect their outcomes, custom reports and 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. For the first time, public libraries, whether they are new to outcome measurement or advanced in data collection, have free access to standardized outcome surveys and data analysis tools they can use to effect change within their communities and beyond.
PLA Members Can Get Involved
Join PLA’s Data and Measurement interest group to connect with members interested in increasing their knowledge and skills related to library data, assessment, evaluation, and impact. Please note that participation in PLA interest groups is limited to PLA personal members and login through ALA Connect is required.*
Additionally, serving on a PLA committee is a rewarding experience that can help you expand your professional development and networking base.The Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment Committee is charged with data-related activities that help strengthen and advance the public library field in providing services and programs to its patrons as well as communicating the value of libraries to internal and external audiences.
Performance Measurement Initiative
Project Outcome for public libraries 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 was 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 what 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 in 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 in 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.
*You will be asked to login with your ALA website login and password to confirm your current PLA personal membership. If you’ve forgotten your login information, you'll be able to retrieve your username/password or create a login if you don't have one from the "Login" page.