by Samantha Lopez
Public Library Association,
a division of the American Library Association
The Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association, has added another collaborative project to its ongoing partnership with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), a program of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Through this partnership with NNLM, PLA has expanded its performance measurement toolkit, Project Outcome, with the addition of standardized health surveys designed to help public libraries measure the impact of their health programming and services. Funding for the creation of the new surveys was provided by three of NNLM’s eight regional medical libraries: MidContinental, Pacific Southwest, and South Central.
Project Outcome is a free online toolkit that helps public libraries measure the impact of their programs and services by providing standardized surveys and an easy-to-use process for measuring and analyzing outcomes. Measuring outcomes helps libraries demonstrate their effectiveness beyond attendance and door counts. By using standardized surveys, participants of Project Outcome can aggregate their outcomes data consistently across different programs, locations, and time, as well as compare their aggregate data at regional, state, and national levels. Since launching in 2015, Project Outcome has collected over 200,000 patron surveys from nearly 1,500 public libraries across the U.S. and Canada.
Project Outcome’s standardized surveys measure four key outcomes: knowledge, confidence, application and awareness. The new health surveys, developed by NNLM, will help public libraries better understand how their programs and services are helping patrons learn more about being healthy, feel confident about taking care of their or their family’s health, adopt or maintain a healthier lifestyle, and increase their awareness of health-related resources and services provided by the library.
Libraries have the option to select from two types of health surveys: immediate and follow-up. The immediate survey gauges patrons’ intent to change a behavior, while the follow-up survey captures whether patrons did change as a result of the library program or service. For instance, the immediate health survey asks patrons if they feel more confident taking care of their or their family’s health and the follow-up health survey asks patrons if they are better able to take care of their or their family’s health. The combination of these two surveys will help libraries demonstrate their impact on health services more effectively to their communities and beyond.
With funding support from the NNLM, Pacific Southwest Region, PLA was able to quickly integrate the health surveys into Project Outcome’s online toolkit, training resources, and data dashboards and reports. These tools help libraries get free access to standardized outcome measures and visualizations, helping them save time and resources in their data collection. In addition to the health surveys, libraries receive training and resource support to increase their understanding of the importance of providing community health programs and services.
The goal of this collaborative project between PLA and NNLM is that public libraries will use the new health surveys to measure their impact, make strategic decisions around programming to help create healthier communities, and better advocate for the public library as a trusted health information resource. To learn more about how PLA’s Project Outcome is helping turn better data into better libraries, please visit the website or contact us.