Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer Reading Program Tied to Outcomes

Okay folks...I have a lot of catching up to do so here goes. 

Yesterday for the preconfererence day, I started out doing the Unconference and then moved onto a session all about changing up your Summer Reading Program (SRP) and tieing it to Outcomes instead of Output. 

Output are things we easily measure.  Diane knows that I love tracking Output.  I love seeing how many programs we have in any given month, how many volunteer hours we've racked up, and my favorite:  how many kids we reach through library programming.  Of course, my favorite statistic over the summer is sometimes stressful - How many children are signed up for summer reading?  It's stressful because I always want to beat my number from the year before.  This year we have real goals tied to our Strategic Plan that have framed what we are trying to accomplish very specifically and it's tied to guess what?  Output.

Outcomes are different.  They are things like skills, knowledge, attitude, behavior, condition, and life status.  This program, which was presented by some California librarians (LAPL was at least one of the systems presenting) says that outcomes basically reflect how people change because of participating in your program or the library.  It's the impact that your program actually has.  It's hard to measure if reading scores in your community improve because of your SRP, but you can show if people feel differently after your program.  Outcome measurements are great to have when applying for grants or presenting info to your library board or anytime you need to prove your worth.

They gave us lots of ideas including doing focus groups, "pre-tests" and "post-tests," targeting a specific underserved group to tie outcomes to, and of course, do a Needs Assessment (what are your reading scores doing, who is moving in and out of your area, get a goup of local leaders together and ask them, partner with your principals, find out what else is going on in the summer in your community...) before starting the whole thing. Even just taking a walk through your community can help you discover a lot.  They said if you do this, identify your self as a librarian (usually a tote bag, comfortable shoes, and an embroidered sweatshirt that says LIBRARIAN AND PROUD OF IT will accomplish this) and get people to talk to you.  Also, talk to your own staff and the clerks who work at your circ desk.  They can be very knowedgable about your community and might welcome the chance to share their local knowledge. 

The librarians who were presenting focused on getting all their participants to feel like they belonged to a community of readers and not just individual people participating in the Summer Reading Program.  They did many things to make this goal happen, including getting targeted community members to participate in their SRP. 

Just from my notes, here are a few other things...turn the SRP into a community service project for teens...I don't know about your library, but the teens in my community are just itching for community service all the time.  I have so many teens that want to volunteer and I just don't know what to do with them all!  Choose a goal but direct it from the patron's point of view, not the library's.  Create a benchmark by choosing an attainable goal. You can use teachers' observations as part of your outcome.  It's always good to tie your outcomes to your strategic plan (Yep.  We've got one of those.)   Another note, they stressed not to try to do everything on your own!  Have a SRP committee and have all of them help.  Survey your staff after the SRP to see how it went.  This is really important for planning for the next year.  Oh, and what about this?  Swap libraries when you are doing focus groups!  You will be much less biased when talking to people who aren't your own patrons. 
It was a very worth-while session made even better by the fact that a woman I went to IUPUI with was there!  She now works at the Cincinnati Public Library system and I ended up joining her and two of her co-workers for dinner at P. F. Changs (I know...fancy.) 

Then it was onto the exhibits.  This was the biggest one I'd ever been in.  Super fun with lots of things to see.

After that, I went to a really fun session all about playing games in the library.  I played Blokus and Tellestrations, and also played a fun simple game called the Dancing Eggs Game.  This was really more of a social event than a session and was lots of fun.

Then (and the reason I had no time to blog yesterday) I went out for drinks and dancing with a group of hip students from Washington.  I had fun, but headed back to the hotel at the early hour of 11:00.  It really felt like 2:00 am for me and you all know, I never stay up that late.

Here are Sammy and Cauli at PF Changs!

In the land of Mickey, walking characters are everywhere...even if you might not know what they are...any guess as to what this happy fellow represents?

And here I am with Spidey.  He wanted me to keep my bird away from him.  Said his uncle was eaten by one...

Broadways Gal - aka, Suzanne

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