What is the goal of Project Outcome?
The goal of Project Outcome is to help libraries understand and share the impact of essential library programs and services. As librarians, we see every day that library services put people on the path to literacy, technological know-how, or a better job – what we are often missing is the data to support it. Project Outcome provides simple tools and an easy-to-use process for measuring outcomes and collecting insights about all the ways we are meeting the needs of our communities. This understanding can improve the way libraries do business – from allocating existing resources more efficiently to advocating for new resources more effectively.
How does Project Outcome work?
Project Outcome provides simple survey instruments that library staff can use to help them measure the outcomes of their library services. Any library that chooses to participate in Project Outcome will have access to patron surveys developed by a team of library leaders, plus additional resources to help administer the surveys and use the results for advocacy and strategic decision-making. In return, participants will report their data using a simple online survey management tool and be able to see their results in an interactive data dashboard.
Who can participate and how much does it cost?
Project Outcome is FREE for all academic and research libraries, as well as library school students! If you do not fit in these categories, you may still register for free to learn more about outcomes measurement and access our online resources. For more information about the user types and access, visit this page. The survey and data analysis tools will not be available for non-library users. If you are from a public library, you can sign up for Project Outcome for Public Libraries at https://www.projectoutcome.org/.
What kind of commitment is involved with participating in Project Outcome?
We recognize that library staff have a long list of responsibilities, so Project Outcome is designed to align with the work you are already doing and fit easily into your schedule. You can create and administer surveys based on your library’s needs, and collecting your own data means you can see and start to use the findings immediately. There is no minimum requirement for participating. Libraries can choose their participation based on time and staff capacity. The surveys and tools were designed to be easy enough for libraries of all sizes to participate and benefit from the outcomes collected.
How is outcomes measurement different from other types of performance measurement?
Libraries commonly measure services in terms of “how much we do,” focusing on the volume of outputs like the number of activities or services offered and number of patrons reached. Project Outcome seeks to capture the benefits (or outcomes) of library services in terms of “what good we do,” like changes in library users’ knowledge, confidence, behavior change, or awareness. For example, while outputs may tell us how many library patrons attended a resume-writing workshop, outcomes measurement can tell us whether those users feel more confident, informed, and equipped to seek a new job.
Why is measuring outcomes important for my library?
Measuring and understanding outcomes is important for a number of reasons. At the most basic level, data about the impact of your library services provides insights you can use to 1) demonstrate the value of those services, 2) make plans to improve them, and 3) decide how to allocate limited resources. The same data can inform long-term planning about the services your library will offer in the future. Outcomes data can also play a critical role in strengthening library advocacy, providing library leaders with a compelling case for increased library funding and supportive policies.
Do I have to attend a training before I can begin?
No formal training is required to participate in Project Outcome. Visit our free online resources and archived webinars to get the most of your Project Outcome experience! If you are interested in hands-on training for a conference or event as part of a consortium, ACRL/ALA chapter, or regional or state association, you can find more information about our workshops here. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to book a training workshop.
Why were surveys chosen as the primary tool to measure outcomes?
Project Outcome’s approach is to provide the simplest format to engage libraries in measuring outcomes and to ensure the library is capturing feedback consistently. Early pilot testing showed the shorter and more concise the survey, the more patrons were willing to respond. However, survey implementation is up to the library. As long as they stay consistent with the standardized questions, libraries may choose paper or online surveys, phone or in-person interviews, or group discussions to gather responses.
What library service areas does Project Outcome measure and what are the surveys like?
The Project Outcome Surveys cover seven essential library service areas: Digital & Special Collections, Events / Programs, Instruction, Library Technology, Research, Space, and Teaching Support. There are two types of surveys to choose from: immediate and follow-up. The immediate surveys use Likert-scale responses to measure immediate benefits gained from a program or service. The follow-up surveys use Yes/No/Please explain responses to measure whether or not patrons continued to benefit or changed their behavior as a result of a program or service. All Project Outcome surveys are designed to help libraries capture their impact on the community.
Do I need to administer a survey for every service area in my library?
No. You can pick and choose which service areas are priorities for your library, or start with one and add more later. If your library has a strategic plan or you have identified goals you would like to achieve, the service area(s) you choose to survey should align with those plans.
How many staff members can register under one library?
Project Outcome allows multiple users to register under a single institution. An individual user will sign up with their unique email address to create their account. All users registered under an institution will have full access to its data and surveys. We recommend that libraries make sure the appropriate staff are creating accounts for and accessing Project Outcome to avoid data inaccuracy.
What will happen to the outcomes data that my library collects?
Once survey results are submitted into the survey management tool, you will be able to access your raw data and build custom reports. The data will be aggregated on the data dashboard for further analysis and reporting. Individual library data submitted will not be made public, rather, ACRL will aggregate and analyze the data to demonstrate the total impact of programs and services nationally.
I want to measure surveys across several libraries as a single library group. How do I do that?
Project Outcome for Academic Libraries offers group accounts for consortia, associations, or other groups of multiple institutions. Group accounts allow a central account to act as administrator for their member libraries, and will allow administrators to create and enter responses for surveys, as well as create templates for member libraries to use on their own. For more information about group accounts, visit this page.