About Context-Centered Approaches to Outcome Evaluation
Librarians are increasingly being asked to justify expenditures for their programs
and services. How do the programs and services you provide affect your community?
How do you know? How well can you respond today to the question, "How does
your library help its community?" This toolkit provides librarians the
tools they need to use context-centered approaches to evaluation in order to
show the contributions their library makes to the community. This toolkit will
provide you with approaches and tools you can use to determine your library's
contributions from the perspective of the people who access and use your services.
Libraries are frequently called upon to communicate their value to the community.
In many cases, these justifications are mandated. In the past staff have likely
focused on monitoring and reporting inputs and outputs. Developing credible
evidence of the positive impact your services have on the lives of community
residents is more difficult, but infinitely more useful. This website will provide
guidance for going beyond reporting outputs and will help you to discover outcomes,
or indicators of impact, of your programs that can be shared with others. Outcome-based
evaluation allows you to identify achievements or changes in skill, knowledge,
attitude, behavior, condition, or life status for program participants.
The context-centered approach presented in this toolkit is informed by our
research on the outcomes of public library services, entitled How Libraries
and Librarians Help: Context-Centered Methods for Evaluating Public Library
Efforts at Bridging the Digital Divide and Building Community and made possible
by a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Our
research sought to empirically examine the use of specific community-focused
services in order to develop context-sensitive approaches and instruments that
identify outcomes. This context-centered approach has identified the following
factors that contribute to developing meaningful outcomes.
- The library and its service model
- The set of activities designed to respond to the clientele.
- Users or clientele of the specific service
- Professional contributions
Each of these contextual factors contributes considerably to possible outcomes
of interactions that occur in libraries in both their physical and digital dimensions.
Why are contextual methods for evaluating outcomes important?
Outcome-based evaluation will help your organization to provide a more compelling
story of the outcomes of your services within the context of your organization
and community. Outcomes define what has changed as a result of your programming.
Outcome-based evaluation can help your organization to focus on your missions
and goals by providing better indicators of the impact of your services. Focusing
on indicators of impact will help you to better communicate the value of your
organization to different stakeholders.
For more information on the benefits of impact evaluation, visit the following
Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS) sites:
Highlight for 2002: How Libraries and Librarians Help -
Putting Outcome Evaluation in Context: A Toolkit"
on Outcome Based Evaluation for Libraries and Museums
To Outcome-Oriented Evaluation: Selected Resources
National Leadership Grant Project Planning: A Tutorial, which includes information
To cite The Outcomes Toolkit 2.0, please use the following citation:
Durrance, J. C., & Fisher, K. E. (2002). The Outcomes Toolkit 2.0. Ann Arbor,
MI and Seattle, WA: University of Michigan and University of Washington.