I’m on an evaluaton kick – digging deeper into the recent literature in this area. Today I ran across the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s making connections project, which aims to “improve the outcomes for families and children in tough or isolated neighborhoods” (emphasis mine). According to the project description, Casey research shows that “children do better when their families are strong, and families do better when they live in communities that help them to succeed.”
What this has got to do with libraries may be obvious. Libraries clearly fit into two of the core premises of the project: building close ties with civic groups and having reliable services close to home. The project supports a number of “local learning partners” with the making connections sites, and libraries are included in a number of project materials I reviewed.
But the project’s focus on evaluating core results is what caught my eye. There are six results that the program is aiming for: increased income and earnings for families; increased assets for families; healthy children who are ready to succeed in school; increaseed civic participation for families, youth and neighborhoods; strong informal support and networks for families and neighborhoods; access to quality services and supports that work for families. Under each target is a statement “We’ll know we’re making a difference when …” with two or three indicators identified for each. All results and indicators are backed with this research. (The Foundation also has a national indicators database that was designed to help evaluate making connections projects. Anyone can use the database to identify survey-based outcome measures related to eight community and/or family related domains.)
When Steven and I asked (in our online survey) you to tell us about your specific community building projects, we wondered how the programs were evaluated – and what (exactly) indicated that they were successful. Many of you told us about number of participants and described anecdotal evidence that “people liked it” and “want to do it again.”
Durrance and Fisher talk about a number of libraries doing outcomes based research. I’m wondering about our readers: Has anyone developed something like Casey’s “core results” statement for their library project? What changes/outcomes were you looking for? What were the related indicators and how did you measure them?
And underneath those questions are more of them: Is robust thinking around outcomes worth the planning, collection, and analysis effort? Or does it just end up confirming what we already “know” by simply working and staying in-tuned day-to-day in our libraries? How much of our work is intuitive – how much of it based on facts?