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ACRL Libraries Transform Toolkit: Communicating Impact

Measuring Impact

You've done all of the hard work, established your goals and measured them, and you might still be left feeling as if you don't have an answer to the broadest of questions-so what? What do these activities and data really say about how your library is making an impact on your institution as a whole? Part of the challenge lies in the fact that there is no one size fits all answer to these questions, and they largely depend on your institutional and library goals, the types of outreach you are doing, how you are assessing them, and what is important for the organization. But don't be discouraged! There are some things you can do to help you determine the best path forward:

1. Focus on the story and let the data fill it in, as opposed to trying to make the story match the data

2. Whenever possible, combine quantitative data with qualitative data so that they provide a more complete picture of the activity in question and keep issues of privacy and transparency at the forefront of all of your data collection activities

3. Talk about how your efforts are supporting growth or progress in any given area and how this fits in with the broader mission and goals of the library and the institution

4. Consider doing a holistic assessment-that means looking towards both internal and external sources of data. For example, collecting information such as the number of workshops presented is one way to determine the effectiveness of your program, but coupling that with evaluation information (quotes, ratings, etc.) and assessment results can provide a much more complete, and therefore compelling, view of how this program affected student engagement or similar goal

5. Share your report with library and campus stakeholders on a regular basis and remember that text-heavy, long reports will probably not be read. Follow-up on your report with an offer to visit or make a short presentation to discuss areas in more detail

6. Most importantly, keep refining your approach and don't be afraid to stop collecting data and re-focus in another direction

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Putting it all together-reporting results

How the final report is organized will depend on institutional context and the types of assessment that were applied. It is important however to keep in mind the following elements as a way to help organize the information in a report in a way that frames how and to what extent the data collected supported the outreach goals and activities in question and how they relate to the overall purpose of the program. The checklist is derived from Researching Audiences at Outdoor Events and Festivals: http://culturehive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/BL_Researching-audiences-at-outdoor-events-and-festivals.pdf:

  1. Overall outreach goals and plans
  2. What methodology did you utilize to collect your data?
  3. If you utilized sample responses, what was the sample size and how many responses did you receive?
  4. What are you deducing based on the responses from the sample size?
  5. What are your key findings?
  6. How do they relate back to your goals?
  7. Sample quotes, charts, etc. or other accompanying data (here are some tips for developing effective visualizations https://guides.library.duke.edu/datavis)
  8. Have you achieved your outreach goals-why or why not?
  9. What does the data collected tell you about the impact of your efforts on your goals?

Communicating Impact Examples