Library Media Program Evaluation: Methods & Strategies

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn how to successfully evaluate your library media program through data collection and analysis. You will also learn how to report your data to school stakeholders and make strategic program adjustments.

Making Your Mark

Amy is a school library media specialist. She has a passion for literacy, an appreciation for all genres of literature, an extensive variety of resources, and a weekly book club with her students and interested staff members. Since she started as the school library media specialist two years ago, the media center has gotten significantly more popular with both students and colleagues. She stays current in her professional development, following Twitter feeds, attending workshops, and networking with peers.

By all accounts, she has built a successful library program. Last week, Amy's supervisor approached her and asked her to present at the upcoming Board of Education meeting. The Board of Education had heard about the increase in media center traffic, and they wanted to hear about her approach. Amy left the conversation feeling flattered, but was also very nervous. She did not know where to begin. What information should she present? How could she convey the success of her program?

Library Resources
Library Resources

Quantitative Versus Qualitative Data

Amy's dilemma is not uncommon. Often times, we can see the success of a program through our daily tasks. The problem is, we can't always show it to a person who is not present on a daily basis. That's where program evaluation comes in to play.

Program evaluation is a strategic process of collecting, analyzing, and reflecting upon a variety of data sources. Data can be quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative data is information that is measured in numbers. Circulation numbers, student attendance averages, and the number of hits on the library's website are all examples of quantitative data.

Qualitative data is descriptive and cannot be expressed in number form. School library media specialists can collect several different qualitative data sources including open-ended student opinion surveys, teacher feedback, and commentary on evaluations.

Collecting Data

There are many different sources you can consult to collect meaningful data. Running a circulation report using your digital card catalog system is a great place to start. Your circulation numbers can provide the averages for the number of books checked out, providing you a concrete figure that reflects students' usage of the media center's resources. This report can also help you to determine the most popular titles, authors, and genres among your school population.

Student attendance numbers will help you to determine how many students are seeking access to the library daily. If you are using an online sign-on system, data collection is quite simple. You can run a report reflecting daily sign-ons. If you are working with a handwritten sign-in sheet, tallying up the number of students who utilized the resources will not be much more time-consuming.

Surveys are an excellent method to collect data. Surveys are structured based on the type of information you wish to obtain. If you would like to determine how students and staff rate the library resources, you would likely use a survey that includes scales. If you would like to solicit specific feedback regarding opinions of the new book study you started, open-ended questions may be the most suitable to use. Survey data can be distributed electronically or by paper.

Analyzing Data

Okay, so now you have all of this useful information. However, you don't exactly know what to do with it. After collecting the data, your next step in the process is analyzing your data. During this stage, you are trying to figure out the ''story'' your data is telling. For example, you may notice that your scheduler reflects a decrease in circulation and library usage during the months of March and April. This analysis would lead you to the next step in the process: program modification.

Reporting Data

When reporting data, it is most important to consider your audience. You may fully understand every word of ''library lingo,'' but it is likely your audience does not. Report your data in layman's terms, terms that anyone can understand. Use charts, graphs, pictures, and other visual representations of your program and its success (and areas of improvement). Your audience will find this approach most useful.

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