Pinning down "success"

Anonymous question received… Any advice?

At my library, we have been tasked with creating metrics to measure the library’s success. So, I would like to know what kinds of data could be collected to measure success. Perhaps there are some examples? I have a tendency to want to investigate and explain data (eg storytime attendance has decreased - why? circulation has increased - why?) and have a hard time pinning down “success.”

At our Library, we measure success by first determining what success would look like. On a big scale, like for our strategic goals, we ask our Board for help determining the outcomes and impacts we’d like to achieve as an organization. On a smaller scale, like for a single storytime, we ask the staff person leading the event to use our strategic plan, including our Library’s vision, strategic goals, and work plan, to define what a successful event would be. Once we know what success looks like, we can accurately measure our results against that predetermined benchmark. I hope that helps!

Janelle Youngblood
Customer Experience Librarian
Hillsboro (OR) Public Library

One of the good things about public service is that you get to define success. And maybe its a bit easier to define failure. So what would a failed story time be? Dropping attendance, no attendance, people leaving early and not returning. Then flip it - what would a successful story time look like? Also, what are your community’s goals? Does your community have a plan - can you tie your library’s successes into that? For instance, maybe you have a large group of people who’ve lost jobs or who English is a second language and your community is looking for ways to help them. You can come up with programming that addresses that.

Even something like weeding your collection - is the outcome or success of doing weeding that the collection becomes more valuable to your community and then used more? Each area of your library should know what failure looks like and conversely what success looks like. They just need to define it

B. Mellor - Library Director

Greetings! In my opinion, “success” is best defined by first identifying the goal(s) of an activity or program. Then, objectives (measureables with targets) can be created that align with the stated goals. Without setting a target, success becomes very subjective. The reasons a target was or was not achieved can be discussed and this helps with fine-tuning the program/activity and the targets around it. You brought up circulation. I would recommend not just counting circulation, but rather figuring out circ per $ spent on the collection or circ per active patron and setting targets around these. Target setting is the most important part of knowing whether success occurred.

G. Mason
Strategic Planning and Assessment Officer

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