August 24, 2020

Announcing a New Evaluation Toolkit for Youth-Serving Library Programs

Categories: Connected Learning, Research
San Jose Public Library

The Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries team, comprised of researchers from the University of California, Irvine, University of Colorado, Boulder, and SRI International, is excited to announce the release of our evaluation toolkit: EVALUATING LIBRARY PROGRAMMING: A practical guide to collecting and analyzing data to improve or evaluate connected learning programs for youth in libraries. This toolkit is the culmination of our three-year research+practice partnership* with library staff from Future Ready with the Library, YOUmedia, Los Angeles Public Library, Anythink Libraries, and Multnomah County Library, and represents the most comprehensive effort to date to synthesize findings and best practices from our work together. The guide was created to provide support to library staff seeking to evaluate their connected learning programs and spaces, but can also be adapted for use by a wide variety of library programs and spaces as well.

Connected learning is a framework for thinking about and designing learning environments that include the many aspects of a learner’s life: their unique interests, their relationships with both peers and mentors, and the opportunities tied to their interests and relationships that together shape how a learner engages with the world. Program evaluation is about understanding the effectiveness of a designed program in achieving its goals. This guide focuses specifically on connected learning programs and spaces for young people in libraries, and aims to walk library staff through the process of program evaluation step-by-step — from designing connected learning programs, to identifying goals for program design, to creating an evaluation plan that uses the most effective and accessible tools and strategies for data collection. The guide provides numerous front-line examples from libraries, as well as interactive workbooks to support the development of an evaluation plan.

Of particular importance is this evaluation toolkit’s contribution to considering where in a program’s trajectory your library program might be, and how best to evaluate it based on its stage. The guide provides data collection methods and evaluation tools keyed to specific stages, whether you are engaged in identifying youth needs for a new program design, reflecting on how you can make a program you’ve run many times better, or documenting outcomes at the end of a program cycle.

Three Stages of Program Trajectory

Past President of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), Crystle Martin, notes:

“If libraries create programs that focus on the things about which youth are passionate—their interests, cultures, identities, and social relationships—the relevance and impact of learning is magnified. In previous research, when asked, highly resourceful problem-solvers and successful, engaged learners almost always point to a connected learning experience supported by a caring adult or peer. This mentorship role is one that librarians are uniquely situated to fill and one where youth need them the most.”

This guide and its authors support this perspective: We believe libraries are ideal environments to support connected learning and our partner libraries are living proof of that fact. Libraries are especially well positioned to broker opportunities across school, home, and community, particularly for historically marginalized and nondominant communities. We are extremely excited to have library staff across the country access and use our toolkit to help them fulfill this essential role in providing spaces for effective connected learning environments for a wide diversity of local youth.

You can access all the other resources of the Capturing Connected Learning in Libraries project by visiting:

*This work is generously supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Banner image photo by San José Public Library.