Sample Surveys: Using Surveys for On-Going Outcome Evaluation
- Austin and Flint Public Libraries
- Queens Borough Public Library
- Help Seeking in an Electronic World
- Peninsula Library System
- King County Library System (KCLS)
Once librarians are aware of the service outcomes, they can use surveys as a data collection method to determine the extent to which outcomes are experienced by the clientele over the long-term. A survey is useful in a library setting for gathering focused, limited information from a number of people. Information collected through surveys might include participants' self-assessment of attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, and activities.
Questions included on a survey can range from being close-ended to open-ended, but responses are limited to what is asked in the survey. Open-ended questions allow participants to freely share thoughts, opinions, etc. (eg. Why did you come to the event?). People, however, aren't always comfortable writing down opinions, or the survey (with a number of open-ended questions) may appear to the participant as too time-consuming to complete. Close-ended questions, on the other hand, provide a limited array of responses, but typically such questions are easier to complete, as well as being easier for you to analyze than open-ended ones. An example of a close-ended question might be "How often do you come to the library? a) Today is first time. b) Couple times a year. c) Every month or so. d) Every week. e) More than once a week." Often, you'll find surveys with a mix of both open and close-ended questions that take advantage of both question types.
To gather data in a library setting using surveys, consider the following:
- A survey or questionnaire is typically in written form, and administered to participants either at the time of interaction or at the participant's convenience (assuming you have created an easy way for the participant to return the survey). Surveys are a great tool to collect data on library programs, since often times patrons in attendance have limited time after the program ends, and surveys provide the flexibility of not requiring the survey administrator to be present.
- We recommend that librarians pilot test the survey before they actually present it to participants for data collection. Select a few people to complete your survey and ask for their feedback regarding clarity and ease-of-use. Also, librarians should check to be sure that they are getting the types of responses intended. Revise the survey as needed based on the pretest.
- Consider the best time to distribute the survey. Distributing the survey immediately after the program will help to discover participants' reactions to the program or experiences. Distribution some period of time after the program (e.g., 1 month, 6 months, 1 year) will help to determine the longer term impact of the program or experience on the participants. If the survey is mailed to participants, consider some incentive for participants to complete and return the survey.
In addition, when considering surveys to support long-term evaluation, consider the strengths and weaknesses of this data collection approach:
- Best for gathering brief written responses on attitudes, beliefs regarding library programs.
- Can include both close-ended and open-ended questions.
- Personal contact with the participants is not required.
- Staff and facilities requirements are minimal, since one employee can easily manage the distribution and collection of surveys, and issues such as privacy, quiet areas, etc. are typically not concerns.
- Responses are limited to the questions included in the survey.
- Participants need to be able to read and write to respond.
- Takes time to pre-test a written survey to make sure that your questions are clearly stated.
- Relies on participants' perceptions. Be aware of potential gaps between participants' responses and reality.
Like other data collection methods, surveys can serve a useful purpose as a routine part of a library service. For example, audiences who attend a major public program series may be willing to respond to a survey at the end of the program.
For more on surveys, see our sample survey instruments used in the following case studies:
This project studied after-school community technology programs in Flint, Michigan and Austin, Texas to discover how such public library programs impact participants. The Community Information Agents Online (CIAO) program in Flint and the Wired for Youth program in Austin were studied to determine impact of these after-school technology programs on teens in the community.
The Flint study utilized interviews and focus groups held with teen participants and their teen coaches to determine impacts. The Austin study comprised focus groups with librarians, in-depth interviews with library and project administrators, focus groups with youth participants, and interviews with local nonprofits operating similar youth Internet access programs. The focus group and interview guides are available below.
This case study focused on the outcomes of immigrant services of the New Americans and Adult Learner Programs.
This project examined ways that public libraries utilize the Internet to provide digitized community information (CI) to their communities and explored public library involvement in community networks. The research is the most extensive study ever conducted of public library provision of community information in electronic formats, public library participation in community networking, and the benefits these activities bring to American communities.
After an initial national survey of community information provision in public libraries, we conducted intensive case studies of three public library-community networks using online surveys and follow-up interviews, as well as, in-depth interviews and focus groups with service providers, librarians, and library administrators. The survey instruments and interview guides are available below.
Survey 1 - Public Library Directors
Public Library Survey 1 (Word Format)
Survey 2 - Community Information Staff
In-Depth Community Information Survey (Word Format)
Online Survey with Community Network Users
Community Network User Survey (Word Format)
Follow-up Interview with Community Network Users
Follow-Up Interview Guide for Online Survey Respondents (Word Format)
Our CIP study included conducting focus groups with area nonprofit service providers, and followup telephone interviews with direct service providers at these nonprofits:
KCLS assisted in the development of our social connectedness tool by letting us evaluate the "Voices from the Rim" festival that was held in September 2001. This cultural program was created as a way to expose the public to the many cultures of the Pacific Rim. The objective our research team focused on was to describe the ways in which programs such as "Voices from the Rim" provide attendees with opportunities to develop new relationships with people and/or deepened relationships with people they're already connected to; we set out to study the attendees' social connectedness.
The following survey and follow-up interview instruments were developed.