STEP 2. Collecting Data

p>This section is composed of the following two topics:

  1. Deciding Which Data Collection Approach is Best
  2. Phrasing Open Questions

As emphasized in Step 1: Getting Started, preparation is a crucial step in any research process, and particularly so in librarians' initial round of outcome evaluation. Evaluation findings depend on strong data collection methods which must reflect the activities that the library uses to serve particular client groups. In this inaugural stage of outcome evaluation for public libraries, the field lacks a variety of established data collection models. Fortunately, Step 1: Getting Started, prepares librarians to enter into the process with ideas of where and how to look for evidence of outcomes - in the words of people who participate in programs and services under evaluation.

In these first rounds of outcome evaluation, when librarians do not have an outcomes history with which to predict the impacts of their programs and services, well-designed evaluation tools that target participants who use a service, such as interviews and focus groups, can help librarians harvest the raw material of outcomes: participant feedback. For librarians who have completed initial outcome evaluation studies and who wish to monitor their outcomes over the long-term, surveys will be of a helpful data collection method; more detail on the use of surveys for long-term evaluation can be found on our Sample Surveys page.

To assist librarians in the preparation of data collection instruments for initial evaluations, Step 2: Collecting Data provides:

  • at-a-glance descriptions of the different data collection methods that librarians can use and combine in their evaluation (2.a)
  • examples of open-ended questions aimed at determining outcomes (2.b)
  • a preparation exercise with which to customize data collection methods and questions to particular users and services (2.c)

Before designing data collection instruments, you may find it useful to refer to some of the other work on developing outcome measures that has been done recently. The evaluation reports and table of outcomes and service activities that were generated by this study may prove valuable in thinking through the data collection process. The outcomes of community technology programs for teens provide some outcomes that may be relevant to your service. Librarians who seek to collect data on the impacts of community-wide information services such as information and referral services (I&R) or community networks (CNs) may wish to look at the Peninsula Community Information Program (CIP) case study. Likewise, librarians who are collecting data that examines the impacts of public library services designed for immigrants may want to consult the table of activities and candidate outcomes developed for the Queens Borough Public Library New Americans and Adult Learner Programs .