Monitoring Services and Demonstrating Impact
Creating a baseline and setting out to measure your achievements is important for community organisations and local authorities seeking to transfer library facilities. All community organisations should start to think how they will monitor the impact of their work in relation to the library transfer. This will look at the wider benefits likely to be delivered as the project progresses e.g.: increased community involvement.
A baseline will enable the organisation to monitor its progress against targets that it is working towards.It should be noted that community managed libraries will not necessarily be able to meet past performance of former public library services with reduced budgets. A community organisation may for example choose to monitor its progress not on just number of books issued, but the number of visits. Suitable baseline data will relate back to the purpose of the transfer.
A simple way to create a baseline is to pick a few key objectives the organisation has and start to measure them. This does not have to be complicated and should not take a significant amount of time. Information collected on activities will vary from organisation-to-organisation but may include the number of books loaned; or the number of users accessing other resources; or the number of young people attending specific sessions.
It is likely that any group delivering a ‘Public Library Service’ under contract to the library authority will be asked to monitor key specified data on an ongoing basis as a part of that contract. Community groups running an additional non-statutory service may not be required to undertake such monitoring but will still find it helpful for quality assurance and attracting external support. Future funding and development plans may be dependent on knowing how the facility is working, who is using it, who isn’t using it and what people think about their time there. At a basic level, this will mean keeping records of who attends the library – their gender, age, disability, ethnic group, etc – and what they attend for. One method that could be used is designing some standard surveys for people to complete. These can be used in conjunction with registration forms and given out when a person first comes into contact with the organisation.
Although these self-reporting measurements may be crude, they are simple to collect and quantifiable. However, depending on the scale of your operation and the partners you are working with, you may find that your organisation will benefit from a continuous improvement framework or tool.