Five Steps of Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation for Public Libraries

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Planning and assessment are both crucial elements of a public library that functions efficiently and flexibly. So why are they often treated as separate processes? This concise book combines planning and evaluation in a holistic approach, helping public library managers and staff put library resources to work for the community. Based on a series of successful workshops, the workflow presented by the authors is made up of manageable steps for integrating outcome-based planning and evaluation (OBPE) into the routine functions of the public library. Offering step by step guidance that's transparent and easy to follow, this book

  • introduces the concept of OBPE and explains how it can be a streamlined, effective method of getting library users' feedback;
  • defines "outcomes" and shows why public libraries should use them to plan and evaluate services;
  • shares methodologies for assessing community needs and interests, including key informant interviews, surveys, focus groups, and environmental scans;
  • demonstrates how to use community assessment data to create outcome statements that not only guide the creation of new library services, but also provide targets for measuring the effectiveness of those services;
  • offers techniques for designing services that directly serve the community while also achieving the outcomes the library has targeted; and
  • provides tips for sharing the results with stakeholders and maximizing successful outcome-based programs to leverage the library's role in the community.

Featuring plentiful examples of how to proceed through each phase of the OBPE model, this book boils down planning and evaluation into an approachable, easy to understand process for public librarians, library managers, and grant writers.


Chapter 1    Outcomes, Services and Programs, and OBPE
Chapter 2    Gathering Information
Chapter 3    Determining Outcomes
Chapter 4    Designing Programs and Services
Chapter 5    Evaluating Programs and Services
Chapter 6    Sharing Results


Appendix A    Community Assessment Environmental Scan: Internal (Library) Factors
Appendix B    Community Assessment Environmental Scan: External (Community) Factors
Appendix C    Community Assessment: Field Questions to Ask Yourself
Appendix D    Community Assessment: Sample Interview and Focus Group Questions

About the Authors


Melissa Gross

Melissa Gross is professor and doctoral program chair in the School of Information Studies at Florida State University and past president of the Association for Library and Information Science Education. She received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1998 and was awarded the prestigious American Association of University Women Recognition Award for Emerging Scholars in 2001. She has published extensively in the areas of information-seeking behavior, information literacy, library program and service evaluation, information resources for youth, and teacher/librarian collaboration.

Cindy Mediavilla

Cindy Mediavilla is the author of several books, including Creating & Managing the Full-Service Homework Center, which has been called “the quintessential guide to the practicalities of setting up a formal homework help center to provide one–to–one homework assistance to student patrons” (Intner, Homework Help from the Library, ix). In the early 1990s Mediavilla managed a homework center, called the Friendly Stop, for the Orange (CA) Public Library, and she has been studying after–school homework programs ever since. She has published several articles on the topic and has evaluated homework programs for the Long Beach and Los Angeles public libraries. She has made presentations on homework help programs at the conferences of several major library associations, and she has also conducted many workshops on the topic. In 2007, Cindy and her husband converted their home lawns to drought-tolerant California native plant gardens. Their home has been featured on several garden tours, including Theodore Payne Foundation’s prestigious annual tour. A former public librarian for 18 years, Mediavilla has both an MLS degree and a doctorate in library science from UCLA.

Virginia A. Walter

Virginia A. Walter has retired from her work as a full-time tenured professor at the UCLA Department of Information Studies. However, she continues to teach classes and advise students at UCLA and is an active library consultant and trainer, who has been invited to speak at many domestic and international venues. She is the author of many journal articles, nine monographs, and two books for young people. She has an MLS from UC Berkeley and a PhD in public administration from the University of Southern California. She is a past president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

"Offers librarians a solid approach to begin conducting such assessment and to deliver valuable programming."
— Catholic Library Association

"This book allows readers to move from goal-based thinking and planning to outcome-based planning and evaluation. Following the lessons of this book, public libraries will find it easier to move from traditional input and output measures to outcome statements. Following this process will enable libraries to use valid results to drive the development of future programs and services. As a library director, I found this book to be thought-provoking and inspiring. It was an easy read filled with a powerful plan of action."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"The authors focus on practicality ... the approachable presentation makes it worthwhile for anyone involved in planning, providing, or assessing programs and services."
— Public Libraries


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