An outcome-based approach to summer reading helps you demonstrate how valuable your summer programs are and the impact that your programs have on the community.
We know that:
- public library summer programs encourage, challenge, and enable kids and adults to read during the summer;
- libraries present high-quality and valuable¹ summer programs that, year after year, are very popular in the community; and
- summer programs can help prevent summer learning loss¹ in children and teens.
Outcome-based programs help you show that your summer programs have a measurable impact on participants. By developing your program within California’s Summer @ Your Library outcome and outreach initiative you will be able to show that (a) participants feel that they are part of a community of readers and library users, make connections, and find value and enjoyment at the library, and (b) the library is engaging previously-underserved community members. These data are richer and more effective and will have greater impact than participation statistics alone.
An outcome-based approach also helps you develop cost-effective programs that are tailored and meaningful to your community and helps to build capacity in the library:
- Outcome-based results tell the stories behind your summer program statistics. You now how many people sign up and complete your summer reading program and how many take part in other summer activities at the library. An outcome-based approach will demonstrate the impact and effect of your program and give you information for a great “how we did it good” story to tell the media, elected officials, and other stakeholders. This stories are particularly important when the library is looking for funds to support its programs.
- Outcome-based programs are relevant to the community. Programs that are intentionally designed to achieve measurable outcomes are more likely to achieve results that are relevant to the community.
- Many funding agencies require outcome evaluation. Libraries that can demonstrate that their programs contribute to positive outcomes in the community have a competitive edge when looking for funding.
- Outcome-based programming builds capacity in your library. Staff who are skilled in outcome-based evaluation will develop more relevant and engaging programs and will be better equipped to apply for program funding.
- Setting outcomes for your summer reading program is cost-effective. You can focus staff time and resources on developing programs that will achieve those outcomes. As a result, outcome-based summer reading programs are well-suited to times when library budgets and resources are tight. They ensure that staff are engaged in the most meaningful and impactful activities.
- Outcome-based results can improve management decision-making. Results can be used to modify and improve programs that don’t meet expectations. Learning that a program has met or exceeded your outcome targets may help you transfer those good practices to other services.
¹The White House’s Let’s Read Let’s Move Challenge of summer 2010 states that reading just FIVE books over the summer prevents summer learning loss.