‘Project Outcome’ continues to expand

“Project Outcome” was started in 2013 by the Public Library Association to consider better ways to measure all of the services offered by public libraries today.

Many can remember when librarians stood at the front desk checking books in and out of the library, filling book carts with returns that needed shelved.

It was an endless job, as people kept checking books out again, over and over.

Many people remember their school libraries, with the same process taking place day after day. Well, in 2016, public libraries still check out lots and lots of books, as well as other formats of information.

More information is available online at public library websites as we subscribed to databases filled with information as well as eBooks, eMagazines, children’s online materials, educational games, not to mention movies, documentaries and countless audio-visual items online.

The “bean counters” at our public libraries are always looking for new systems to “count” all the physical stuff that libraries check out, as well as the online items that fill our databases.

What about counting all the other impacts that public libraries have on the users of the library?

“Project Outcome” relates to seven areas of core programming that has expanded in public libraries over the past several years.

Digital learning is taking place in libraries across the nation, from use of tablets and smart phones to standard computer training classes.

The most effective training in libraries appears to be the one on one that takes place with a library staff member.

The general public often isn’t aware of the computer applications that are available in today’s public library.

Summer reading is sponsored in public libraries as a way to both introduce students to reading and keep them reading over the summer months.

Job skills are provided in programming formats, as well as online resources to help with resume preparation and online job searching.

Lifelong Learning is the backbone of public libraries, which are often called “America’s People’s University.”

Early childhood literacy is particularly strong in our own library system with workshops and seminars to aid parents and caregivers in the task of getting children started with lifelong literacy skills.

Economic development is part of every public library as we gather information to be used in business and provide resources for the small business environment.

Potential businesses will often review the local public library system as a barometer of a community that interests them for a possible location.

Public libraries are shaping the lives of people who utilize the services of a library. We need to better document what a public library does for people’s lives.

It is interesting to me that whenever our library levy comes up for renewal is time when I hear about how people have used libraries over the years for their own betterment.

Learning to read, learning to use a computer, helping with school and entertainment through reading are all the basis of many library success stories.

A recent comment I received was from someone who felt that “I feel smart just sitting in a public library because I can look up anything I need in a book — or on the library computer.”

Just look at the online connections on the library website and it almost seems like there is nothing you can’t find.

And there are still real people who work at a public library.

(Hall is director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.)


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