I was listening to a radio story this morning about the consequences of the steep drop in gasoline prices. One hundred dollars a month, on the average, opened up many opportunities for people. It got me thinking of the ripple effects spread out from this library. Often when we seek outside funding in the form of grants the granting bodies ask what our outcomes are expected to be. This is understandable, but we sometimes struggle with the “measurement” of our services.
We value confidentiality. We serve all county residents as well as many people outside the immediate area. We cannot measure what you knew or how you felt when you came in, and then measure those same things again when you leave to see if we had a positive impact. It would be intrusive and very time consuming. From time to time we conduct surveys, but they tend to be more general and do not measure specific outcomes.
There have been national studies that confirm that children who participate in summer reading programs are more likely to maintain their reading proficiency over the summer. The importance of early childhood education has been proven time and time again. Children’s services public librarians have known this decades longer than the researchers.
I accept that the ripple effects of great library service are largely unknowable. Anecdotally, I know people who have gotten jobs, started businesses, improved their health (mental and physical), enriched their lives, begun friendships, decided to accept a job offer in Iowa City, learned to use a computer, and found their ancestors at the Iowa City Public Library. All these things changed their lives.
I was reminded of the ripple effect earlier this week when I received an email from a former board member. A move took her to Missouri where she also served on the library board. She recently moved to another state and wrote to say she couldn’t believe that they didn’t read and talk about books the way we did in Iowa and Missouri! Maybe she’ll start a one community one book program in her new location.
Where have your library ripples taken you? I’d love to hear.