• How much does Project Outcome cost? Who can participate? 

Project Outcome is FREE to everyone who participates. The surveys and data analysis tools are only available to public and state libraries (U.S. and Canada) at this time. If you do not fit in this category, you may still register for free to learn more about outcome measurement and access our online resources. The Public Library Association (PLA) is dedicated to expanding the reach of Project Outcome in the future.


  • What is the goal of Project Outcome?

The goal of Project Outcome is to help public libraries understand and share the true impact of essential library services. As librarians, we see every day that library services put people on the path to literacy, technological know-how, or a better job – what we are often missing is the data to support it. Project Outcome provides simple tools and a supportive online community of library leaders to help libraries collect insights and data about all the ways we are meeting the needs of our communities. This understanding can improve the way libraries do business – from allocating existing resources more efficiently to advocating for new resources more effectively.


  • How does Project Outcome work?

Project Outcome provides simple survey instruments that public library staff can use to help them measure the outcomes of their library services. Any library that chooses to participate in Project Outcome will have access to patron surveys developed by a team of library leaders across the country, plus additional resources to help library staff administer the surveys and use the results for advocacy and strategic decision-making. In return, participants will report their data using a simple online Survey Portal and be able to see their results in a visually interactive Data Dashboard. PLA is dedicated to Project Outcome and will continue to manage and support the project's work beyond the terms of the initial grant, adding it to the long list of other successful PLA services, such as Every Child Ready to Read and Turning the Page. 

  • If my library does not have a strategic plan, can I still participate?

Your library does not need a strategic plan to participate. However, understanding your library’s strategic goals will help you select which service areas to assess and decide how best to apply your outcomes data, such as targeted advocacy or to change or improve library services. Project Outcome has developed resources and worksheets to help you align your survey measurement with your library's goals and community needs. 


  • What kind of commitment is involved with participating in Project Outcome?

We recognize that library staff have a long list of responsibilities, so Project Outcome is designed to align with the work you are already doing and fit easily into your schedule. You can schedule surveys for any duration of time based on your library’s needs, and collecting your own data means you can see and start to use the findings immediately.


  • How is outcomes measurement different from other types of performance measurement?

Public libraries commonly measure services in terms of “how much we do,” focusing on the volume of outputs like the number of activities or services offered. Project Outcome seeks to capture the benefits (or outcomes) of library services in terms of “what good we do,” like changes in library users’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, behavior, or status. For example, while outputs measurement may tell us how many library patrons attended a resume-writing workshop, outcomes measurement can tell us whether those users feel more confident, informed, and equipped to seek a new job. For more information, please visit What is Outcome Measurement.


  • Why is measuring outcomes important for my library?

Measuring and understanding outcomes is important for a number of reasons. At the most basic level, data about the impact of your library services provides insights you can use to 1) demonstrate the value of those services, 2) make plans to improve them, and 3) decide how to allocate limited resources. The same data can inform long-term planning about the services your library will offer in the future. Evidence of impact can also play a critical role in strengthening library advocacy, providing library leaders with a compelling case for increased library funding and supportive policies. For more information, please visit What is Outcome Measurement.

  • My library already collects outcomes data. How can this project help me with my existing work?

The tools and resources available in Project Outcome will help all members, whether new or experienced in outcomes measurement, advance their data further and turn it into real action for their library's future.


  • How were the surveys developed? Why were surveys chosen as the primary tool to measure outcomes? 

The approach is to provide the simplest format to engage libraries in the process, also to ensure the library is capturing feedback consistently. Pilot testing showed the shorter and concise the survey, the more patrons responded. However, survey implementation is up to the library. As long as consistent with questions, interviews, paper surveys, online links, or group discussions may be used to gather your outcome data. In addition to the Immediate Surveys, the Task Force developed Follow-Up Surveys in Spring 2016 to provide libraries with additional ways to gather patron impact. For more information, please visit our many survey resources.


  • Do I have to attend a training before I can begin?

No formal training is required to participate in Project Outcome. Visit our free online resources and archived webinars to get the most of your Project Outcome experience! If you are interested in hands-on training and are part of a large system, consortium, regional or state association, contact info@projectoutcome.org to schedule a Project Outcome Regional Training.


  • What library service areas does Project Outcome cover and what are the surveys like?

The Project Outcome Surveys cover seven essential library service areas: 1) Civic/Community Engagement, 2) Digital Learning, 3) Early Childhood Literacy, 4) Economic Development, 5) Education and Lifelong Learning, 6) Job Skills, and 7) Summer Reading. There are two types of surveys to choose from: Immediate and Follow-Up. The Immediate Surveys use Likert-scale responses to measure immediate benefits gained from a program or service. The Follow-Up Surveys use Yes/No/Please explain responses to measure whether or not patrons continued to benefit or change their behavior as a result of a program or service. All Project Outcome Surveys are designed to help libraries capture their impact on the community.


  • What kind of staff support, infrastructure, or financial resources does my library need to participate?

Project Outcome is a free service provided by the Public Library Association with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We know that every public library is different, and we are committed to making Project Outcome accessible to all interested library staff, whether you run a large urban library system or a one-person library. Libraries can choose their participation based on time and staff capacity. The surveys and tools were designed to be easy enough for libraries of all sizes to participate and benefit from the outcomes collected.  


  • How many staff members can register under one library? 

Project Outcome allows multiple users to register under a single library account; all a user needs is a unique email address to create their account. However, we recommend that libraries make sure to delegate and manage who is accessing the Project Outcome Survey Portal to avoid data inaccuracy. Visit the Data Collection Team resource to organize your staff's roles and responsibilities within Project Outcome. 


  • Do I need to administer a survey for every service area in my library?

No. You can pick and choose which service areas are priorities for your library, or start with one and add more later. If your library has a strategic plan or you have identified objectives you would like to achieve, the service area(s) you choose to survey should align with those plans. For example, you may choose to administer a survey on your library’s new job skills program to see how it performs compared to more established services, or focus on the early childhood literacy programs that you have offered for years to see if they are still meeting community needs. 


  • What will happen to the outcomes data that my library collects?

Once the survey period is complete and responses are collected, the designated library staff will enter all of the responses into the Survey Portal under the particular program and survey period and hit “close survey.” Once the survey is closed, a summary report is generated and will be available in your My Impact page of the Survey Portal. Visually interactive survey data results will also be available in your Data Dashboard in filtered and aggregated formats. Individual library data submitted twill not be made public, rather, Project Outcome will aggregate and analyze the data to demonstrate the total impact of services and programs nationally.  


  • Are survey translations available?

The Project Outcome Immediate Surveys are currently available in English and Spanish. PLA and the Task Force are working on assessing the field's demand for other language translations. 


  • I want to measure surveys across several libraries as a single library group. How do I do that?

Project Outcome offers library groups two different options for survey management and coordination: Group Accounts and Merged Systems. If you want to register multiple libraries as a group, you must first CONTACT US and let us know which libraries are to be grouped together. To learn more about grouping your libraries, please download our Options for Library Groups worksheet. 


  • I represent my state library system. How do I enroll and what resources are available to me?

State libraries are welcome to participate as well! When registering to participate, please identify yourself as a state-level librarian. Project Outcome has developed state-specific templates, talking points, data summaries and resources for your use. State library participants also have access to all of the data collected by public libraries within their state. 



More Questions?