The Impact Survey empowers you to ask your community directly about the technology services they use and need. Specifically, the Impact Survey asks patrons about how they use library technology services like public computers, wireless networks, online resources, and digital literacy training, and helps gather information about how to improve those services to enable better patron outcomes. Library Directors who hosted the online survey for library users during the 2009 national Opportunity for All research study, and in 2011 during our pilot, said it provided many benefits to their library:
Understand your patrons: Get a better sense of how patrons are using library resources and what kind of services might improve their outcomes in easy-to-read reports. Both library administrators and library staff benefit from a deeper appreciation of how patrons use and benefit from library technology than they can get through casual observation.
Inform internal planning: Your library's survey responses can help you evaluate your library's technology services and identify where you are excelling or making progress and where there is room for improvement. This information can also help you better understand patrons, track trends, and make smart choices when it comes to resource allocation and a long-term strategy for technology services.
"It just reconfirmed that some of the newer things that we've been doing are things that people look to the library for. And then in the area there of health literacy... It's supporting what's been around a little bit as a buzz that might be a next area for us to get into."
Measure progress: Libraries can track changes in use trends over time, as well as measuring the impact of new policies or resources on patron outcomes.
Back-up budget requests: Facts and figures are critical when communicating with decision makers about the social and economic value of a public service, especially when making a funding request. The Impact Survey provides you with customized advocacy and communications materials showcasing your library's unique survey results including hand-outs, presentation slides, and template news articles that demonstrate the impact of library technology. The advocacy and communications materials can be used to build awareness and support for library technology services among local decision makers and other stakeholders.
"Library commissioners have been devouring this data. They had to advocate pretty hard this year for the supplemental funding that the city provides for additional hours of operation. It was a hard sell this year and they were successful."
"I think that [the data] is why we did get the level of funding from the city because they realized how strongly we are needed.” “It gives us more information to demonstrate why the library shouldn't be closed."
Bolster community support: The Impact Survey reports can be shared publicly to show the vital role library technology services play in the lives of community members. Generating awareness about bridging the digital divide through free computer and Internet access and digital training can help raise public support for libraries.
"I think the general public may think that all libraries don't need computers, everybody has their own or all anybody does is play games anyway… It is always nice to know that people are utilizing our resources at the library and what they are utilizing them for. That information is always valuable to make it clear that computer use in the library is important to people and it is well used."
"We are always trying to build advocates in our community and give them the tools and the messaging that they need to be successful in supporting us… We’re sharing that information with people that have some influence within our community."
"Occasionally, we get the anecdotal evidence of someone saying, 'Oh, I found a job because I went to the library,' or, 'Oh, I got my GED in a computer class in the library.' But we don't have any kind of research that we can use to say this is how it is impacting the local community. So this was a gift to us, so that we can say it's not just a thing that happens or librarians reporting what people tell them. There is actual recent data that substantiates what we believe is happening in our library."
Improve Edge score: Conducting patron-level surveys and communicating the value of public access technology to stakeholders are some of the key indicators of the Edge Initiative. Help improve your level of accomplishment on the Edge benchmarks by implementing a regular community survey.