Five Steps of Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation for Public Libraries

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  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

Planning and assessment are both crucial elements of a public library that functions efficiently and flexibly. So why are they often treated as separate processes? This concise book combines planning and evaluation in a holistic approach, helping public library managers and staff put library resources to work for the community. Based on a series of successful workshops, the workflow presented by the authors is made up of manageable steps for integrating outcome-based planning and evaluation (OBPE) into the routine functions of the public library. Offering step by step guidance that's transparent and easy to follow, this book

  • introduces the concept of OBPE and explains how it can be a streamlined, effective method of getting library users' feedback;
  • defines "outcomes" and shows why public libraries should use them to plan and evaluate services;
  • shares methodologies for assessing community needs and interests, including key informant interviews, surveys, focus groups, and environmental scans;
  • demonstrates how to use community assessment data to create outcome statements that not only guide the creation of new library services, but also provide targets for measuring the effectiveness of those services;
  • offers techniques for designing services that directly serve the community while also achieving the outcomes the library has targeted; and
  • provides tips for sharing the results with stakeholders and maximizing successful outcome-based programs to leverage the library's role in the community.

Featuring plentiful examples of how to proceed through each phase of the OBPE model, this book boils down planning and evaluation into an approachable, easy to understand process for public librarians, library managers, and grant writers.


Chapter 1    Outcomes, Services and Programs, and OBPE
Chapter 2    Gathering Information
Chapter 3    Determining Outcomes
Chapter 4    Designing Programs and Services
Chapter 5    Evaluating Programs and Services
Chapter 6    Sharing Results


Appendix A    Community Assessment Environmental Scan: Internal (Library) Factors
Appendix B    Community Assessment Environmental Scan: External (Community) Factors
Appendix C    Community Assessment: Field Questions to Ask Yourself
Appendix D    Community Assessment: Sample Interview and Focus Group Questions

About the Authors


Melissa Gross

Melissa Gross is a professor in the School of Information at Florida State University and past president of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). She received her PhD in library and information science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1998, received the prestigious American Association of University Women Recognition Award for Emerging Scholars in 2001, and received the ALISE Award for Professional Contribution to Library and Information Science Education in 2019. Dr. Gross teaches and conducts research in the areas of information-seeking behavior, information literacy, library program and service evaluation, and information resources for youth. 

Cindy Mediavilla

Cindy Mediavilla is an author and library consultant who recently retired from the California State Library as well as the UCLA Department of Information Studies. She is also a former public librarian. Her areas of expertise include community assessment, outcome-based planning and evaluation, after-school homework programs, library residency programs, and grant writing. Her most recent books include Libraries & Gardens: Growing Together (ALA Editions, 2019), coauthored with Carrie Banks. Cindy’s MLS and PhD are both from UCLA.

Virginia A. Walter

Virginia A. Walter holds an MLS degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD in public administration from the University of Southern California. She is a past president of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and a former public librarian and professor of information studies at UCLA. She has written more than ten professional and academic monographs, two books for young people, and numerous articles. Her other LIS books include Young Activists and the Public Library: Facilitating Democracy (ALA Editions, 2020).

"Offers librarians a solid approach to begin conducting such assessment and to deliver valuable programming."
— Catholic Library Association

"This book allows readers to move from goal-based thinking and planning to outcome-based planning and evaluation. Following the lessons of this book, public libraries will find it easier to move from traditional input and output measures to outcome statements. Following this process will enable libraries to use valid results to drive the development of future programs and services. As a library director, I found this book to be thought-provoking and inspiring. It was an easy read filled with a powerful plan of action."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"The authors focus on practicality ... the approachable presentation makes it worthwhile for anyone involved in planning, providing, or assessing programs and services."
— Public Libraries