Environmental scans Background data that already exist Help put other data into context Should probably be conducted first before other data-gathering techniques
External data about the community Demographics Economic conditions Community setting Technological sophistication Sociocultural realities
Internal data about the library Organizational history and culture Service priorities Human and “non-human” assets Technology infrastructure Sources of support
Tips for successful environmental scans Use the forms List sources of information gathered
Observation Formal study of events and/or activities as they occur Confirm or deny participants’ perceptions Collect unspoken data that might never be revealed otherwise
Types of data collected through observation Participant behavior in a given situation Steps of a particular process How long it takes to accomplish a task Traffic patterns inside/outside the library How activities change over time
Tips for successful observations Try to be unobtrusive Take notes Spend time observing Observe and compare activities
Key informant interviews One-on-one interviews with key community leaders Identify target community’s areas of concern and interest May provide access to other community members
Tips for successful key informant interviews Go to them Send questions beforehand Build rapport before interviewing Focus on community needs/interests, not the library Take notes
Surveys Usually anonymous method to get direct input from target population More than one way to conduct Relatively easy to administer and tabulate Questions elicit specific feedback
Tips for successful surveys The shorter the better Use simple language One concept per question Don’t use too many question styles Test surveys before administering
Focus groups Moderated but unstructured small group discussions to elicit input on specific topic(s) May be used to help design surveys and/or provide follow-up information Not anonymous May create false expectations Often difficult to tabulate
Tips for successful focus groups Homogeneous groups of 6-10 participants 5-7 questions maximum 30-90 minutes Provide an incentive to participate Record discussion and take notes
Common assessment mistakes and how to avoid Not knowing the target population well enough beforehand Biased instruments/techniques Focus on library and on not the community Ignored non-users
Using assessment data to justify a grant need Funders want to know how their money will be used to help the community Cite findings that have informed your grant project Triangulate!
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