Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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Evaluation of what you have achieved is a critical component in your action plan. It is not enough to just design and implement the plan; your library needs to make sure your investment is making desired impact and truly making communities smarter.
Your evaluation mechanisms are required to have a clear picture of current progress toward your planned goals as well as to know which services perform better and what need adjustment. Only then, will you know whether your public library is making a difference in the development of a smart(er) city.
Evaluating your performance could also gain more visibility and present yourself to other stakeholders as an important actor in the development of a smart city or community.
There are a number of ways to measure and evaluate the performance of library programs and services. The first one you may consider is to measure the direct outputs of new programs or services for the development of a smart city/community. The evaluation of the outputs means to measure the direct results of those programs and assess whether the action plan has achieved its pre-defined goals. This will help you better track the progress of those programs and make timely adjustments to reach the goals if necessary.
For instance, if one of the goals of your library is to become a technology hub that aims to improve digital literacy, you may want to evaluate if the local residents in the programs have improved their digital skills. If the goal of your program is to further encourage innovations in the community, you would measure how many innovative ideas are generated from the program and how many are being implemented.
In addition to those quantitative ways of measurement, patrons’ experiences and feelings with new programs, staff, and technologies are also important indicators to evaluate the outputs. When setting up the evaluation measures, do not forget that the measures need to be clear and measurable, just like the goals.
Second, you may want to consider evaluating the actual outcome and impact of your library’s involvement in the development of a smart city/community. It is not enough just knowing the direct outputs of specific programs or services (and thus whether the action plan has reached its goals).
To truly evaluate the impact of a public library’s programs, it is critical to go beyond the immediate results and measure the outcomes of those programs in the intermediate or long term in relation to the different dimensions of smartness (technology, innovation, citizen participation, stakeholder engagement, impact on citizens’ quality of life). By designing such an evaluation approach, you can further demonstrate your achievement to other stakeholders and present yourself as an important ally in the development of a smart city/community.
For instance, one important dimension of smartness is the impact on citizens’ quality of life. You may consider evaluating to what extent your library’s digital literacy programs help patrons gain the necessary skills for their professional careers and further improve quality of life within the community.
Another example is innovation. You may also think about evaluating whether your library’s makerspace is generating innovative ideas and leading to new products or services in the local economy. Those outcomes and impacts may not be easy to identify and measure; and they may only start to emerge long after the implementation of specific programs. Yet, it is critical to plan this evaluation in advance to keep an eye on your library’s actual contributions to the development a smart city/community.
General resources on evaluation plan:
Performance Measurement: Introduction to Product Outcome: http://www.ala.org/pla/initiatives/performancemeasurement
Impact Survey: http://www.ala.org/pla/initiatives/impactsurvey
Inclusive smart cities: Delivering digital solutions for all: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/public-sector/inclusive-smart-cities.html
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