Public Library Evaluation Network - first year findings

Georgia Moore

Georgia Moore, 5 October 2020

30 libraries participated in the first year of the Public Libraries Evaluation Network, using the Culture Counts platform to collect data from communities around Australia about the vital impact of libraries. 

Measuring the role of libraries and the value that communities place on them gives libraries the ability to engage more deeply with the public, impact the community more strongly, and provide an evidence-based argument for greater funding.

More than 13,000 survey responses were collected, representing diverse regions and communities across Australia. Libraries taking part in the project come from the Northern Territory and all Australian states except Tasmania, and we encourage libraries from all parts of Australia to join the network and help to grow the database, insights and learning opportunities. Download the Information Sheet for more information on how to get involved.

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The nation-wide initiative was designed to test metrics and methods for capturing and analysing feedback on library outcomes, to ensure ease of use and appropriateness from an Australian library perspective. The project builds on research undertaken in Australia and internationally, with metrics aligned with the 2016 ALIA, APLA and NSLA draft national standards and guidelines for outcomes measurement, and the UK Inspiring Learning for All (ILFA) social and learning outcomes. Download the snapshot report >

Each library surveyed their community at least once annually on perceptions, use and outcomes associated with the library. Network members were provided with standardised survey templates to enable easy and consistent collection of feedback, and all results contributed to a large body of evidence about the value of the sector as a whole. A dynamic, filterable big data dashboard was developed to enable network members to deeply interrogate their data, see how different demographics were impacted, compare results with other libraries and implement changes based off wider sector learnings. An anonymised public version of the dashboard (with individual library, branch and state filters removed) has been prepared to give those outside the network the opportunity to view aggregate impact data and access library learnings. View the public dashboard here

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The research shows that communities overwhelmingly agree that libraries play an important role and are felt to be safe and welcoming places. Libraries are also succeeding strongly in their more traditional literacy and learning roles, encouraging users to read more and enjoy learning. Almost three quarters of respondents also agreed that their library is changing and becoming more relevant to them and their needs, indicating that greater outcomes will follow in newer library focus areas, such as digital inclusion and enterprise.

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Network members agreed that being part of the project helped them gain important insight into their users’ experience, and that these insights could be used to modify and improve services and provide input to strategic planning processes. As well as receiving high levels of client support and training, Library Evaluation Network participants took part in quarterly webinars in which they could connect with other members, and discuss the big data, implications and learnings. 

As the project continues into 2021, Culture Counts will run further webinars and workshops designed to help participants maximise their understanding and use of the data. Many positive case studies are emerging that show how libraries are successfully developing strategy, implementing change and advocating for greater support through the use of evidence collected from their communities. 

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Get involved

Are you interested in being a part of the Public Libraries Evaluation Network? We would love to provide you with a complimentary demo session of the platform, dashboard and project benefits at your convenience.

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