Measuring Library Impact during COVID-19
Communication is key during any emergency and this is certainly been true during this pandemic. For my Library service we had three major stakeholders. Our Library Board, representing our three member Councils, who lead the Yarra Plenty Regional Library corporation and we called special meetings to discuss the situation virtually.
Our community and library members who rely on our services and our library staff, who have to remain informed so they can continue to deliver new library services in a variety of ways. During the state of emergency implemented by the State Government there was and is new information being broadcast every day and we needed to respond quickly, getting the information out to all.
Our Library website was essential for informing our members and communities but we also had to communicate to over 160 staff in 12 locations and once they were working from home this was 160 locations. We created a COVID-19 information hub on Sharepoint that every staff member had access to with an internet connection. It was updated with key information relating to staff, their roles, the pandemic itself and when and what to work on.
Guidelines on how to do virtual storytimes, write a blog post, what digital programming could be developed and scripts for group tasks like the Caring Calls to our over 65 year old members were all in this central place. This was supplemented through team meetings on Microsoft Teams so that we could check in with staff and answer any questions.
Staff Wellness had to be a focus. In order to continue to deliver a library service we needed to ensure that staff were well, able to work from home successfully, and that their anxiety levels were manageable. In recognition of the pandemic emergency we were able to respond with flexible leave options, COVID-19 special leave and communicated these to staff so all staff who needed to could take leave.
Our Employee Assistance program provider checked in with every staff member with a short phone call and offer further support if needed. Our People and Culture team developed a staff wellness hub that has guidelines for working from home, sleeping well, a joint activity challenge and mindfulness tips to lessen anxiety.
Our small casual workforce was stood down over this period but all permanent staff were meaningfully employed with an individual working from home work plan overseen by their managers. Our systems were all in the cloud which enabled all staff to have access to the tools, files and systems needed to work from home.
We also recognised that this was an ideal time to focus on staff learning. Some key library skills sessions were needed to upskill all frontline staff on our digital offer and our eResources, especially in how to use them as this was the number one question on our Ask A Librarian service. Key internal staff developed and delivered the training via Microsoft teams and we also delivered planned professional training via virtual means.
Our programming expanded when we delivered digitally and our 30 programmers redesigned their programs to offer events, quizzes, activities and storytimes virtually. More details on our digital program can be found here
So the next question we asked ourselves was how to measure all this activity through 9 weeks of the pandemic for our Library Board? The answer we came up with was to Show Don’t Tell. Angela Hursch has more tips in her blog Show Don’t Tell: Why Infographics are an essential component in Library Marketing but we had not seen that one when we were exploring what we could do. My communications team created an infographic using Canva to demonstrate just 9 weeks of activity from the time the Libraries closed until the end of May 2020. In it you can clearly see demonstrated the huge increase in the use of our digital library, statistics for the new programs and the staff activity for the Caring Calls program and the staff learning undertaken.
Yes numbers are important and presenting them in visual ways makes those numbers pop. But individual stories also demonstrate impact and can give meaning to the numbers. So remember to ask for and record the feedback you are getting from the new services you are delivering and also from the responses when you contact library members. Remember that #LibrariesChange Lives and one or two key stories of how individual lives are changed are incredibly powerful to demonstrate impact and to support the numbers you are presenting.
´I just wanted to write to tell you how much my kids loved the family fun bundle that you put together!! We sat down and read almost all the books on the first day we got it, they were so excited! The books you picked out were a perfect fit for them and amazingly we hadn’t read any of them before! My 1 year old really loved his car books too! They enjoyed the activity sheets you put in as well! Thank you again for taking the time to put such a thoughtful pack together!!
So here is the formula for measuring impact.
- Gather the numbers, including staff activity as well as customer activity.
- Make the numbers pop in a visual way with an infographic — Show don’t tell
- Give the numbers meaning with individual stories to demonstrate impact.