Innovative Data Collection Methods for Hennepin Co Public Library
Developing unique, adaptable tools to engage youth and assess impact

The Situation

To reflect the value that libraries bring to the community, the Hennepin County Library (HCL) system sought to identify ways in which its libraries could effectively and creatively capture their impact. Youth services at Nokomis Library became the pilot evaluation site for the library system’s broader initiative.

The Solution

The core challenge that quickly emerged was how to engage youth and their families, especially given the different participation structures of programs. Some programs had youth who signed up and attended a set of sessions, while others provided services on a drop-in basis. To answer this challenge, the Improve Group identified and implemented innovative, participatory approaches to data collection. Such novel response-gathering methods included:

  • Photography techniques, like Photo Voice, to capture interactions.
  • A private video booth for youth to share immediate reflections, helping to capture drop-ins, who may not have been regular visitors.
  • Ticket canisters with various questions to prompt youth feedback and engagement.
  • ”Selfie” interviews
  • Cloud reflection with graffiti responses to questions

The Results

The methods we developed to connect with the mobile library patrons resulted in:

  • Data and tools for measuring impact that are readily adaptable for HCL internal training and use.
  • Effective new ways to think about outcomes and how to gather them.
  • Opportunities to embed reflection and learning into HCL practices.

This successful evaluation resulted in a system-wide guidebook that provides practical, engaging training tools and approaches for measuring impact of programs and services on patrons. The guidebook will prove to be a useful resource for library leadership when selecting and replicating methods for individual sites and needs.