History of the Outreach Evaluation Resource Center (OERC)
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The National Library of Medicine (NLM) recognizes the importance of planning and evaluation as an integral component of NLM-sponsored outreach activities. Good planning and evaluation can help assure that outreach activities are designed and implemented in an effective and efficient manner, achieve stated goals, and contribute to the growing knowledge base about National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) outreach. In May 2001, the NLM awarded a 5-year contract to the NN/LM Pacific Northwest Region (PNR) at the University of Washington to establish an Outreach Evaluation Resource Center (OERC) to help meet the outreach evaluation needs of the NN/LM. The OERC will facilitate effective use of planning and evaluation in the NN/LM by conducting continuing education activities, providing access to Web-based educational materials, providing information and consultation, and encouraging communication between NN/LM regional offices to foster learning and support regarding best practices. In doing so, the OERC will work with all Regional Medical Libraries (RMLs) and various other Network libraries as appropriate.OERC objectives include:
Provide or arrange for training and continuing education opportunities for NN/LM staff with regard to outreach planning and evaluation.
Increasing awareness, knowledge, and skill among the NLM-sponsored outreach activities about ways to conduct evaluation will be a major objective of the Center. OERC staff will provide training workshops for NN/LM staff and members to increase understanding about a continuum of uses for planning and evaluation in outreach programs. A specific aim of the Center will be to facilitate the integration of evaluation planning and implementation within outreach programs funded and conducted by NLM and the RMLs.
Provide or collaborate in the development of a web site for information dissemination on this topic
The dissemination of information and resources relevant to outreach evaluation is an important role of the OERC. NN/LM staff and outreach planners need access to materials to guide their evaluation efforts, whether via informational or instructional format, case examples, fill-in-the blank work forms, guide sheets, or adaptable evaluation tools and instruments. The OERC will create and distribute such materials as well as links to relevant sites for further information via an OERC web page on the NN/LM web site. The purpose of the web page will be to assist users in maintaining current information about evaluation and provide access to documents, tools, and software useful for evaluation planning and research.
Consult with Network members on specific outreach evaluation projects
Expertise will be available on a consulting basis to Network members, to assist in planning and conducting evaluations. The level of consulting will vary relative to the need and capabilities of a given NN/LM and the nature of the specific evaluations contemplated.
Assist on a selective basis in the analysis, synthesis, and reporting of evaluation results
The OERC will help to introduce basic skills and concepts of data analysis through its educational and information dissemination activities, including continuing education classes, the Evaluation Guide, instructional materials on the Center web site, and discussions via the evaluation discussion list. In addition, and on a selective basis, the OERC will assist specific projects in planning measurement strategies, analyzing, synthesizing, and reporting results for use in decision making and sharing with stakeholders.
Encourage collegiality and sharing among Network librarians and other staff who have related responsibilities.
The OERC will seek to identify a common ground between the RMLs for sharing questions, answers, issues, and ideas about planning and evaluating outreach. The Center will provide regular updates about continuing education classes, new additions to the web sites, and other relevant news topics and will encourage each NN/LM to distribute such announcements via other regional electronic discussion lists as appropriate.
The OERC will encourage shared modification and/or development of evaluation instruments in order to avoid duplication. For example, the Center will coordinate development of standardized tools, if appropriate, for reporting requirements requested of all the RMLs by NLM. The OERC web site will post summaries of research methodologies and results for outreach projects conducted or funded via the RMLs and NLM. This type of sharing will help to better understand outreach efforts regarding what works and data that might contribute to the development of benchmarks or performance standards. By sharing specifics on evaluation methodologies and data collection instruments, everyone in the NN/LM can benefit from each other's work and avoid duplicating efforts.
Assist with implementation of concepts drawn from the handbook on outreach planning and evaluation.
Measuring the Difference: Guide to Planning and Evaluating Health Information Outreach was developed by the NN/LM PNR in collaboration with the NLM. The Evaluation Guide is designed with the novice evaluation researcher in mind and draws from gold standards and best practices in multidisciplinary fields about outreach and its evaluation. Concepts addressed include how to assess what is really needed; using best practices and theory-based strategies to address those needs; finding out what works and what doesn't; and determining whether and how outreach made a difference. The Evaluation Guide is also an introductory tool to evaluation methods, giving an overview on various types of measurement, of data collection, and of research designs and approaches. It will be a core resource for the training and consulting activities of the OERC.