The OERC welcomes evaluation specialist Karen Vargas, MSLS, who joined the staff on February 2. Karen will create and present training sessions on various evaluation topics, contribute regularly to the OERC blog and LibGuide, and provide one-to-one evaluation assistance to the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.
Although Karen is new to the OERC staff, she is well known within NN/LM circles, particularly in the South Central Region. She joined the SCR Regional Medical Library in 2003 as the consumer health outreach coordinator, and later became the region’s outreach and evaluation coordinator. Karen worked on a number of evaluation projects during her time at the SCR. Prior to joining the National Network, she worked at the Houston Public Library.
Karen will be telecommuting from Houston, Texas. We look forward to her contributions to the OERC. She agreed to participate in an interview with Cindy Olney so we could introduce her to our blog readers.
What made you want to become part of NN/LM?
I liked all the opportunities to provide training offered through NN/LM. You get to see how this job impacts people’s lives.
What was your favorite evaluation project?
I really enjoyed doing the evaluation of the resource library outreach subcontract program at NN/LM SCR. We involved the resource library directors and outreach contacts in identifying the outcomes that they were interested in. We started with friendly general questions that developed into a process that they were willing to use. We managed to develop specific methods that led to good data. I liked helping people identify what was important to them and figuring out how to track their progress. It makes it more likely they will actually participate in the evaluation. Some of the libraries are still using the forms that we developed.
What do you find challenging about doing that project?
Multi-site evaluation was a challenge. We were working with libraries in five states. It was important that everyone follow directions, but we weren’t always successful in getting that point across. Some people using our forms were not the ones we originally trained and the ones we trained didn’t train their co-workers. If I were to do it over again, we would have written out the directions more explicitly and had special training sessions for everyone who was collecting data for the project. We could have recorded the training, too.
What made you want to work with the OERC?
We’re helping organizations see the value of their programs. At SCR, we helped network members working on projects to focus on what is working and not waste time on parts that aren’t working. We were helping them feel good about what they were doing. It’s important, for advocacy, to find out what stakeholders want. But it’s also good to figure out what you want. That’s what makes evaluation exciting. People figuring out what makes them satisfied, what they would see as success, and then figuring out how to measure it.
What I’ve like best about working with NN/LM the last 11 years, is that, when we took people through the planning steps of writing an award proposal, they often did the project even if we didn’t fund it. They get so involved in planning that they find some way to do the project. I liked seeing them get excited.
What type of evaluation skills are you most interested in developing?
I would like to learn more about interviewing.
What else would you like readers to know about you?
I have a little girl named Sophia. She’s two years old and plays harmonica, ukulele, recorder, and can even get a sound on a trombone!