Demonstrating Your Impact: Collecting Stories
To demonstrate your library’s impact to decision makers, it can be helpful to bring your data to life with some great success stories: researchers that were helped by your librarians, doctors’ time saved, or patients understanding their follow-up instructions. Even better than success stories you tell your administration are stories told about your library by satisfied customers, for example, satisfied doctors whose time is valuable to their hospital as well as themselves, satisfied patients who can recommend your hospital to others, or satisfied researchers who can vote where their city dollars go. In addition, there is evidence that anecdotal data can influence the outcomes of decisions (http://mande.co.uk/2010/uncategorized/stories-vs-statistics-the-impact-of-anecdotal-data-on-accounting-decision-making/).
Part 2 in the Demonstrating Your Impact series is about collecting and telling those success stories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a publication called Impact and Value: Telling Your Program’s Story http://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/publications/library/pdf/success_story_workbook.pdf. This document is intended for program managers to provide steps they can use to systematically collect and create success stories: “with attention to detail, a system of regular data collection and practice, this tool can become a powerful instrument to spread the word about your program.”
According to the Impact and Value publication, stories should not be the main method of presenting data, but they put a face to the numbers of research and evaluation data: “What does it really mean when you report that you have provided ‘X’ amount of services to ‘Y’ amount of people? How are the lives of the program participants [or your library customers] changed because of your services?”
A great example of systematic story collection can be found in the article, “MedlinePlus and the challenge of low health literacy: findings from the Colonias project,” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1773027/pdf/i0025-7338-095-01-0031.pdf) which describes a project funded by the National Library of Medicine in which community health workers, known as promotoras, were trained to help members of some Texas-Mexico border communities find health information using MedlinePlus. These promotoras were asked to collect up to two stories every week on how they used online resources to help residents with health concerns. The 157 stories that resulted from this technique were treated as data: thematically coded, checked for validity, and studied to show the degree of success of the promotoras project.
What to do with all this data? Stay tuned for part 3 of the Demonstrating Your Impact series: Telling Your Story