5 SPEC Kit 361: Outreach and Engagement related to library outreach, and only 3 (6%) indicated that their library did not have outreach-related goals or outcomes at any level within their organization. Respondents also indicated that their library outreach goals or outcomes were aligned with institutional initiatives and priorities. A full 96% of respondents (53) reported aligning with initiatives such as diversity and inclusion, student retention, and community engagement. While responses in previous questions suggest that libraries are beginning to develop a programmatic approach to library outreach, responses to subsequent survey questions cast the concept of a library-wide programmatic approach to outreach into question. Most respondents indicated that goals were set at the individual librarian (40, or 73%) or unit (39, or 71%) level. Only 18 (33%) said that they had goals or outcomes for their overall outreach program. Respondents further indicated that outcomes were most often established by individual librarians (40, or 71%) or department heads (40, or 71%). Library directors or deans established outcomes at 30 institutions (54%). The discrepancy between respondents’ beliefs that they had library-wide outcomes or goals and their indications that these outcomes or goals were not set at a library-wide level suggests that libraries may still be in the process of defining what goals and outcomes should be for an outreach program, and at what organizational level they should be set. Respondents also revealed that outreach goals were set on a periodic basis, while outreach activities may be identified on an ad hoc basis. For example, one respondent noted, “[l]ibrary-wide priorities are established cooperatively on an annual basis, and various initiatives that match library priorities are lined out at that time. Initiatives can be added throughout the year as opportunities present themselves, but cohesive planning on a larger level happens at least annually.” According to these comments, libraries are developing goals for their outreach programs, but are choosing to remain responsive by adding additional outreach activities as opportunities arise. Although 52 respondents (nearly 95%) indicated that their library had outreach goals or outcomes, fewer than half (24) provided examples of those goals or outcomes. The examples provided suggest that many libraries set outreach goals or outcomes that are internally focused. These goals focused on what the library will do, such as increase the number of events it will hold or the number of social media posts it will create. Fewer libraries created goals or outcomes that were external in nature, meaning they focused on what patrons will learn or do. For example, one respondent noted that “[w]e have an over-arching goal to do the work but have not specified specific goals for each population/activity. Assigning goals to academic staff to complete this type of work is tricky. We ask that, generally, they participate in any way they can.” This response indicated that there are internal staff goals to recruit and engage library workers to support outreach activities, rather than externally focused goals to measure outreach participant responses. Similarly, another respondent indicated that a goal was to “[i]ncrease focus on outreach and community engagement efforts to better promote the use of services.” This goal again demonstrated an internal focus, concentrating on shifting labor and effort within the library rather than patron response. While several respondents reported goals that represent an effort on the part of their libraries to engage library workers in an increased focus on outreach activities, a few provided outreach outcomes that in many ways resemble the student learning outcomes commonly used in instruction. These outcomes focused on patron experience rather than library behavior, and were specific and measurable in nature. For example, one commented that the goal was to “[c]reate a welcoming, comfortable, safe, and inspiring experience, both physically and virtually.” Another reported that students will experience the library as a welcoming, safe environment and that they wanted to “[b]uild awareness among users of the Libraries spaces, services, and expertise.” These outcomes, unlike more internally focused goals, require substantive effort to assess. Their patron focus, though, indicates that the library will be able to use these outcomes to guide outreach programming choices. Further, their broad nature suggests that libraries will not have to revise or add additional outcomes when a new outreach opportunity arises.
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