The stated goal for developing and implementing a comprehensive research framework is “to ensure all library stakeholders have access to information they need to make strategic policy and investment decisions that will further leverage the infrastructure and expertise that flow from libraries’ public programming.” The ultimate goal is to provide optimal benefit to the individuals and communities that are the participants in exemplary public programming in libraries. Thus, comprehensive research will guide library practice and create public value.
As recognized in previous sections of this white paper, evaluation is a powerful management tool. It can provide internal governance and management with information useful to make critical budget, hiring, and resource allocation decisions. It can measure the effectiveness of different kinds of programs and offer ways to improve their benefit. Evaluation can also provide the kind of data and evidence that influences decision makers across the community, impacting library funding in multiple ways. It shifts the library’s reporting from anecdotal and quantitative information to evidence of deep impact in individual and community growth and competence.
Research results will be designed to support advocacy, to guide management, to elicit community support and institutional engagement, and to encourage community advancement. Funders and policy makers are likely to look to research and evaluation reports to determine the value of their investments in libraries and the policies that enable them to flourish. Librarians will be offering comparative data to support their role and significance in a community’s identity and to further the all-important leadership commitment to building equitable access to lifelong learning. Astute programming by libraries will recognize and respond to the complexity and diversity of society, highlighting community needs to political leadership and creating partnerships that benefit all constituents.
A well-structured research framework should provide insight into the library’s extraordinary role of identifying community needs. Research will create a live “data feed” for policymakers so they better understand on-the-ground realities as they develop annual plans and budgets. The listening role of libraries can help map the social needs of communities, identifying local and national topics of concern to voters. People turn to libraries when they need information. Research results can build even greater trust. Providing documented evidence of impact may intensify the role that libraries play as community barometers and help guide policy decisions that benefit their publics.
A comprehensive research framework may explore best practices of those libraries that have gained a seat at the table of community and institutional governance and policymaking, and examine the community connections and services that have earned them that respect.
In your opinion, does your library hold a seat at the table of governance and policymaking in your community? How does that positioning affect your library’s influence in the community?
Read responses and provide your own feedback using the comment box below. Comments are moderated and will be posted within 24 hours. Please let us know whether you would like to make your comments public or keep them private.