1.2 What is an Evaluation?

Evaluations can use the evidence from a variety of assessments to make a value judgment that helps you make a decision or make changes. For example, you may want to know how (if at all) you should change your summer programs for teens. You will need to use multiple assessments asking different sub-questions to help you address such a complex question, and you will need to holistically evaluate all the evidence you collect. Library staff, parents, and other patrons may have important input, and you’ll need to take other factors, like cost, into consideration.

Evaluations ask and answer a “how” or “why” question, such as:

  • Was the impact of the program big enough?
  • Why didn’t a project succeed?
  • How can we make the partnership work better in the future?

The end product of your evaluation will be an argument to convince stakeholders of the conclusions you make, which are based on evidence you construct from the data you collect through assessments. Therefore, your assessments must be designed to provide you with good evidence to use in your argument. This process can be difficult enough in a formal learning setting, but informal and connected learning present additional challenges for the youth librarian who wishes to assess learning or evaluate an initiative. We will look at those challenges next.