Denver Public Library (DPL), in collaboration with Library Research Service (LRS), was recently featured in School Library Journal. The article highlights DPL’s evaluation of their summer learning program and use of data to inform programmatic decision making. Below is a summary of the results. To learn more about their data collection methods, analysis, and application of findings, you can read the full article here.

Denver Public Library (DPL) knew anecdotally they were positively affecting the social and emotion learning (SEL) of their youngest patrons, but needed to find a way to measure it. So in 2017, when they began shifting from a summer reading program to a summer learning program, they wanted to take the opportunity to evaluate the program’s impact. Their new program, titled Summer of Adventure, aimed to build relationships and facilitate social and emotional learning in addition to addressing summer learning loss.

With the help of Library Research Service (LRS)’s research analyst, Katie Fox, DPL began focusing on outcomes (the impact a program has) over outputs (registration and attendance). Their outcome goal for the program was: “After Summer Academy, participants will gain or enhance their social and emotional skills.” Knowing they could not likely see measurable change in SEL skills during the month-long program, their evaluation question became: “What social and emotional skills do youth participants currently have?” By understanding what skills youth needed to build upon, DPL could learn more about how different types of programming could encourage positive SEL behaviors.

During the evaluation, DPL utilized various data collection methods, which presented some limitations and challenges. An analysis of the data revealed two key findings:

  1. Relationship building occurred more during unstructured rather than structured activities; and
  2. Youth participants showed the most positive self-management during moderately challenging activities allowing many ways to complete the product.

Library staff used this information to help make strategic decisions about future programs and communicate with external stakeholders and funders about the program’s value. DPL continues to adjust the program to better support SEL, intrinsic motivation, and life-long learning. To learn more, read the full article here.