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Pilot to Measure Social and Emotional Learning at Denver Public Library

By Hillary Estner, Katie Fox and Erin McLean

Why evaluate?

How can you measure relationship-building abilities? How can you understand which of your library’s programs best support users’ development of skills like problem-solving? How can you determine whether the youth who come to your library need help learning how to ask a question?

At Denver Public Library (DPL), we wanted to answer these questions, which address a vital set of skills called social and emotional learning, or SEL. A key goal of our public library, like many libraries, is to provide experiences that positively impact participant learning and growth. Particularly with our youth participants, we hoped that library programs fostered SEL, but we had not yet found a way to measure it.

In summer 2017, at the urging of the executive level of our library, we launched a pilot project to explore methods of evaluating youth outcomes from library summer programming, with a focus on SEL. We partnered with the Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service, and the three of us—a reference librarian, branch librarian, and research analyst—set out to measure SEL.

Who participated?

While we assessed several components of the library’s summer programming, here we will focus on a collaboration with the Denver Public Schools program, Summer Academy. DPS offers Summer Academy to students whose reading scores are below grade level and students in the English Language Acquisition program. Youth who were invited to Summer Academy were also invited to participate in the library programming. Library programming participants attended literacy instruction during the morning and two hours of library enrichment in the afternoons for four weeks.

Library programming participants were split into two groups based on age, with one group of youth entering first, second, and third grades in the fall and the other entering fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. For both classrooms, typically the youth had some unstructured time at the beginning of the library-led programming, which often was time playing outside or LEGO® free time. After that unstructured time, participants in the younger classroom had a choice of two structured activities which had a clearly defined end product. Participants in the older classroom had several self-directed activities they could choose from and often ended up designing their own projects that did not have a defined end result.  

How did the evaluation work?

We knew SEL would be challenging to measure, so we tried several strategies. Library instructors facilitated individual smiley face surveys about specific activities, youth created end of summer reflective projects to share their experience, and our team observed four days of the program, focusing on SEL behaviors.  Unfortunately, the smiley face surveys did not work because it was challenging to consistently administer them, and participants reported that every activity was fun and easy. Our observations indicated that these reports were not always accurate–we saw youth struggle and disengage at times. The youths’ responses to the reflection prompts were largely positive and vague.

It is very possible that the youth we were working with were too young to share an opinion that was not positive. For example, in response to reflection questions about what they liked and disliked about the program, one youth wrote “I liked everything,” and drew hearts. Another limitation of this assessment was that the participants, particularly the younger age group, were still developing their reading and writing abilities. While we tried to minimize this issue by using smiley faces for response categories, it was still a problem.

Observational rubric

The observational behavior rubric was the most challenging and fruitful component of our project. After reviewing the literature, we were not able to find a freely available observational behavior rubric focused on SEL, so we developed our own. We initially observed youth with some key social and emotional behaviors in mind, and through the process of coding these observations, we developed a coding scheme and observational rubric.  

To create our coding scheme and rubric, we first identified three key areas of SEL, according to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). We chose to focus on self-management, relationship skills, and decision making. We used a behavior rubric that the Logan School for Creative Learning generously shared with us as a model to get started.  

After our initial design, we tested and refined the rubric repeatedly so that we could code consistently.  For example, under the category of self-management, the rubric included both “dis-engagement” and “engagement.” Engagement included behaviors like listening, being on task, task-completion, observing peers or teachers, and being responsive to directions. The relationship skills category included behaviors like “kind comment,” “unkind comment,” and “friendly chatting with peers or instructor.” The responsible decision making category included behaviors like “letting someone else do it for you,” “pride in work,” and “helping peers.”

Ultimately, coding our observations yielded preliminary, but valuable, results which are being used to inform youth programming and staff training.  

Results

Of the thirty-three enrolled students, twenty-six were in the younger group and seven were in the older group. We received nineteen consent forms for the younger group and six for the older group. There was inconsistent attendance, so the amount of time we were able to observe each participant varied. We observed seventeen participants in the younger group, and five in the older group. Due to the small sample size for the older group, as well as the open-ended design of their program, we decided to only analyze the data for the younger group.

Through analyzing our observational data, we found that during certain activities we saw more youth showing specific social and emotional skills and behaviors. For example, during the complex activity of making a solar-powered toy bug, youth participants were more frequently engaged in positive problem-solving and decision-making than during the simpler activity of painting a tree and attaching buttons to make a “button tree.”

Youth also displayed the highest rates of positive relationship skills–such as friendly chatting and sharing–during slime and leaf imprint activities, which are both open-ended, exploratory activities (projects with multiple ways to successfully complete the task).  Participants also had the highest rate of positive self-management during these two activities. We saw an even higher percentage of positive relationship skills during unstructured activity time, often LEGO® time.

Our sample per activity was quite small (sometimes we observed as few as three students completing an activity), so we are cautious about drawing overarching conclusions. Nonetheless, these results yielded helpful information about which types of activities could provide environments that foster SEL, which can inform our design of programs tailored to SEL skills.  

Resources for libraries

We want the library community to benefit from our experience trying to measure SEL, and in particular we want to share our observational behavioral rubric as a free tool for organizations to use to conduct their own evaluation.  For a copy of our rubric, click here. You may use and modify the rubric as long as you cite us.  For more information about this project, please contact Katie Fox at Library Research Service.

Reported challenges in Colorado’s public libraries nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017

LRS’s latest Fast Facts report summarizes the results of our annual investigation into the materials that are challenged in public libraries across Colorado. This Fast Facts details the number, type, and reasons for the challenges reported in the 2017 Public Library Annual Report. The information that public libraries provided to us about these challenges help demonstrate the attitude toward intellectual freedom in Colorado now and over time.

The number of challenges reported in Colorado nearly doubled from last year, rising from 22 challenges reported in 2016 to 41 challenges in 2017. It is unclear whether this is due to an actual increase in the challenges that occurred, or if it is a result of more thorough reporting. Despite the increase this year, the number of reported challenges has dropped 47% in the past ten years.

Keeping consistent with previous years, adult materials were challenged more often than children’s and young adult (YA) materials. About half (47%) of the materials challenged were intended for adults. Challenges for YA and children’s materials switched places, with YA challenges making up about a third (34%) of reported challenges, and children’s materials in a close third at 28%. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of all challenges resulted in no change, which has been the most common result since 2008.

The top reason for a reported challenge was Unsuited to Age Group, making up nearly a third (31%) of reported challenges, replacing Sexually Explicit (25%), which had been the top reason for challenges since 2012. Offensive Language (19%), Other (19%), and Insensitivity (16%) rounded out the top five reasons for a challenge in 2017.

Books were challenged more often than videos for the first time since 2014, accounting for about 3 in 5 (63%) of the reported challenges. Videos made up a quarter (25%) of reported challenges while computer (6%) and periodical (6%) challenges made up the rest.

For more results from the Public Library Challenges Survey, check out the full 2017 Challenged Materials in Public Libraries Fast Facts report. And, more information about intellectual freedom issues in libraries can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

Happy Holidays from LRS!

Wishing all of our fellow library data lovers a wonderful holiday season and a happy 2018!

More than 75,000 4-Year-Olds Received a Free Book During the 2016 One Book 4 Colorado

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One Book 4 Colorado (OB4CO) began in 2012 as a statewide initiative to distribute free copies of the same book to every 4-year-old in Colorado. In 2016, the book chosen was Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, which was distributed in both English and Spanish. More than 75,000 books were given away at more than 500 sites, including Denver Preschool Program preschools and both military and public libraries. LRS surveyed caregivers and participating agencies to learn more about the impact of this year’s OB4CO program on Colorado’s children. The results are compiled in our newest Fast Facts report.

After receiving Giraffes Can’t Dance, nearly three-quarters (72%) of caregivers who responded to a survey agreed that their child was more interested in books and reading, and more than two-thirds (68%) said that their child talked more about books and reading. Caregivers who reported reading to their child less than once a day were more likely to agree that the OB4CO book helped their child become more interested in books and reading. After participating in OB4CO, 4 in 5 (80%) caregivers felt that their community promoted a culture of reading.

The participating agencies surveyed also felt that the program had a positive impact. Nearly all agencies who responded to the survey (98%) reported that the 4 year-olds were excited to receive their copies of Giraffes Can’t Dance, and 9 in 10 (89%) said that the children talked about their book with others. Agencies also noticed an impact on the children’s parents; 7 in 10 (70%) of the participating agencies felt that parents showed an increased awareness of the importance of childhood reading and over half (54%) said that the OB4CO program brought new families to the library.

Voting for next year’s OB4CO will open in early January. Be on the lookout for the 2017 book options and vote for your favorite! More information about the OB4CO program can be found here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

We’re hiring!

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You are fascinated by statistics. You are deeply passionate about libraries. You understand the importance of data-driven decision making, but most importantly, your driving motivation is to make data and evaluation accessible and useful to a wide variety of audiences, from frontline librarians to policymakers and stakeholders.

So, when your phone buzzed this morning to let you know that a new job was posted to LibraryJobline.org, your heart skipped a beat when you saw five glorious words: Research…Analyst… Library…Research…Service.

The Research Analyst will lead a variety of research and evaluation efforts for and about libraries in Colorado and beyond – designing studies, analyzing the results, and presenting the findings in a variety of formats, ranging from scholarly journal articles to press releases. This person will also share her/his passion for data with the library community by providing training and professional development opportunities about evaluation in venues ranging from regional workshops to webinars to the national Research Institute for Public Libraries. The ideal candidate for this position…

  • Believes that evaluation can transform library practice
  • Has a strong background in statistical analysis, knowing which statistical methods are appropriate and how to correctly conduct data analysis using those methods
  • Has superior writing skills and can make research findings understandable to a broad spectrum of readers
  • Is an experienced trainer who can make data and evaluation topics accessible and interesting to lay audiences
  • BONUS: Has an eye for design and experience creating infographics

For more information and to apply, please see https://www.libraryjobline.org/job/5378/Research-Analyst . The application deadline is April 27, 2016.

Come work with us!

Come work with us!

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Are you interested in joining the LRS team? We’re hiring for two positions:

Position #1: Research Analyst

Do you hold a firm belief that statistics are fascinating? Do you often find yourself diving deep into data analysis to find the meaning behind the numbers? Do you enjoy making complex research results accessible to a wide variety of audiences? If so, we have the job for you! The Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service (LRS) has an opening for the position of Research Analyst.

The Research Analyst will lead a variety of research and evaluation efforts for and about libraries in Colorado and beyond – designing studies, analyzing the results, and presenting the findings in a variety of formats, ranging from scholarly journal articles to press releases. This person will also share her/his passion for data with the library community by providing training and professional development opportunities about evaluation in venues ranging from regional workshops to webinars to the national Research Institute for Public Libraries. The ideal candidate for this position…

  • Believes that evaluation can transform library practice
  • Has a strong background in statistical analysis, knowing which statistical methods are appropriate and how to correctly conduct data analysis using those methods
  • Has superior writing skills and can make research findings understandable to a broad spectrum of readers
  • Is an experienced trainer who can make data and evaluation topics accessible and interesting to lay audiences
  • BONUS:  Has an eye for design and experience creating infographics

For more information and to apply, see https://www.libraryjobline.org/job/5243/Research-Analyst?ref=page1. The application deadline is March 4, 2016.

Position #2: Research Assistant

Do you have a strong opinion about the Oxford comma and singular “they”? Do you find yourself looking for the “real story” behind the numbers reported in the media? Are you intrigued by the popularity of infographics? Do you like a combination of collaborative and independent work? If so, we’ve got the job for you! The Colorado State Library’s Library Research Service (LRS) has an opening for the position of Research Assistant.

This person will collaborate with LRS colleagues to write about research findings for the library community, develop content for LRS.org, and support evaluation projects. The ideal person for this opening is passionate about libraries, appreciates data and numbers, and is looking for a position that is part job, part discovery, and part learning. S/he is the type of person who knows…

  • how to write well, especially for non-experts and the web
  • why accurate data are so important
  • how to proofread and edit technical documents
  • how to provide excellent customer service
  • how to be part of a team and work independently
  • when to obsess about the small stuff and when to focus on the big picture
  • BONUS: experience or interest in data visualization

For more information and to apply, see https://www.libraryjobline.org/job/5242/Research-Assistant?ref=page1. The application deadline is March 4, 2016.

Half of public library respondents report internet connectivity speeds of more than 10 Mbps

Digital Inclusion_speed

Image credit: Digital Inclusion Survey

We’ve shared the Digital Inclusion Survey with you before, and now new research results dive into data specifically about broadband speeds in public libraries. More than 2,200 public libraries from 49 states reported upload and download speeds at their libraries for wired and Wi-Fi connections. City libraries reported median download speeds of 30 Mbps (wired) and 13 Mbps (Wi-Fi), while rural libraries reported medians of 9 Mbps (wired) and 6 Mbps (Wi-Fi).

According to the most recent data, about half (49.8%) of all libraries reported download speeds of more than 10 Mbps, up from just 18% that had achieved those speeds in 2009. The percentage of libraries with the slowest public Internet speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less dropped to 1 in 10 in 2013 from 42.2% in 2009. While the strides being made are exciting, the reality is that just 2% of public libraries meet national benchmarks set by the Federal Communications Commission for minimum speeds serving smaller communities (100 Mbps) and more than 50,000 people (1 Gbps).

Technical issues also abound, as might be expected when it comes to Internet connectivity speeds. Captured speeds—both at individual user’s devices and for uploads—lag behind subscribed network speeds. Peak use times meant reduced speeds, particularly for city libraries which saw direct download speeds drop 69% during heavy usage when compared to light usage periods.

Read the full report, including additional breakdowns by locale and connection type, here. This broadband discussion is even more timely considering Pew’s recent analysis of Census data about broadband access among households with children and the “homework gap” and what this information might mean for libraries. We’ll bring you more on that research soon.

 Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

LIS starting salaries are up almost 3% for new graduates according to Library Journal survey

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Image credit: Library Journal

As part of our periodic look at Library Journal’s Placements &Salaries Survey, we found good news rolling out overall for 2013 graduates. The 2014 survey looked at just over 2,000 of last year’s LIS graduates in order to assess changes in job description, salary, and geographic distribution across the profession. The general trend appears to be for positive growth – average starting salaries are up 2.6% across the board compared to 2013, and average starting salaries have risen above $45,000. The graduates also reported a slightly shorter job search, at an average of 4.2 months.

One component driving this improvement was an expansion of responsibilities across the digital sector of the field. Librarians are increasingly taking on responsibilities such as managing social media, digital asset/content, and digital projects. Out of all of the positions reported, those whose applicants garnered the highest starting salaries were data analytics, emerging technologies, knowledge management, and user experience/user interface design, all positions that offered an average starting salary over $55,000. Graduates entering into user experience/ user interface design positions started with salaries a staggering 53% higher than the average LIS graduate, at $70,026.

But here is the catch. Many of these digital positions still only account for a small portion of the total positions being filled by new graduates. For example, digital content management jobs were only a fraction (3%) of the total placements, and while they had a significant concentration in Western states and salaries were slightly higher than average, the overall starting salary for this position actually decreased somewhat from 2013 (by 5%). So what does all of this mean? Positions with substantial digital components are becoming more common, especially in private industry, archives, and public libraries, but this growth is not necessarily consistent across library type and geographical area. In the coming years, we will certainly have to keep an eye on this trend towards the digital LIS professional, as well as how positions and wages compare to those across the field.

Want to see how your library position or region is faring? You can access the full data from the survey here.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The Weekly Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

New Public Library Data Tools

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We are excited to present a brand new set of tools for interacting with data from our Public Library Annual Survey. The new tools are packed with features, including:

  • Quickly locate data for a single year and statistic group
  • Build custom data sets by specifying years, statistics, libraries, etc.
  • Visualize data using graphs and maps
  • Export data in .csv format

Did you know that Library Research Service now has over 25 years’ worth of public library data available? Our new tools make finding and analyzing this data simple!

Follow me to the new public library interactive tools

New Glee! Article in School Library Journal

Check out Julie and Chelsea’s piece about representing real school librarians on the hit TV show Glee!:

Hey, ‘Glee.’ Get Real: It’s time for the TV series to make room for a genuine librarian

Special thanks to Keith Curry Lance, who designed the poll that inspired this article.

~Julie

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LRS is part of the Colorado State Library, a unit of the Colorado Department of Education. We design and conduct library research for library and education professionals, public officials, and the media to inform practices and assessment needs.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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