The mission of the Institute of Museum and Library Services is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. Our accountability for advancing this goal reaches in many directions: toward our federal decision-makers, toward our grantee communities and their audiences, and to the public at large. If we are sincere in our goal—to help libraries and museums contribute to a nation whose people routinely seek strong skills and knowledge, adapt productively to change, actively engage in their work and communities, and excel in many areas of personal and public life—we must do more than provide support. We must measure and report our progress.

Note that for IMLS, while academic knowledge and skills are foundations, learning is broader. It includes the cognitive, social, and physical; the practical, entertaining, and personal; the formal and informal; and many, many more domains and settings. Learning represents knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors that support individual success in our complex world—in short, outcomes. Outcomes allow us to know something about the extent to which we have (or haven’t) reached our audiences. Information about outcomes allows us to strengthen our services. Equally important, it communicates the value of museums and libraries to the broadest spectrum of those to whom we account. Without data, it’s been said, "you’re just another guy with an opinion."

IMLS has responded to your need to know what difference our services make by developing a model of outcomes-based planning and evaluation as one foundation of our grant making. As our grantee or constituent, you connect to your audiences where learning happens. You can document individual change, often small and immediate, when it occurs. You can apply outcomes information quickly, to strengthen services as you develop and provide them. Finally, only you can accommodate the great variety of missions, resources, audiences, and creative services of museums and libraries as you assess your work. We turn to you not only to build locally effective learning resources and experiences, but also to measure the extent to which they achieve their educational purposes.

This area of our Web site contains information and resources about outcomes-based planning and evaluation. We hope you will return to this site often to see additions. If you have questions about library or museum-appropriate outcomes, or about outcomes-oriented planning or evaluation, please don’t hesitate to contact IMLS’s Research and Evaluation Officer, Matt Birnbaum, at mbirnbaum@imls.gov.

Susan Hildreth
Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services

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