Lunch at the Library Outcome Statements

California librarians have developed two outcomes for Lunch at the Library programs:

  1. Families know that they can get help and essential resources at the library
  2. Families feel healthy, happy, and safe

These outcomes are designed to leverage the potential of the Lunch at the Library program by focusing the library’s efforts on connecting families with the library’s resources and services and helping families feel welcome and comfortable in the library.


Outcomes-Based Planning

Outcomes evaluation is most effective when it is part of a systematic planning process. Lunch at the Library programs should be tailored toward achieving program outcomes.

Strategies for achieving outcome one include:

  • hand out summer reading information, program schedules, and flyers;
  • sign-up families for summer reading;
  • hand out brochures, bookmarks and other materials containing information about the library, its programs, and resources;
  • talk one-on-one with families about library resources;
  • create a resource table full of library and community information;
  • engage families in literacy programs that are accompanying the meal service; and
  • issue personal invitations to families to come back for library storytimes and other programs.

Strategies for achieving outcome two include:

  • create welcoming environments and ensure that staff and volunteers are friendly and helpful, for example, greet families as they arrive, say goodbye as they leave, and thank kids who throw away their trash;
  • display kids’ art on the wall;
  • talk with families about what they like and don’t like about the program;
  • engage families in programs and participate with them in sporting activities such as basketball and jump rope;
  • present programs focusing on healthy behaviors; and
  • train volunteers in being polite towards families.

Dynamic Youth Services through Outcome-Based Planning and Evaluation (American Library Association, 2006), by Eliza T. Dresang, Melissa Gross, and Leslie Edmonds Holt, provides a guide to outcomes-based planning and evaluation.


Gathering and Reporting Outcomes Data

Libraries issue surveys to collect outcomes data from families. The Lunch at the Library streamlined data collection methods have been designed by librarians to be easy to implement during the busy summer months. They include:

  1. Hand out our brief Lunch at the Library outcomes surveys to participating families — children, teens, and the adults who accompany them. The surveys should be distributed weekly, beginning midway through the program. In the later weeks, library staff and volunteers should ask participants if they have already completed the survey before handing it out, to help ensure that no one completes it twice.
  2. Enter the data captured on the survey forms into an online survey that is created by Lunch at the Library project staff. Data entry is another great job for teen volunteers.
  3. Project staff export online survey data in the fall and send libraries personalized reports of their data. The results can easily be imported into local reports and publicity materials.


Gathering and Reporting Output Data

Participating libraries complete a statewide participation survey at the end of the summer. Your data (on how many meals were served, programming you offered, etc.). The survey data (which includes how many meals were served, programming information, and feedback from library staff) helps the Lunch at the Library project staff demonstrate the value and impact of California’s public library summer meal programs, and provide improved support to libraries in the future.

Survey questions, for reference, are below. Project staff collect participation survey data using an online survey toward the end of summer. One person from each participating jurisdiction should respond on behalf of all participating branch libraries.


Data Collection and Reporting Tools (outcomes and output data)

Data collection and reporting tools for Summer 2020 will be available in March 2020.


Using Program Data

Use program data — stories, quotes, numbers — to raise awareness of value and impact of the summer meal program.

  • Customize the Infographic template by including local data to highlight the library’s impact.
  • Include information about summer meals in the library’s annual report, and reports to the library foundation, the friends group, and to city council.
  • Promote success stories on the library’s website, in the library, in local media, and to local partners. Make sure the whole community knows about the summer meal program.
  • Let all library staff know about the program’s successes.
  • Use program data to reflect on the summer’s activities and work with staff to improve the program.