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Getting your End of the Year report read

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau

I've long advised that a good communications plan is key to a vital library program and that a good annual report is part of that plan.

Examples of comprehensive and inventive annual reports that I encourage people to examine include:

But Jeri Hurd in Rethinking the Library Annual Report (Part 1) challenges this assumption by stating "Annual Reports are a COMPLETE waste of time." She qualifies this statement, but she has a valid point - any report that goes unread, no matter how lovingly crafted, how amazingly complete, or how stunningly designed, is a waste of the librarian's time. 

The key to a successful report lies not in its clarity or composition or medium, but in its direct correlation to the school's goals. Ms LaGuarde suggests this when she writes "I tried to focus on data they [administrators] would actually care about." And just what do administrators care about?

In the column "Who Doesn't Get It?", I suggested:

... most people get “it” [our message about libraries' value] just fine - they just have a different reality that makes our “it” less important to them than to us. 

 As librarians, we can offer the very best hammer in the world, but if your principal, your teachers or your parents really need and want a wrench, a screwdriver or a hacksaw, having a hammer, no matter how wonderful, is simply immaterial. They get “it” that you have a great hammer - it just isn’t relevant or important to them. Even if you think it darned well should be.

That is secret to a powerful year end report - the alignment of our "it" to their "it." Not graphics. Not succinctness. Not reams of data. Show how your program helps meet your building's goals.

And if your building doesn't have goals? Then I would certainly find ways to learn what challenges my principal, teachers, parents, and students face and use those challenges as the basis of my library program goals.

A document that shows how I helped you solve your problems just might be of interest.


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Reader Comments (2)

Stay tuned for part II, Doug. As I said in the post, that was the EASY part! And because it's easy, I still say it's mostly useless to anyone but librarians. We need to think about how to document our impact on student learning, which is much harder to do.

I do think the final document I put together (I only linked to part 1 in that) post), starts on that, with the embedded video from teachers and students talking about how various assignments challenged their thinking and academic routines. But, in this data-driven ages, there needs to be more.

As I said, part II! : )

June 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJeri Hurd

Hi Jeri,

I am looking forward to reading part II! You raised a wonderful question that I am guessing 99% of the profession also ask.

I've been struggling with accountability and impact for years and still feel I am not a lot closer to a good solution.

Demonstrating Our Impact - Putting Numbers in Context Part 1 Dec/Jan 2006/07
Demonstrating Our Impact - Putting Numbers in Context Part 2 March 2007
A Trick Question, January 2007 <>

What really challenges me is what we should do if our professional goals and values may not align with our institution's goals and values (ie, love of reading and independent thought vs. high reading test scores). Do we be good soldiers? Do we become subversive? Do we find a school that shares our values?

Still thinking...


June 1, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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