shared experiences and narrative indicators

I just read a blog post by the artist Nina Paley about a talk she gave to some teens and what they felt was the best way to support artists (when they had money some day). I thought it was an interesting post, not only because of the copyright ideas (Nina Paley isn’t a big fan of how copyright in the States works) but because of what the teens want. The most interesting facet (and why I bring it up here) was this:

Live Shared Experiences, including ballet, museum exhibits, and concerts. The event aspect was important; they wanted to be able to say, “Remember that one time when that awesome show was here…” They agreed seeing things in person is a more powerful experience than seeing things online, and worth spending more on. One said she would buy CD at a live show because “it reminds you of the show.”

I think that live shared experience is something we can do for teens in libraries. And I think that was what bothered me about the objectives and indicators we were talking about in class on Friday. I realize that administration wants something measurable because that’s easier to justify to everyone. But if our goals are more nebulous, like “creating positive relationships with our members” (which I maintain is a legitimate goal), the indicators are going to be more story-like, more “Remember that one time…”

Now, the scenarios we were working with in class were more service-based and could have those measurable indicators, which is fine, but I think even in those kinds of situations one of our indicators should be stories you can tell your administration, even if those stories don’t correlate perfectly with something that can go on a spreadsheet.

I guess I’m saying we should probably take a mixed approach to assessing our programs using both hard numbers and narratives, because then we’re doing a better job of satisfying our superiors and the people we’re there for. Does that make sense to anyone else? Or was that already part of what we were talking about and I overlooked it in my worrying about giving so much privilege to numbers?

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