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Observation Deck: A Librarian's Toolkit

Observation Deck logo

Thank you for your interest in our IMLS project, now officially named the Observation Deck. This project has migrated to its own website. For the most recent updates, please find us at 

Madison Public Library, in collaboration with two other libraries, Waupaca Area Public Library and Skokie Public Library, is developing a librarian’s toolkit application for collecting and analyzing qualitative data and outcomes in library programs. Learning outcomes help libraries develop relationships, develop confidence, engage in self-directed tasks, or exercise creativity. 

Partner Library Logos - Madison Public Library, Waupaca Area Public Library, and Skokie Public Library

Project Overview

Learning outcomes that are important to libraries like developing relationships, developing confidence, engaging in self-directed tasks, or exercising creativity, are exceptionally hard to measure, but not impossible. There is a broad and established practice of measuring or capturing evidence of outcomes like these through observation. However, those observations are most commonly accomplished by working with an outside evaluator or academic institution.

The goal of this toolkit is to provide infrastructure and best practices for practicing librarians to accomplish these observations on their own, analyze the results, and make data based claims about the success of their hands-on library programming that they can easily share with a variety of stakeholders. 

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Development Plan 

Partnering with BYTE studios out of Milwaukee, Wi, the librarian's toolkit is a three year project focusing on research from the field and an iterative design process. 

The full development plan of our toolkit is available for view here

Work-in-progress prototypes

Version 1: defining the functions and features

This version of the prototype focuses on the series of interfaces for real-time data collection. Its purpose was to identify all the features and functions necessary.

There are some gaps in the prototype due to the limitation of the software such as a lack of continuity between the data you enter and the data you see and the prototyping not looking the greatest. This will all, of course, will all be resolved when we start building the tool. 

To explore this functional prototype, go here: Prototype - Version 1

Version 2: exploring the design system

 After identifying the basic functionality of the tool, we are starting to dive deeper into the design. 

This clickthrough only shows capturing-in-real-time states and has a system where once the user has created a session and added an observation, they can go between any of the four sections to edit or view. The side navigation offers steps relevant to where the user is in the process.  

There is no dynamic data, so you won’t be able to input. Additionally features and functions have been bypassed such as staring, editing, deleting, sorting, etc.

To explore this clickthrough prototype, go here: Prototype - Version 2

Next Steps

We are excited to continue the design process to complete our Beta model during the summer of 2023 while sharing and gathering feedback at the American Library Association Conference and Play, Make, Learn conference at the University of Wisconsin. Our full testing cycle of this version will occur in the fall of 2023. 

  1. Continue explore interface design
  2. Design report interfaces for analysis and sharing
  3. Beta version of our analysis & reporting platform 
  4. Fall 2023 Testing Cycle at Madison, Skokie, and Waupaca Public Libraries 
  5. Iterative design 
  6. Expansion to additional library partners 
  7. Long term sustainability


We would love to hear from you and your institution.

Open Source Project

Open Source Overview

This project built on open source tools to be able to allow libraries to install directly onto their own servers. We are building this using Directus as the data provider with a custom website interface for the observer tool and reports tool. 

Hosted Version Coming Soon

For libraries without the technical expertise to manage their own open source version, we are planning a hosted version for a small monthly fee.

Technical / Data Consulting Partner 

Byte is a development, data and consulting studio for libraries and has worked with Milwaukee Public Library, Jonesboro Public Library and museums including The Walters Art Museum and The George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon. Michael Diedrick is the lead developer and Sonal Jain is the lead designer on this project.

Feel free to contact the team, if you have preferences or questions on technical requirements, open source, or open licensing.

Contact Us 

Are you interested in trying out this tool, sharing your ideas, or just have some questions? Get in touch by emailing project manager Rebecca Millerjohn at

Presentation header - LIBtooklit for Capturing Learning Outcomes & Impact

Explore our paper prototype

Download, print and try a distilled version of the prototype to try out at your event and programs.

Madison Public Library Frameworks: 

Bubbler Framework (PDF)
True Play Framework (PDF)

Skokie Public Library: 

Studio Framework (PDF)
Youth Learning Framework (PDF)

Waupaca Area Public Library: 

STEAM Learning Framework (PDF)

 ALA 2023 Presentation

We recently presented at the All American Library Association Conference on June 23, 2023.

Explore our presentation, New Digital Tools for Capturing Learning Outcomes and Impact. 

Slide Deck 

Hand Outs