How do we define good mental health and wellbeing? And what role could the library play in improving wellbeing? These two questions are big, but it’s important to consider them before starting out on running an event, designing a service or delivering any intervention in the library setting. By thinking about what we want to achieve, it’s easier to connect up aims and goals with the right evaluation design, and ultimately, be clearer about whether what we have done has made the difference we intended to make.

There are some broad reasons to evaluate:

  • to improve the activity/initiative in future iterations
  • to gather quotes from participants to attract future participation
  • to gather evidence of impact to sustain management buy-in
  • to support gaining funding for more sustainable activity

But some outcomes we might be trying to achieve specifically around mental health and wellbeing are:

  • Giving people more knowledge and information about diagnosed mental health conditions
  • Signposting to local supportive services so that students (and staff) know where to seek help
  • Giving people more insight into their own mental health/wellbeing
  • Enabling people to become more connected with others with similar experiences
  • Relieving stress in the moment (e.g. around exam time)
  • Encouraging better self-care practices (e.g. taking a break, getting enough sleep etc)
  • Providing distraction or escapism at difficult times
  • Creating a sense of belonging and building a community
  • Helping students (or staff) to overcome something specific, like loneliness


Once we have thought about these outcomes, it’s easier to think about what metrics for evaluation might be more meaningful. It might be difficult to establish ‘cause and effect’ and often in evaluation there is a tension between efficiency and validity. Asking people to rate an event on a simple scale, demands little of participants and gives an overall impression of success. But its not necessarily a valid measure of an activity if it is intended to change behaviour or promote learning. In the context of mental health and wellbeing this is a critical issue because just asking if participants enjoyed an event is not in itself evidence of an impact on mental health.

Evaluation options:

  1. Statistics of numbers of participants or users of a resource
  2. Ask participants to fill in a simple form after an event/ or after using a resource to rate their satisfaction
  3. Follow up on an event with a questionnaire
  4. Conduct interviews with participants after the event to collect narrative material how behaviour or feelings have changed
  5. Before and after measures of mental health and wellbeing, eg The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales - WEMWBS