Impact interviews

Questionnaires often provide the numbers behind impact

Non-urgent advice: Important

An impact interview can be used to collect a ‘story’ which can be used to promote the knowledge and library services and gain a deeper understanding of a service you wish to develop supplement data that has been obtained via a questionnaire.  

Questionnaires often provide the numbers but the interview will provide the 'how' and the 'why' behind the numbers

Library professional in conversation with a user
Library professional in conversation with a user

Why conduct an interview? 

  • It can provide qualitative data which will help understand the impact of a specific service. 
  • This could be the impact on an individual or how information has been used. 

Interviewer forms 

These three documents are for use an impact interview: 

Arranging interviews 

You need to consider the following points prior to arranging interviews: 

Interviewer bias

Who is conducting the interview?   

It may be more appropriate to obtain an external interviewer. Librarians in neighbouring Trusts may be willing to do this on a reciprocal basis

Think about influencing factors of the surrounding environment

Think about whether the way you have selected the sample could lead to overly positive (or negative) results

Interview format

Does the interview need to be ‘in person’? Can it be delivered by email or over the phone? 

Selectionof interviewees 

Can this be: 

an opportunistic selection of candidates from a group or library visitors

targeted users of a specific service

a list of recommended people to interview by a key individual


  • Some types of sample selection could provide biased results
  • Do not approach people for interview who have previously expressed a desire not to be approached as this will breach GDPR

Incentives for interviewees  

Are you offering any incentive to improve uptake e.g. prize draws, give-aways, forgiving library fines? 

Length of interviews  

Approximately 10 mins if you are looking for a few promotional quotes

Up to 60 mins for research you are considering putting forward for publication


Can you meet after a meeting or at lunch-time?   

Remember to be flexible

Remember to share this information about the interview with participants prior to the interview to help them manage their expectations. 

Managing the interview process 

Practice interviewing  

Once prepared, find a volunteer to test your interview skills on and reflect on the feedback

You may also want to practice using any recording equipment or how you record your notes as this will affect what you can get out of the interview


Prepare the list of interview questions in advance

Have suitable prompts to help the participants further understand the meaning of the questions

Share the questions with the participant prior to the interview to give them some additional thinking time

Be flexible in your questions and seek clarification on specific points

Impact specifics 

Cost savings: it is especially powerful for advocacy and marketing to be able to quote a specific cost saving (e.g. £10,000)  

If the specific cost saving has not been calculated ask the interviewee to provide an informed estimate of cost savings

Time savings: ask how much time has been saved and what level of staff was involved (consultant / nurse, etc.)?   

If other impacts have been acknowledged, obtain enough detail to be able to tell the story of how specifically – for example “Patient Care” – has been improved

Environment of the interview  

The interview should be as open and informal as possible

The more conversational, then the more useful information you are likely to obtain

Think about how to create a comfortable environment and how to put people at ease

Skills of the interviewer 

The interviewer should be confident at communication and a good listener

Respondents should be left time to think and respond to the questions

The interviewer needs to remain attentive and be encouraging.  Try not to lead the respondent

Focus of the interview  

It is important to keep the interview in focus

People have taken time out of their busy days to support you, so remember to keep to the agreed time

If necessary gain permission from the participant to extend the interview

Consult with the interviewee  

When writing up the responses, remember to provide the participant with a copy to confirm the accuracy


Remember to get the participant to complete the consent form for the use of data  

If they have requested it keep them informed on how the data is used

 Further information 

Page last reviewed: 15 June 2021