Proof of PJ Library’s Impact

By Sarah Martin


Findings from the 2019 PJ Library Triennial evaluation show that as PJ Library welcomes families with a wide variety of backgrounds, it remains a trusted resource for parents.

In my job as director of evaluation at PJ Library, I’m constantly learning in ways you would expect – and in a few you wouldn’t. I’m not a parent, and I’m not Jewish, so I often rely on my colleagues’ knowledge (and patience!) to fill in gaps of my understanding. But sometimes being on the outside is an advantage. I have fewer preconceived notions about what PJ Library families look like and how they experience the program. Part of my work is to check in regularly with families and learn more about who comprises the PJ Library community. My lack of assumptions helps me see these families for who they are rather than who we think they might be.

And the PJ Library subscriber base is ever-changing, which is inherent in the nature of a program that is growing rapidly and where children eventually age out of receiving the books. Our most recent triennial evaluation, which was fielded in the fall of 2019, confirmed that fact yet again. Over the past three years, the program has not only grown by more than 40,000 families (reaching 160,000 total families in the US and Canada in November 2019), but the backgrounds of enrolled families are increasingly varied. The proportions of PJ Library families who speak a language other than English, identify as an interfaith household, or have a member who identifies as LGBTQ have all increased since the 2016 evaluation.

We know PJ Library will continue to grow and change as we strive to reach as many families as possible, but our commitment to quality will always remain the same. The PJ Library team works every day to make sure that parents and families are happy with program offerings and are getting what they need from PJ Library, no matter what their households look like.


“How likely are you to recommend this program to a friend?” This question really boils down to parent satisfaction, which is why we’ve asked it in many different surveys over the years – from in-the-envelope resources to in-person community programs. (We’re not the only ones who ask it. You might recognize the question as a hybrid of the Net Promoter Score, which was developed by Bain & Company and is commonly used across many industries to understand customer satisfaction.) Most respondents – 86%, to be exact – indicated that they are very likely to recommend* signing up to receive PJ Library books to family and friends, and that holds true whether families are raising their children exclusively Jewish or Jewish and another religion (87% for both groups). Satisfaction is essential to cultivating trust.


We’ve long asked how likely parents are to recommend us, but 2019 was the first year we tried to find out whether families depend on us. We’re glad we asked: Half of respondents indicated they do indeed rely on PJ Library as either the main source (10%) or one of a few sources (39%) to learn about Jewish values and traditions. The proportion increases to 68% for families who don’t enroll their kids in Jewish educational activities like day school, preschool, or summer camp and to 70% for respondents who are part of an interfaith household. It turns out there’s a remarkable educational responsibility on PJ Library’s shoulders.


The latest evaluation found that 68% of respondents indicated they completely agree (19%) or somewhat agree (49%) that they are more likely to attend a local event for families or parents if it is sponsored or endorsed by PJ Library. The percentage jumps to 74% for Spanish-speaking families (27% completely agree and 47% somewhat agree). PJ Library partners with nearly 200 community organizations across the US and Canada to support Jewish programming for families, so it’s important that we and our partners know that parents trust the PJ Library name. 


For the second study in a row, the majority of respondents indicated they regard PJ Library as a valuable parenting tool (46% completely agree and 43% somewhat agree – that’s 89% total!). For these families, PJ Library has helped parents talk to their kids about their Jewish heritage (82%), create opportunities for quality family time (63%), and support moral/ethical values (61%). Respondents who are part of an LGBTQ household, an interfaith household, or a household with a person of color are even more likely to regard PJ Library as a valuable parenting tool (91%, 93%, and 92%, respectively). 

In early May 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 health crisis in the Northeast, PJ Library’s Rabbi Melanie Levav and Sarah Ruderman Wilensky hosted a webinar titled “Talking with Children about Death and Loss in the Age of Coronavirus.” Registration quickly maxed out (more than 1,300 online participants), and parents submitted hundreds of questions. It was a stark, real-life example of what all these triennial evaluation findings actually mean. When parents and families are looking for support and guidance, they turn to PJ Library as a trusted resource. This example re-energizes my commitment to leading evaluation work to understand who PJ Library families are and what they need so that we can build the best program experience possible.

*Respondents selected 8-10 on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being extremely likely