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The Public Library Context

Bridgette Johnson

Throughout the spring semester, the author will be doing a case study analysis of the Kingsport Public Library and focusing on their Time for Two‘s storytime for two-year-olds. The results will be published via web in seven parts: the public library context, identification of the public library users, service to assess/evaluate, case study analysis, developing an evaluation action plan, collecting and analyzing data, and user centered assessment/evaluation in public library services. For the first assignment, the author emailed library director Helen Whittaker to gain information about the library, its services, patrons, and strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, the author examined city demographics to gain an understanding of the user community.

1.1 Identify your PL agency. Characterize the nature of the agency, its setting (size,system/branch, location, library governance, etc.), and the people who are employed in it. What kind of organization is it? What are its members like? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

The agency is the Kingsport Public Library and Archives (KPL). It is a level V library, serving 52,926 people in Kingsport city which includes parts of both Sullivan and Hawkins county with a land area of 44.1 square miles (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013).

The library is in a consortium with 15 other libraries through which books can be requested and are sent by a courier three times a week to KPL. KPL also lends books to the libraries in the consortium. KPL is the single library in Kingsport City with no branches. The building is 37,000 square feet spread across five floors, which includes a basement that houses the archives. The library is centrally located in downtown Kingsport. The library has a total staff of 22 people with 15 full-time positions and 7 part-time positions. Twelve staff have a MLIS, three have a Bachelor‘s, two have a Master‘s, and five have high school diplomas.

The strengths of the library include a hard working and dedicated staff, a supportive library commission, and a supportive Friends of the Library group. The library also offers varied programs for all ages and has a strong summer reading program with professional performers for elementary students and separate programming for storytimes and teen events. The library also partners well with community organizations to gain speakers for adult health seminars, lunch hour gardening seminars, and provide technology programing for the teen through the local 4-H (Whittaker, H, Personal Communication, January 21, 2015).

The weaknesses of the library include a lack of staff and a lack of budget for a Level V library. The building is in poor condition and in need of repairs. There is no dedicated space for children‘s storytime as all programs share the one auditorium on the second floor. There is no dedicated computer class room, no computer lab, and a lack of group study rooms. There is one group study room that requires a sign in and a glassed in quiet area in the reference department (Whittaker, H, Personal Communication, January 21, 2015).

1.2 Summarize the PL organization‘s mission, goals, and objectives.

The KPL‘s mission is to grow and develop with the community to meet the cultural, educational, and informational needs of the people in a welcoming setting that supports lifelong learning. The vision is to enhance lives by inspiring a literate population through excellent customer service and offering a wide spectrum of services for all ages to enhance the quality of life and economic development in the community.

1.3 Provide an analysis of the PL in terms of its rationale, vision, market, offerings, and capabilities (see Ch. 3, Matthews 2004, p. 29).


The mission of the KPL is to “to grow and develop with the community to meet the people‘s cultural, educational, and informational needs in a welcoming setting that supports lifelong learning”(Kingsport Public Library, 2011). Therefore, KPL exists to help its users with the necessary resources for personal improvement. The library intends to grow as the community grows to continue to meet its users‘ needs. KPL intends to serve users through every stage of life to create lifelong learners.


The KPL‘s vision is to maintain their previous level of customer service and programs and to “inspire and sustain a literate citizenry” to enhance economic development and quality of life in the community. The library plans to expand hours, services, and technology in the coming years, which include more full-time staff, and maintaining the programs and services they offer (Kingsport Public Library, 2011).


Kingsport city has a large educated population. For the population ages 25 and over, 87.9% have a high school diploma, 25.9% have a bachelor‘s degree, and 10.5% have a graduate or professional degree. The unemployment rate for this group is 5.8% with an average work commute time of 17.4 minutes (, 2012).

Kingsport has an estimated 23, 890 males (46.4%) and 27,611 (53.6%) females (, 2012). Of the population, 91.9% identified as white alone, 4.1% as black or African-American alone, 2.1% Hispanic or Latino, alone, 1.8% as two or more races, 1% as Asian alone, and .3% as Native American and Alaska native alone. There are 4,912 veterans living in Kingsport between 2009 and 2013 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010).

The median resident age is 44 years (, 2012). The percentage of persons over 65 years is 20.8%, representing the second largest population. The percentage of persons under 5 years is 5.8%, representing the smallest population. The percentage of persons under 18 is 21%, representing the largest reported population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). The median household income is $38, 918 yet the income with the largest numbers of households in it is $10,000-$15,000 with somewhere between 350-400 households. The average household size is 2.2 people with 61.5% being family households and 5% of households having unmarried partners. Lesbian and Gay households account for .05% of households. The rate of people living in poverty 17.2% with two or races having the highest percent at 40.7% and White, Non-Hispanic having the lowest at 16.2% (, 2012).

In June 2014, the unemployment rate was 7.3%. The two most common industries between 2008-2012 were Manufacturing (25%) and Retail Trade (13%). The two most common occupations were Other Production Occupations including Supervisors (7%) and Other Management occupations except farmers and farm management (5%) (, 2012).


For birth to eighteen, the KPL offers weekly storytime for two-year-olds and preschoolers, Paws to Read for independent readers, and a bi-weekly book club for middle and high schoolers. Youth Services also has two internet access computers for users under fourteen, two internet access computers in the new Teen Area for middle and high schoolers and one iMac with photo and video editing software. Adult programs consist of weekly job lobs, along with computer classes, tablet and e-reader classes, gardening seminars, health series, author signings, and three to four free photography workshops throughout the year (Events, 2015). The Archives creates displays in the library along with offering access to rare documents and research help. The Friends of the Archives have public events once every three to four months with guest speakers. The archivist and a volunteer plan to offer a series of classes on genealogy and genealogical research (B. Wright, personal communication, January 21, 2015).

KPl has 23 internet workstations, including those in the teen and kids area, ten public laptops, and three public non-internet workstations. There are six online public access internet computers for searching the catalog only, five public copiers/printers, two public print release stations, and two children‘s computer literacy stations. KPL also has three scanners, three microfilm readers, which includes one on PC, one magnification machine for public use, one self-check computer station with 2 monitors, and eleven Nooks for public use(Kingsport Public Library, 2015). KPL also has wireless internet for public use throughout the building along with wireless printing that can be done from any computer, anywhere by going through the library‘s website (Library To Go, 2015).

The library also has an app for searching, requesting materials, and checking users‘ account that is available for both Android and Apple devices. The library also uses the Overdrive App for users to access e-books and e-audiobooks through READS. Users have access to the Tennessee Electronic Database (TEL) and several other databases through the library including, TumbleBooks, TumbleBookCloud, PowerSpeak, Students Resources in Context, and resources for small businesses, newspaper archives, and test preparation (Library To Go, 2015).

The library offers a Books to Your Door program for homebound patrons, which is entirely run by volunteers and the Friends of the Library. KPL is assisted by many volunteers performing different duties. Youth Services typically has over fifteen summer volunteers to assist with summer reading. Other adult volunteer duties include assisting with genealogy research, shelving books, and processing and sorting book donations for the yearly Friends of the Library community wide book sale (Jones, K, personal communication, January 23, 2015).

Most of the materials can be accessed by physically coming to the library, but many of the resources are available remotely with an internet connection. E-books can be downloaded anywhere there is internet and databases can be accessed in the same fashion. While there is access for remote users to many services, internet access is required for all of them, which puts those who do not have internet access at a disadvantage.


In addition to the resources available, the library needs more staff and more hours to better serve the community. Youth Services often receives requests for more programs geared for elementary students along with programming specific for home school students. There is no dedicated storytime space, which makes it difficult to schedule more than one storytime per day and to offer new programs, like a lapsit program for birth to age two as the current programer wishes to do (Jones, K, Personal Communication, January 23, 2015).

The Technology plan in place needs to be followed to give the best access possible to the users. The computer software needs to be maintained and updated as needed.

The library needs more space and there is an expansion/renovation plan for the library at its existing site to build a new wing and renovate the building. Of course, funds are needed for this along with the support of the community and approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to secure some of the funds from the City of Kingsport (Kingsport Public Library, 2011).

1.4 Describe the vision statement of the PL. What are the various roles that it performs? What are the PL’s various service responses? (see ASPL, p. 8-9).

The vision of the Kingsport Public Library is to “inspire and sustain a literate citizenry, enhancing lives through knowledge and information. We will offer outstanding customer service and will be a gateway to learning for all ages, offering a wide spectrum of services, materials and programming to enhance the quality of life and economic development in our community” (Kingsport Public Library, 2011). KPL‘s vision for the future is to foster lifelong learning to have citizens that are literate and to enhance users‘ life and economic development in the community.

Though KPL does not have a specific set of roles in the current strategic plan for 2007-2027, looking at past and current roles reveals its main focus is on Preschoolers‘ Door to Learning, Popular Materials Center, Independent Learning Center, and Reference Library.

Preschoolers’ Door to Learning:

KPL has a Time for Two‘s Storytime for 24-26 months and a Preschool Storytime for 3-5 years offered Tuesday and Thursday respectively throughout the year. The storytimes adapt to the summer reading program theme each year and often feature guest presents from local organizations like Warrior‘s Path State Park. KPL also has an entire floor for Youth Services and is currently in the process of installing an Interactive Learning Area for birth through age six. The area will have interactive wall panels to work on color, number, and letter recognition along with a train table and a play kitchen. All children are encouraged to participate in the Summer Reading Program and can count the books read in storytime to earn a sticker for each book. The goal is to have children associating the library and books with fun and to offer parents an example of how to interact with the children using books (Jones, K.,Personal Communication, January 23, 2015).

Popular Materials Center:

KPL offers current and popular materials in a variety of formats. With many Young Adult books being made into movies, Youth Services has multiple copies of Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games trilogy, Veronica Roth‘s Divergent trilogy, and J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series along with multiple copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. KPL also offers the current titles in a variety of formats including physical print books, physical audiobooks, e-books, and often e-audiobooks. If there is a DVD of the book, KPL offers that also, along with many other popular movies, TV shows, and documentaries. KPL also does the same with adult titles and non-fiction sources that are in demand (Jones, K, Personal Communication, January 23, 2015).

Independent Learning Center

KPL offers non-fiction books for research for both Youth and Adults along with internet access with a library card or internet use only card to further research. In addition to the print books in the library, KPL also has numerous databases online for independent learning on any topic. Any information than can not be found in the building or online, may be available through the regular courier that comes thrice weekly or can be requested through the Interlibrary Loan Service. This aids in the library‘s vision to “enhance quality of life” (Kingsport Public Library, 2011).

Reference Library:

The Reference Library for KPL includes both the reference section and the reference librarians on the fourth floor, but also the archives in the basement. The Reference Library houses varied materials from local history, atlases, maps, genealogy research materials, periodicals, newspapers, and microfilm.

The KPL services responses are varied and many, including:

Local History and Genealogy:

In addition to being a public library, KPL houses the City of Kingsport Archives staffed by a full-time archivist. The archivist has a volunteer who has a MLIS and does take on current MLIS students for a practicum/internship. In addition to the archives, KPL has a genealogy section in the Reference department that is often aided by two knowledgeable volunteers. One of the volunteers will be leading a class on how to get started searching for family history in the fall of 2015 (Cassell, K, Personal Communication, January 21, 2015).

Business and Career Information:

KPL has a Small Business Center as part of the Reference Department that consists of physical books in the library along with two databases online in addition to a page on the library‘s website with links to useful websites. The books cover everything from starting your own business, franchising, tax laws, business plans, and marketing.

Current Topics and Titles:

KPL offers many current books, audiobooks, and DVDs. In addition to offering materials, KPL offers programs to current topics, such as the lunch time gardening seminars mentioned previously, and showing a popular movie for teens as part of the summer reading program.

Community Referral:

Community Referral happens frequently at KPL. Parents often come into Youth Services wanting information about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Though not a strictly local organization, as it is statewide, KPL has paper forms to parents/guardians to fill out and mail in along with the information to direct users to the online form. KPL will also be hosting a “Kingsport Kids Out & About” fair where over twenty-two vendors will be coming to the library to exhibit their programs. All of the vendors are local organizations that offer programs for kids ranging from preschoolers to high schoolers (Kingsport Kids Out and About, 2015).

Information Literacy:

KPL offers computer classes throughout the year to help users learn the basics of using a computer. KPL also offers specific computer classes on different software. One-on-one informal sessions happen often in the reference department as user encounter issues on the public access computers that are in the Reference department. Staff, especially Reference staff, assist both in class and in person as questions arise with the library‘s app and the READS app.

Lifelong Learning:

KPL provides a collection of both physical and digital titles for every age. Youth Services has physical board books, picture books, first chapter books, kids fictions, young adult fiction, biographies, magazines, and access to TumbleBookLibrary, TumbleBookCloud, TumbleBookCloud Junior, and TumbleTalkingBook. KPL has movies for children and adults, along with magazines and an adult fiction and large print selection. There is an ample adult non-fiction collection supplemented by online databases along with the Reference department with genealogy research (Explore, 2015).

1.5 Develop a sample PL Values Statement (see Ch. 3. Matthews 2004, p. 34-35).

The Kingsport Public Library does not currently have a values statement. A values statement that would in line with the KPL‘s mission and vision statement would be: The Kingsport Public Library places value in fostering lifelong learning for all ages and all people through programming, access to materials in multiple formats, and excellent customer service in an inviting atmosphere characterized by professionalism and integrity.

1.6 List various strategic aims of the PL and at least three specific library strategies in relation to potential services to improve.

The strategic plan for the Kingsport Public Library for 2007-2027 was last updated in 2007 and breaks the aims into six different categories: facility, access, collections, services, staffing, and visibility and value.

The facilities aims include a need for 55,000 square feet, a teen room, dedicated storytime room for 50, computer training lab for 10, cafe, 4 quiet study rooms, 40 public internet computer, and 100 seats throughout the building for reading. Access aims to add hours, drive by book returns, develop an online payment fine payment, and to maintain Book to Your Door program among others. Collections include adding 51,000 books over the 20 year period, add 11,500 non-print items over 20 years, and more space for displays and sitting among others. Services include increasing the number of programs for kids, teens, and adults, and to develop customer service standards/monitors/rewards. Staffing aims to add 17.6 full time employees. Visibility and value aims to develop a coordinated marketing plan and assign one employee to oversee the plan, communicate needs to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, include Friends of the Library in marketing efforts, host a traveling exhibit every other year, and to identify long-term fiscal needs among others (Kingsport Public Library, 2007).

Three library strategies that KPL could utilize to achieve their strategic aims are:

Applying for and receiving grants

Many of the library‘s aims involve a need for larger budget and fundraising. While the library‘s budget is not typically drastically cut as long as state standards continue to be met, there is not currently enough money to expand and renovate as the library wishes and needs. Receiving grant money would help to cover this gap.

Allocating spaces

As construction has not yet started on a new building, KPL is in the last stages of reallocating spaces to achieve some of their aims. Though there is no new teen room, there is a new space on the 2nd floor where the public internet access computers used to be. Those computers were moved to the 4th floor in the Reference department as the reference librarians completed a large weeding project of the entire collection. KPL did create a quiet room and a group meeting room in the existing Reference department and glassed them in. The last space to be finished is the Interactive Learning Area in the Youth Services department in what used to be the Teen area.

Rely more on volunteers

KPL has numerous volunteers already though most are middle and high schoolers who assist in shelving books in Youth Services and several adult volunteers who process the books for the annual book sale. While those are important, if KPL wishes to increase program options, the library may need to look outside of library staff to provide the programs. It can be difficult to find a volunteer trusted enough to run a program, class, or workshop, but if the library contacts the right organizations a suitable volunteer may be found. A retired public or school librarian, or a current worker at Girls, Inc. or a Troop leader of Girl Scouts, could lead a program for any of the children. Increasing programs does not necessarily mean having to plan more programs but partnering with more organizations and allowing them to use the library as an official meeting place and open to the public or those who have pre-registered for the program.

1.7 If you could develop/extend one PL service to help this organization to be more helpful, what would it be? Why?

Kingsport Public Library has many programs in place, but they do not currently offer programs designed for anyone under the age of two. KPL would benefit from developing and implementing a lapsit program for babies. This would help the library achieve its vision of creating lifelong learners as the learning would start as soon as possible and help the babies to associate positive aspects with the library. Youth Services staff have received questions about programs for children younger than two and have been referred to Johnson City Library a half hour drive away. Implementing a lapsit program for the library‘s youngest users would allow the library to truly offer programs for all ages.

References (2012). Kingsport, TN. Retrieved from

Events. (2015). Retrieved from

Explore. (2015). Retrieved from

Kingsport Kids Out and About. (2015). Retrieved from

Kingsport Public Library. (2014). Kingsport Public Library Technology Plan for Staff/Public. (Unpublished document).

Kingsport Public Library. (2011). Kingsport Public Library Long Range Plan Summary. (Unpublished document).

Kingsport Public Library. (2007). Detailed Strategic Plan 2007-2027. (Unpublished document).

United States Census Bureau. (2013). State & County Quick Facts: Kingsport (city), Tennessee. Retrieved from

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

451 Communications Building, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0341