1. The Public Library Context
This project is concerned with the Lawson McGhee library, part of the Knox County Public Library system and located in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Children's Room of the Lawson McGhee library provides storytime kits for teachers and child care providers to check out and use. This service will be assessed as to its usefulness and visibility to its intended users
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 Lawson McGhee library is the main library of the Knox County Public Library (KCPL) system. The system currently consists of seventeen branch libraries across Knox County in East Tennessee in addition to Lawson McGhee, as well the East Tennessee History Center McClung Collection and Knox County Archives. It has been providing resources to Knox County since 1886 and is a dedicated county-wide public library system that provides a wide range of materials and services to the entire community, including lending books, CDs, DVDs, and audio books, as well as providing database access, reference assistance, public use computers and meeting spaces in branch locations. The library's current collection contains over one million items split between the branches, with Lawson McGhee holding the largest collection (About Knox County Public Library, 2014). Lawson McGhee library itself is a two-story building, plus basement, located in downtown Knoxville near the University of Tennessee. The Children's Room is located in the basement of the building, though due to the hilly nature of the city still receives an abundance of natural light through the large windows along one wall. The library as a department is under the governance of the Knox County Mayor, Tim Burchett, as well as an eleven-member advisory board, members of which are recommended by the mayor and approved by the County Commission. The current director of the library is Myretta Black (Library Advisory Board, 2014). The library staff for the system currently consists of over two hundred employees, including over seventy full-time librarians. The majority of these librarians hold a Masters in Library and Information Sciences (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014). The Lawson McGhee library itself currently employs approximately 18 full-time librarians, only one of whom works in the Children's Room (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). The library as an organization can be characterized as one that exists to serve its patrons in their information and recreational needs through a variety of services and programs, and one that does its best to stay current with what its patrons want.
This library system currently serves over 440,000 people across Knox County, 51.3% of whom are female and 48.7% of whom are male, with roughly 21% under 18 years of age. In the city of Knoxville itself, the population is approximately 183,270, though Lawson McGhee also provides services for patrons across the county. The population across the county increased 2.9% from 2010 to 2013, indicating that the population is trending upward and that the need for services provided by the library will continue to increase (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014).
Some of the strengths of the KCPL are the number of branch libraries and wide variety of adult and family programming, including book clubs such as Books Sandwiched In and All Over the Page, Family Movie Nights, and Movies on Market Square. They also have many strong children's programs, such as the large number children's storytimes and the Imagination Library program, which serves many young people throughout the county. Another major strength is the variety and size of their collection, both in terms of physical items and digital items. Some weaknesses are that there is not enough staff to cover everything and that Lawson McGhee is in need of more space, as it has largely outgrown the space it currently occupies (E. Ngyuen, personal communication, 2015).
1.2 Summarize the PL organization's mission, goals, and objectives.
The mission of the KCPL system, according to its website, is "to serve all residents as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center through a wide variety of resources, services and programs." This mission statement is extremely broad, allowing for the library to fill multiple roles and to be flexible in its offerings as well as to offer the widest range of services possible. It emphasizes the importance of serving the needs of the community first and foremost and places the library in an important role in the lives of the members of the community both in educational and recreational capacities.
There is a scarcity of publicly available information on the library's goals and objectives; however, some idea of such may be gained by looking at the 2014-2015 Knox County budget for the library system. According to the budget, the library's goals include providing expanded access to digital services and a better online presence, including reliable access to electronic information resources, more e-books and a new, more navigable web site. They also include acquiring and organizing "information, materials, and programs for all learning levels" and providing increased access to these programs, services and collections in order to increase the quality of life of the community. Another goal is to continue to focus on providing quality library services for children and caregivers by "selecting and maintaining appropriate collections of books and other materials, providing information, and planning and presenting programs" (Knox County Government, 2015).
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 rationale behind the existence of the library is found in its mission statement, that it exists to "serve all residents as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center through a wide variety of resources, services and programs." This rationale can be seen in the range of services and programs offered by the library, including those such as genealogy lessons, computer workshops, storytimes, summer reading program, book clubs, and many community-centered options such as writers' workshops (Calendar & Programs, 2014). The library also has a wide range of materials available for patrons - fiction and non-fiction, print and digital, books, music, movies, and so forth, covering both popular and educational materials. All these services are provided to the public freely, minus taking into account the cost of county taxes.
The vision for the library is summarized in its vision statement - "Knox County Public Library: The essential connection for lifelong learning and information for every citizen." From this, it is clear that the library's future is in continuing to provide information and learning opportunities to its patrons, with a goal to get greater numbers of the community to participate, as well as to continue improving its offerings in terms of services and resources, which also aligns with its mission statement.
The library serves many different groups. As a whole, the 444,000-plus residents of Knox County are its primary constituency. Approximately 18.3% is children under the age of fourteen, 6.8% are young adults between the ages of 15-19, and 3.5% of the population is Hispanic (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). While there are a great many services for the general public, these three groups have additional special services for them. Children have services such as story times, Children's collections, and specialized children's librarians. Young adults have the Teen collections and some programs, though services for young adults are constrained by lack of staff (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014). For Hispanic patrons the library offers materials and programs, including computer workshops, for Spanish speakers of all age groups (FAQ, 2014). The library also offers digital services such as e-books for remote users and a Books for the Homebound program that sends books to patrons who are unable to physically visit the library due to disability (Services, 2014).
The library provides many different products and services. Its primary offering is in its collection, which consists primarily of books, movies, and musical recordings, both physical and digital, as well as providing access to online educational databases. Circulation of materials is "very good" and as such this is a very popular offering of the KCPL (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014). The library also offers a wide array of services and programs as have been previously discussed, with some of the most popular being its storytime programs and related children's programming (E. Ngyuen, personal communication, 2015).
In order to provide the products and services offered to the best of their abilities, the KCPL will require a number of trained librarians and paraprofessional staff who are capable of planning and executing their services. This is an area in which the library is currently weak, particularly in the area of young adult services, as there are no teen librarians on staff. In terms of space, Lawson McGhee and the Children's Room in particular have begun to outgrow the space they have. Storytimes in the Children's Room often do not fit in the storytime area, and the collection at Lawson McGhee - the most complete of any library in the system - is very compressed, with little room for new materials to be added (E. Ngyuen, personal communication, 2015). In this case, more space would be invaluable for providing higher quality services. With the library's increased focus on technology, it is also necessary for the library to have both high quality computer areas for the use of patrons as well as a robust, dependable server for hosting their web site and related digital services.
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 statement for the KCPL system is "Knox County Public Library: The essential connection for lifelong learning and information for every citizen" (About Knox County Public Library, 2014). This vision statement shows the commitment the library has to providing access to information and learning opportunities to its community. The library fulfills this vision statement in the array of informational materials and programs that it provides to patrons. To this end, the library, and Lawson McGhee in particular, plays many roles as described in Weingand (2001). As a Community Activities Center and Community Information Center, the library provides space both for community gatherings in the form of meeting rooms as well as bulletin boards and space for flyers in which the community can advertise for organizations, issues and services. As an Independent Learning Center, the library provides access to a great deal of educational materials both physically, on-site, and digitally through e-books and educational databases. As a Popular Materials Center the library provides popular fiction and non-fiction in addition to popular music and video recordings for leisure and entertainment of the general populace. It also serves as a Preschoolers' Door to Learning by providing many varied programs for children such as storytimes and the summer reading program, as well as an extensive children's materials collection. As a Reference library, the library provides both reference materials and sections, online and on-site, as well as reference librarians. Lawson McGhee library has a full-service Reference desk with at least two staff members helping patrons at all times.
Supporting and expanding these roles are the service responses which Lawson McGhee engages in, which include basic literacy support in the materials it provides, business and career information, acting as a commons, again with the provision of meeting rooms and other formal and informal spaces, providing current topics and titles, meeting the community's need for general information, aids in developing information literacy skills, particularly through their computer education classes, and serving the desire for lifelong learning through their programs, services and materials provided (Services, 2015).
1.5 Develop a sample PL Values Statement (see Ch. 3. Matthews 2004, p. 34-35).
This Values Statement was developed by analyzing both the KCPL's mission and vision statement as well as by referencing the American Library Association Bill of Rights.
The Knox County Public Library is committed to:
-providing honest and unbiased access to information for all points of view
-providing patrons with a space in which to access information
-the importance of life long learning
-providing for our patrons' needs in such a way that respects them and their beliefs
1.6 List various strategic aims of the PL and at least three specific library strategies in relation to potential services to improve.
According to Erin Ngyuen, two areas currently being targeted for improvement are staff training and security (personal communication, 2015). In looking at the library's budget for 2014-2015, additional aims can be discerned, including the need for facilities upgrades, an improvement and expansion of the library's digital services, and increased ability to meet patron demands for materials.
In order to provide patrons with up to date facilities and equipment, the library has been budgeted $200,000 toward facilities upgrades including technological equipment and $92,500 towards major equipment purchases for fiscal year 2015. These funds will allow the library to increase the space for both programming and storage of collections materials, in order to better serve the community. A second strategy being implemented is for the expansion of the library's digital services. To this end, the library will expand the Axis 360 service, currently only available on a trial basis for children's and young adult books, to include adult materials, as well as make it more visible on the library website. This will allow for a greater number of materials in a greater number of formats to be available to the greatest number of patrons. A third strategy, also related to expanding the library's digital services, is that the library will begin to evaluate different services related to streaming videos and music (Knox County Government, 2015). The library currently only has one music streaming service, focused more on classic tracks than on popular music that more patrons would want to utilize, and no video streaming services at all (E-media, 2014). By implementing streaming services for these materials, the library would be able to serve a greater number of patrons, especially those who are unable to physically visit the library on a regular basis.
1.7 If you could develop/extend one PL service to help this organization to be more helpful, what would it be? Why?
One service that should be extended in order for the Lawson McGhee library to be more helpful would be the storytime kits provided by the Children's Room. These kits are an invaluable tool for helping teachers and child care providers hone their story telling skills and include everything needed for a quality storytime, including books and materials for related activities. The problem with this service is that not many people know about them, and even a thorough searching of the library's website uncovers no information about them whatsoever. They are not in the searchable online catalog, and there is also no advertisement of the kits to be found in either Lawson McGhee or the Children's Room proper. This service requires greater visibility to the public so that they may be utilized more effectively. If more patrons knew of these kits, they would be checked out more often and would receive more funding that they may be updated and more kits could be created. In addition, the kits are currently only able to be checked out from the Children's Room and can not be sent to a branch library, unlike all other materials. If these kits were advertised and then able to be requested to be sent to branches that were more convenient for patrons, the use of these kits would increase. Effective and entertaining storytimes are an art, and these kits are a great resource for those looking to increase their skills. Greater visibility and use of these kits would thus be of value to the community, especially for those working with children, parents, and of course the children themselves.
American Library Association. (1996). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill
Knox County Public Library. (2014). About Knox County Public Library. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Calendar & Programs. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs
Knox County Public Library. (2014). E-media. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/explore-collection/e-media
Knox County Public Library. (2014). FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/faq
Knox County Public Library. (2014). The Library Advisory Board. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/library-advisory-board
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Services. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/services
Knox County Government. (2015). Knox County, Tennessee 2014-2015 Budget. Retrieved from http://www.knoxcounty.org/finance/pdfs/2014_2015_budget/2014-2015adopted_budget_detail.pdf
U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Community Facts. Retrieved from http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml#none
U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). State & County QuickFacts. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47/47093.html
Weingand, D. E. (2001). Administration of the Small Public Library. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
Contact K.C. Williams451 Communications Building, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0341