Skip to Main Content

The University of Tennessee

School of Information Sciences

Frequently Used Tools:

INSC 554

Main Navigation:

Brittany Metzger
2. Identification of the Public Library Users


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

2.1 Being specific, identify three segments of the user community interacting or likely to be interacting with the PL and its services. Rank and label these segments as primary, secondary, and tertiary according to the intensity of use as well as the number of actual and potential users. If possible, do this separately for various services that the PL offers. To do this you must estimate the number of likely users in each segment for each service.

As the Knox County Public Library does not keep patron records that would provide the statistical data necessary for this sort of breakdown, categories that align with the available 2010 U.S. Census data records for Knox County must be used as well as information gleaned from a personal interview with Children's Room manager E. Nguyen.

The primary segment of the community likely to interact with the public library and its services are adults ages 20-64. In Knox County, this is approximately 267,000 individuals, or around 61% of the population of the county. This also includes many teachers, parents, and child care workers important to this project's primary focus. This population segment includes the largest number of individuals as well as the largest number who would make use of the majority of the library's materials and programs - the adult fiction and nonfiction collection is larger than the children's collection, and much larger than the teen collection. Additionally, there are many programs intended for this age group - book clubs such as Books Sandwiched In and All Over The Page are scheduled at times when working adults would be able to come to the library, for example. Parents in this population segment will also make heavy use of the children's programs such as story times, as they are ultimately the ones who make the decisions as to which programs to attend with their children. (Calendar & Programs, 2014). The largest number of library cards also belongs to adult users.

A secondary segment of the community interacting with the library is children up to age 14 - approximately 79,000 individuals, or 18.3% of the population. This is the second largest group being served by the library system. In accordance, children's materials are the second largest group of materials offered by the library and the largest percentage of programs in terms of how often they are offered as well as variety. Children's story times are offered several times a week by various branches, they have their own special section of the library at Lawson McGhee - the aptly named Children's Room - and are the most important segment served by the Summer Reading Program each year. This overlaps with adult users in that the majority of children are visiting the library and utilizing its programs under the supervision of a parent or guardian.

A tertiary segment is adults of retirement age, 65 and older. This is a group of roughly 56,000 individuals or 13.1% of the population. This group is served by access to the adult materials and programs as well as to more specialized programming, such as basic introductory classes on computers and other electronic devices. The Books for the Homebound program serves a large percentage of this population as well, as this age group is most likely to be unable to visit the library independently (Services, 2014). The library also holds a small but robust large print collection, which is most utilized by this population.

2.2 Identify at least one contact person (more is better) in the PL who is knowledgeable about both your library setting and those people likely to be interested in the PL. Identify at least two (more is better) contact persons who represent users or potential users of the PL.

The primary contact for this project is Erin Nguyen, Children's Services Manager in the Children's Room at Lawson McGhee library. A second primary contact is Melissa Ferguson, manager of the Powell branch library, whom the researcher has worked with previously.

There are three contact persons representing users of the public library as particularly related to this research interest. The first is Kayla M., elementary school teacher in the Knox County school district. A second is Nicki R., a childcare worker at a local Boys & Girls Club, and a third is Megan K., a stay at home mother of a toddler. All three users have had previous interactions with the Knox County library, but only Kayla had previous knowledge of the Children's Room's storytime kits.

2.3 Provide a demographic analysis of the PL users and community in terms of: educational level, household income, racial/ethnic make-up, occupation, age levels and groups, gender, community habits, cultural opportunities, civic interests and problems, religious institutions, clubs and organizations, etc. How does each of these variables impact the PL and its services?

As the main branch of the Knox County system, the Lawson McGhee library serves Knox County as a whole. Most demographics information for this section taken from the 2010 U.S. Census records for Knox County unless otherwise cited.

Age Levels and Groups | Gender:

According to the U.S. Census data, there are 94,940 individuals under 18 years of age in Knox County, or 21.9% of the population. Broken down further, there are 29,284 individuals ages 15-19 - the most commonly designated ages for teenagers - or 6.8% of the population. 281,245 individuals, 65.1% of the population, are between ages 18-64, and 56,491 or 13.1% of the population is over 65 years of age. Taken in these categories, the largest single age group as defined by the census is working-age adults - unsurprising, as they comprise the largest age range. 51.4% of the population is female while 48.6% is male - not statistically different enough to be of any real difference in service provision. Some suggest that women use the library more often for circulation purposes, but the correlation is not particularly strong and should not be weighed very heavily when making decisions about services to offer the community (Matthews, 2007). The library meets the needs of this wide range of users by having an equally wide variety of materials, services and programs available for patrons to make use of. By having services aimed at each of the three major population age segments as well as services that can apply to all three groups, the library ensures that they are serving as many users as possible. The high number of services and materials provided for children and young adults despite there being comparatively less of them than adult users can perhaps be accounted for by the suggestion that some make that young people tend to be the most intense library users (Matthews, 2007).

Racial/Ethnic Makeup:

Knoxville's dominant racial group is White at 85.6%. Other groups include Black/African American at 8.8%, American Indian/Alaskan Native at .3%, Asian at 1.9%, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander at .1%, "other" at 1.5%, and two or more races at 1.9%. 3.5% of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. All groups other than whites have increased in percentage of population since the last census, with the Hispanic/Latino ethnicity growing quickest of all. Clearly, this indicates that Knox County is experiencing increased diversity. As a response to this increase in diversity, the library must keep pace in offering materials and services geared toward cultures other than the currently dominant white Anglo-Saxon group. This could include books in other languages, classes offered in Spanish or with Spanish translations available, and programs geared towards introducing new cultures to patrons.


Approximately 34.4% of Knox county residents over 25 years of age have a bachelor's degree or higher, with 12.9% of those possessing a graduate or other professional degree. A further 8.8% have an associate's degree, and 20.9% have some college education but no degree - a total of 60.1% of the population over 25 years of age having at least some college education or higher. 26.1% have graduated from high school and 9.8% of the population over 25 have less than a high school education. This is a relatively high rate of educational achievement, which can likely be attributed to the high number of post-secondary institutions in the area. Educational attainment can affect why patrons are visiting the library and what sorts of materials should be available for their use. Additionally, according to Matthews (2007) higher levels of education equal higher rates of usage of library materials and services. This correlation in conjunction with Knox county residents' high rates of educational attainment gives the public library a boost in relevancy to the general population.

Occupation | Household Income:

Approximately 36.7% of the employed population of Knoxville works in some form of management or professional related occupation. A further 29% work in sales and office related occupations, 14.5% in service occupations, 11.7% in production, transportation, and material movement, 7.9% in construction and maintenance, and .2% in farming, fishing and forestry. The high numbers of people employed in professional and business occupations in this county is certainly a contributing factor to Lawson McGhee having a business reference librarian on staff almost every day, for example (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). The median household income in 2010 was $37,454, pretty solidly middle-class. 8.4% of families and 12.6% of individuals existed below the poverty level., and 37.2% of the population made above $50,000 a year. This is a relatively strong income level which is in the library's favor - as Matthews (2007) indicates, the greatest use of library services exists among upper middle-income individuals, as they are likely to have a higher education level and have more leisure time to make use of the library.

Community Habits | Cultural Opportunities | Civic Interests and Problems:

The majority of Knox county inhabitants vote Republican - in the 2012 election, 64%. A large number of residents of the county are also fans of the University of Tennessee sports teams, particularly the football and basketball teams (City-data, 2012). In addition to sports, many Knox county residents enjoy the outdoors, making use of organizations such as running clubs, Outdoor Knoxville, the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, and the proximity of Knox county to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is a strong tradition of both the sciences, courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratories nearby, as well as the arts (Real Estate Scorecard, 2015). Knox county's cultural opportunities are wide and varied. As home to a college town in the South, its cost of living is low while offering a wide range of cultural opportunities to appeal to many different people. Knox county offers attractions such as the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Appalachian Ballet Company, the Knoxville Symphony, a strong lineup of Broadway shows at the Tennessee Theatre, the East Tennessee Discovery Center, the American Museum of Science and Energy, many historical sites, festivals such as Bark in the Park, Jazz on the Square, the Dogwood Festival, the Biscuit Festival, Boomsday, Farmer's Markets, Pridefest, and a great deal more. Knoxville has been named in the Top 100 best places to live, as the most exciting city in Tennessee, ranked second in best midsized cities for college graduates, third most well read city in America, second best college sports town, and in the top five of America's most affordable cities (City of Knoxville, 2014). A major civic interest in Knox county is to help others in the community. Just as the college teams are the "Volunteers", the residents of Knox County are deeply interested in helping out those less fortunate. This can be seen in the popularity of organizations such as the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and the comparatively well-staffed and provided for homeless shelters (Knoxville/Knox County Homeless Coalition, 2014). To meet these habits, opportunities and interests, the library should provide materials and programming aligned with these interests - for example, programming in association with outdoor living groups and partnerships with area museums. Indeed, the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Knox County Public Library collaborate frequently, particularly in regard to the McClung Archives, housed in the same building as the East Tennessee History Museum (East Tennessee Historical Society, 2015). The library also contributes to the festival lineup with the Children's Reading Festival each summer, usually on the same day as the Biscuit Festival, ensuring that many people will visit both. The library also offers services that benefit the less fortunate, such as free internet access, job search help, and basic computer training classes; all of which can help people find jobs, for example (Services, 2014). Over all, the library must pay attention to what the public feels is necessary and useful - the population is clearly very diverse in their interests, and so it is the library's job to keep up with the tide.

Religious Institutions:

Knox County is more religious than compared to the average in the United States - 62% of the population is affiliated with a congregation, as opposed to 50% of the population on average for the country. The majority is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, 51%. 14% of the population belong to The United Methodist Church, 6% to the Catholic Church, and 29% to unnamed congregations (City-data, 2012). This is an indication of the generally religious and conservative nature of the area. In response, the library should have a strong collection of spiritual and religious materials available for use. In addition, they should also have a good policy on how to handle challenged materials, as this is more likely to come up in an area of strong conservative beliefs (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014).

Clubs and Organizations:

There are a great variety of clubs and organizations available for the community to belong to and interact with. Based on the researcher's own observations of the community as well as discussion with Erin Nguyen, some major organizations in the area include the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, 4-H clubs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the East Tennessee Historical Society, several different running and biking clubs, and the wide variety of clubs and organizations present on the University of Tennessee campus, including such diverse groups as Film Committee, Japanese Club, Student Government, and others. The library can work with these groups in a variety of ways. For example, the library often partners with the nearest Boys & Girls Club during the summer reading program in order to encourage more children and families to participate. The library also provides organizations with meeting spaces that are generally free to reserve and use. Organizations may use the library's materials and resources for research purposes.

2.4 Provide a "SWOT" analysis of the community/users in terms of how they shape the nature of services in the PL?


One of the greatest strengths of the community of users is the amount of support they provide the library. This support comes in many forms - increased circulation of all forms of media and consistent-to-improving attendance of programs, and large numbers of volunteers willing to help out at their local libraries, for instance. These increased circulation numbers and high rates of program attendance show that the library is providing for the needs of the community (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). There is also the Friends of the Knox County Public Library, a nonprofit organization which advocates and creates support for the library system throughout the community and donates both time and money to the library system in a variety of ways (Friends of the Knox County Public Library, 2015). In general, the area also supports a large number of educational institutions creating an educated populace in need of information for a variety of reasons, which the library system is there to provide.


A major weakness of the community is the lack of awareness of some of the library's services and programs. While there are many people who utilize the library and what it provides extensively, others may see it as only a place to find books and not know about the digital services or programs such as genealogical workshops or computer training courses (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). Another weakness is that the increasing diversity of the community can be difficult for the library to meet, particularly when the library does not utilize user centered assessment enough to understand what the different segments want. There is also the issue of having enough money in the budget to serve all the different segments effectively. Additionally, there may be an issue where programs are held when their target audience is not available - story times held in the middle of the day in areas where parents have to work and cannot afford to stay home with their children, for example.


There are several opportunities inherent in the community that the library could take advantage of. One is to appeal to the people who are peripherally aware of the library but not of everything it offers by focusing more on marketing efforts. One especially promising way of accomplishing this would be to create stronger partnerships with area clubs, organization and religious institutions which are heavily patronized by the community. By having such partnerships with existing organizations, the library's wide variety of services would be more visible. There is also the fact that the user base as a whole is seeing a greater need for technology and understanding technology in their daily lives. This creates an opportunity for the library to offer a greater variety of technology classes and services to meet this growing need (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015).


One threat the library system faces is competition with school libraries and book stores. As discussed by Matthews (2007), large book stores in the area can decrease use of several library services. The presence of McKay's Used Books in Knoxville is an example of this, as it is a quick, cheap alternative to getting materials at the library. Another example is the presence of the University of Tennessee, as the McClung library can easily serve the needs of the student population for most uses. Another threat to the library, paradoxically, is the improvement of the economy as a whole. Use of libraries tends to increase when times are hard, as they provide a wide range of very economical materials and services. This need may decrease when users feel more financially stable (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014). It is important in this case for the library to do what it can to hold on to users even as things improve.

2.5 How does the PL measure success? How successful is the PL in its mission and in providing services to its user community? What works (and does not work) in providing services to various users? Please be specific.

According to Erin Nguyen the library largely relies on data such as collection circulation numbers, numbers of people using the computers each day, door counts (the number of people who physically enter the building each day), number of reference questions answered, and how many people attend various programs to measure success. As mentioned in part one, the mission of the KCPL system according to the website is "to serve all residents as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center through a wide variety of resources, services and programs." The library's mission statement is very broad, but in this case that is a benefit, as the library can be seen as successful in fulfilling this mission by the fact that the numbers for use of resources, services and programs have all been quite good. Erin believes that in most areas the numbers have either held steady or increased, particularly in the area of digital services. Although this method of data collection cannot give many details about who in the community is making use of the collections, programs, and so forth on a demographics level, it can be extrapolated that an increase in use of materials and services shows that the library is improving the way it serves the community and that the community is responding by making more use of what it offers.

One thing that works in providing services to users is meeting the community's digital needs. According to Erin, "after starting circulation of digital items (e-books and downloadable audiobooks, in particular) the statistics started off strong and have only increased, showing us that we're offering a service the community was looking for." Something that is not working as well is having enough space for programs, particularly for children - for example, Children's Room story times have often had to be moved to adjacent meeting rooms that are less well-suited for such a purpose because there is not enough room in the Children's Room itself. This could be resolved by either increasing the size of the Children's Room or by holding a larger number of story times that would attract smaller crowds spread over a longer period of time, two possible options that are both constricted by budgetary concerns (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). Another thing that would help in providing services would be to gather more in-depth data on who is utilizing what materials and services, especially on a demographics level. This would allow the library to target new initiatives more effectively.

2.6 How might user-centered assessment/evaluation from its users help the PL organization be more successful in regard to specific services?

User centered assessment can help the public library be more successful in a variety of ways. In today consumer-centered world, it is very important that the library is providing the services most needed and wanted by the public, in order to keep them using the services and materials that they provide. Failing to take into account the public's interests and needs can lead to the library becoming an obsolete institution that has failed to keep up with the times. Currently, Lawson McGhee library generally relies on users' anecdotal feedback, both good and bad, for this sort of information (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). Clearly, the library could be doing more structured data collection in order to better serve their population. For example, as this project is concerned with, the story time kits are not well utilized at present. Is this because users do not know about them, or is it because they do not find them useful? What could be changed to make them useful, or to create greater visibility for the kits among the segment of the population that would be most interested in them? Knowing what sorts of stories and materials users would find most valuable in these kits, as well as knowing what users believe does and does not work about the current kits, would go a long way toward making these kits a much more valuable resource for the community.


City of Knoxville. (2014). Newcomer Info. Retrieved from
City-data. (2012). Knox County, Tennessee. Retrieved from
East Tennessee Historical Society. (2015). Retrieved from
Friends of the Knox County Public Library. (2015). Who We Are. Retrieved from
Knox County Public Library. (2014). About Knox County Public Library. Retrieved from
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Calendar & Programs. Retrieved from
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Services. Retrieved from
Knoxville/Knox County Homeless Coalition. (2014). Retrieved from
Matthews, J. (2007). The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
McKay's Books. (2015). Retrieved from
Real Estate Scorecard. (2015). Knoxville. Retrieved from information/eastern-tennessee/knoxville
U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Community Facts. Retrieved from
U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). State & County QuickFacts. Retrieved from

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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