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Brittany Metzger
4. Case-Study Analysis

Abstract

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

4.1 Identify one other PL that provides similar services to the one you propose to assess/evaluate at your PL. Describe, analyze, and provide feedback about the efforts being made at the case-study PL with regard to the selected service and user-centered assessment/evaluation strategies.

A library that provides a service similar to the Knox County Public Library's Storytime Kits is the Seattle Public Library (SPL). They provide a program known as "Begin with Books" for both preschoolers and toddlers. Preschool kits (for ages 3-6) contain five picture books, a music CD, a resource book, and a card of suggested activities. They come in many different themes, such as The Alphabet, Counting, Five Senses, Sharing, Dinosaurs, Spring, New Baby, and others. Toddler kits (for ages birth-3) contain five board books as well as the music CD, resource book and activity card. Themes for toddler kits include Out of Diapers, Sleepy Time, Dinosaurs, Farm Animals, Getting Dressed, and more. There are over forty themed Preschool kits and sixteen themed Toddler kits, with the library holding multiple copies of many of the kits - there are five copies of the "Emotions" Preschool kit, for example. These kits are designed for parents, caregivers and educators, including teachers and daycare professionals. Kits can be requested through the library's online catalog and sent to any branch library for pick-up (Begin with Books). The check-out period for these kits is the same as all other library materials, twenty-one days with two chances to renew if there are no holds on the item (Check Out & Return).

In conversation with a children's librarian who works with the kits at the SPL, it was stated that they do not currently evaluate these kits as a separate entity in any way except to keep track of circulation numbers. This is likely due to the fact that these kits circulate more widely than other similar programs and in-depth study on a kit-by-kit basis would be impractical. Instead, what evaluation exists for them is more in the way a larger collection might be evaluated, rather than a service, and this evaluation is not user-centered. The library occasionally receives feedback from users about the kits, but it is informal and often not well-documented (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015). As this paper will discuss, the program is quite popular and well-known, but the perceived effectiveness of the kits is unknown, due to the lack of assessment. While assessment of the community's knowledge of the program would not be particularly useful, assessment of its impact and the community's thoughts and feelings on the usefulness of the program could be.

4.2 For the PL under case-study, describe how the library represents, manages, and provides services related to your selected service/program.

The Begin with Books program is primarily promoted in two ways. The first is through the library's website, where the kits have a webpage to themselves explaining what they are and giving a link to find them in the library's OPAC, where they can then be placed on hold. The second way is less promotion and more word of mouth - as the program has been around for over twenty years and still going strong, it is very well known and does not need active promotion. People are aware of the kits, perhaps having had them used when they themselves were children, and want to use them themselves. Additionally, the kits are kept in the children's areas of various branch libraries as well as the main library, making them highly visible to browsing caregivers who would find the kits useful. The kits are maintained by the main Children's Services department, with staff there in charge of creating, updating, and servicing the kits. Kits with missing or damaged materials are sent there to be fixed. These kits have no budget of their own, but rather share with the main children's collection budget or receive grant money to update and add to the collection (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015).

The "Begin with Books" kits are simple for users to acquire. Users can request them from the system's catalog and have them sent to their local branch to pick them up. There are no restrictions on this - the kits are treated like a regular item being checked out, not a special item. Anyone can check a kit out, though they are intended for those caring for or educating young children (Begin with Books). When kits are checked out and checked in, a staff member assesses the condition and presence of each item in the kit, to make sure that nothing has gone missing or been damaged in the interim. This allows the SPL to reduce the wear and tear on the kits, by catching issues as soon as possible (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015).

4.3 Discuss how your case-study PL represents elements about the service being studied in relation to its scope and objectives, activities, and resources. Also, examine the role of the users in assessing/evaluating the service.

The vision statement for the SPL is "A city where imagination and opportunity thrive", and the mission statement is "The Seattle Public Library brings people, information and ideas together to enrich lives and build community." For youth services in particular, the SPL's "service priority" is to "support early learning and the joy of reading through our collections and resources, services, programs and partnerships" (Mission Statement). The Begin with Books kits satisfy all three of these objectives. Providing tools to develop early literacy skills gives young children the opportunity to learn and grow, and to learn how to use their imaginations. In terms of the mission statement, the kits likewise enrich children's lives with the stories and skills they learn from them, as well as enriching their caregivers' and teachers' lives by giving them the tools to teach early literacy effectively and to hopefully instill a love of reading and knowledge in their children. Finally, in terms of the library's youth service priority, aiding in teaching early literacy skills clearly supports early learning initiatives and helping children to discover the joy of reading. The kits were originally conceived as response to research on the importance of early literacy in regard to children developing strong, life-long literacy skills and still continue that mission to this day by providing high quality storytimes that anyone can pick up and present to a child to facilitate skill development.

As previously stated, there is no official user centered evaluation of the Begin with Books program. As such, the role of users in evaluating the service is minimal. The library does receive feedback on occasion, but it is not formal and may or may not be incorporated into decision making about the kits. The only formal role users play in the assessment of the service is when the library looks at circulation numbers - users may vote with their library cards, as it were (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015).

4.4 Analyze the effectiveness of the case-study PL in providing the services under study.

The effectiveness of the Seattle Public Library in providing the Begin with Books program is impressive. Almost all kits in the program have at least one copy checked out at all times, and the most popular kits, despite having five copies each, may have multiple users placing holds on them - the Spring kit, for example, has ten holds on five copies, all of which are currently checked out. They are even more popular during the summer months, when many preschools are not in operation and parents still wish to work on literacy skills with their children (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015). Users have little trouble finding out about the program or in accessing kits, as they have a strong presence on the library's website and in the physical library locations (Begin with Books).

4.5 Provide similarities and differences between the PL example in your case-study and your collaborating PL. You should find information about the available services at the case-study PL on the web and also contact (email, phone, visit) people working at the PL to gather information.

Both the Storytime Kits and the Begin with Books programs are designed to aid in early literacy efforts and are meant to be used primarily with children in preschool or younger. They are also provided in themed kits based around certain age-appropriate ideas and interests - "Numbers" and "Dinosaurs" are themes in both programs, for example. Both programs are ideal for being used in educational settings (B. Kyle, personal communication, 2015).

There are many differences between these two services as well, however. The Begin with Books program has much better visibility in the community, with its own web page on the library's web site (Begin with Books) and availability to be viewed, put on hold, and requested from the library OPAC, none of which the Storytime Kits currently have. The Begin with Books kits may also be checked out from any library in the system, which is not the case for the Storytime Kits. The Begin with Books program has been around for a much greater period of time - since the mid-90s, while the Storytimes to Go kits have only been around since the late 2000s. There are also many more Begin with Books themes, and there are multiple duplicate kits for each theme, whereas there are only twenty-five Storytime Kits and each one is unique. In addition, where the Storytime Kits are only available to preschool and daycare educators - and they do require verification of said status - the Begin with Books kits are available to anyone who wants to check them out, including parents. On the other hand, however, the Begin with Books kits are much smaller - five books, a music CD, and some suggested activities (Begin with Books), whereas the Storytime Kits are much more robust, with books, activities, manipulatives, craft materials, and more. This being the case is also likely why the Storytimes to Go kits are only available to teachers, as allowing many people to check out these kits would likely result in lost pieces much more quickly than otherwise (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015.)

Overall, the two services are meant to achieve the same goal - that of aiding in early literacy development through the application of a robust storytime program designed by experts with instructions that anyone, experienced or not, may implement. Though the way in which this goal is realized through each discrete kit is dissimilar, what feedback exists suggests that both are effective in their aims and are thought of as valuable services by their users.

4.6 What did you learn about user-centered assessment/evaluation and services being studied at the case-study PL in the context of your collaborating PL?

Neither the Seattle Public Library nor the Knox County Public Library currently employs user centered assessment for their storytime kits. While both libraries do consider unsolicited feedback from users of the program, it is informal and unlikely to be well-documented. The Begin with Books program is evidently quite popular and perhaps not in need of assessment, at least in regard to marketing efforts and amount of use, but the Storytimes to Go program kits are under-utilized especially when considering their potential value to educators who could make use of them. Knowing more about how people have learned about the program - or how many in the target audience even know of their existence at all - as well as what they've found useful and what they have found not useful about the kits could help the KCPL's program to become more circulated and popular. While it is not feasible to aspire to the height of the Begin with Books program's popularity, due to the disparity in who the program is offered to and the number of kits available, looking at how the Seattle Public Library promotes the kits may be a good place to start. Having a solid web presence and information about the kits available to the public is clearly a good place in which to start. On the whole, user-centered assessment could be beneficial to both libraries, but the Storytimes to Go program is in greater need, when comparing its usage and community visibility to a program like Seattle's Begin with Books.

References

Seattle Public Library. (2015). Begin with Books. Retrieved from http://www.spl.org/audiences/children/chi-for-parents-and-caregivers/begin-with-books
Seattle Public Library. (2015). Check Out & Return. Retrieved from http://www.spl.org/using- the-library/get-started/check-out-and-return
Seattle Public Library. (2015). Mission Statement. Retrieved from http://www.spl.org/about-the- library/mission-statement

Spring 2015

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