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Brittany Metzger
7. User-Centered Assessment/Evaluation in PL Services

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

Based on your interactions and analysis of the collaboration with your PL throughout the semester, examine user-centered issues as they impact and were impacted by the following (at least 100-150 words for each bulleted point listed below)) (broadly in the context of your PL and in relation to the select service that you assessed/evaluated). Identify and justify each as liberating or limiting factor and provide evidence as justification of your response):

Library governance

The Knox County library system exists as a department of the Knox County government, under the supervisor of the mayor. The current director of the library is Myretta Black (About Knox County Public Library, 2014), who is assisted by a nine member advisory board made up of representatives from each of nine districts. Meetings are held every other month at the Lawson McGhee library and are open to the public and their concerns (Library Advisory Board, 2014). Library governance is a liberating factor, as it is very open to the concerns of the public and exists to support the goals of the library.

Library identity (mission, vision, strategic aims, etc.)

The library's vision is to be an "essential connection for lifelong learning and information for every citizen" and their mission is to "serve all residents as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center through a wide variety of resources, services and programs" (About Knox County Public Library, 2014). These goals function as a liberating factor in addressing user-centered issues, as the library's primary goal is to provide for its users in any way it possibly can. By following its mission and vision, the library is able to serve its patrons by providing a wide variety of services and resources that change with patrons' changing needs.

Community analysis and needs assessment

The KCPL system does not generally conduct any formal analysis of the community or needs assessments. Any assessment of needs is generally done when a patron submits verbal feedback, but there is no formal process to handle this feedback (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). This is true both of the larger library setting and in regard to the Storytimes to Go kits in particular. This is a limiting factor, as not having a bigger picture idea of the makeup of the community or its needs means the library has to make a best guess on what is wanted based on personal informal observations. Conducting more formal analyses could help the library serve its goals and mission.

Marketplace dynamics/advertising

The library as a whole has fairly good advertising. They have multiple e-mail newsletters and social media accounts, including Facebook, twitter and pinterest (Keep in Touch, 2014). They also hold activities for the community at large such as the Children's Festival of Reading which further serve to inform people of their existence and available services. As previously mentioned, however, the Storytimes to Go kits have very poor - basically nonexistent - advertising. Overall, the library's marketing and advertising efforts are a liberating factor for the library and all its services together, as it is very easy for the public to find out what is going on when and information about various programs offered by the library. When considering the Storytimes program in particular, however, it is a limiting factor. The service is extremely underutilized because nobody knows about it, and marketing would increase use exponentially.

Evaluation action plan

The library does not currently have an official evaluation action plan in place to detail how evaluation methods will be used for evaluating various programs and services. Small-scale evaluation exists, such as looking at circulation data, taking door counts, keeping a record of the number of reference questions asked each day, and the amount of use the computers receive each day. The library also received informal verbal feedback, but as previously mentioned does not have a plan in place on how to respond to it. This is also true for the Storytimes program in particular (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). This is a limiting factor, as again it is difficult to assess what the community wants and needs without a plan of how to do so. Evaluation focuses on the system rather than the user.

Assessment and evaluation methods

As previously mentioned, there is very little formal assessment or evaluation, especially of user-centered issues. Assessment instead focuses on system data and quantitative data, by looking at the numbers of materials checked out, the numbers of people coming into the building, the number of people attending programs, etc, rather than looking at why people are there or how they feel about the programs and materials. While the library is aware of how often material is checked out or how many people have come to the building that day or how many people have asked a question, they do not know why these numbers are what they are, or how well they satisfied users' needs. This is thus a limiting factor, as the user-centered assessment of the library is close to nonexistent.

Personnel management

The library currently employs 206 individuals, 135 full time and 71 part time, an addition of one full-time position from the previous fiscal year (Knox County Government, 2015). The library's staff are considered employees of Knox County. Myretta Black is the director, then there are the branch and main library managers and under them, the branch and main library staff. Staff librarians are broadly split into reference, adult services, and children's services, though some more nuanced splits exist (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). The library staff is well trained and competent and are overall a liberating factor for the system. Personnel management has no strong influence on the Storytimes to Go kits.

Finances

Knox County Public Library's annual budget for 2014-2015 is $12,675,900, a $55000 increase over the previous fiscal year's budget. The funds for the budget is provided by the county and comes from the local wheel tax, charges for current services and other local revenues, from the state of Tennessee, and from the federal government. The wheel tax provides the highest amount of funding for the library, and the federal government provides the least. The budget is used for personal services, employee pay and benefits, contractual services, supplies and materials, and various other expenses. Unsurprisingly, personal services and employee benefits require the largest chunk of the budget, but there is still almost $1.8 million in the budget for supplies and materials - that is to say, the books and services the library provides to the public (Knox County Government, 2015). Overall, the library's finances are a liberating factor, as while the budget may not be precisely generous, there is enough provided for the library to function and grow.

Policy development

All of Knox County's policies are developed by director Myretta Black, with input from the library advisory board, library staff, and other county officials. The public is also allowed to have their say in regard to new policy, especially through the Friends of the Library organization (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). The library currently has policies dealing with materials selection, computer use, library cards and borrowing, rules of conduct, volunteering, and more (Policies, 2014). Policy development is a liberating factor in that, while final say belongs to the director and the board, the staff and public have their say as well. By allowing the public to contribute to policy development there is a liberating factor in regard to user-centered issues. There are no specific policies regarding the Storytimes to Go program.

Collections and collection management

The library's collection development is handled at the county level - one committee makes materials selections for adult materials, while another makes decisions for children's materials. These committees also decide which libraries will receive which materials, based on the size of the library. There is no teen selection committee, merely a single member of the children's committee who is also in charge of teen materials selection on her own (M. Ferguson, personal communication, 2014). Users can also have a say in what is in the collection by submitted suggestions to the library either in person or online (Suggest a Purchase, 2014). The collection consists of over a million items throughout the county and all branches have strong circulation numbers. The collections are a liberating factor for the library, as they are clearly very popular with the user base, and the user base can have a say in what is picked as well.

Electronic resources and technology assessment

The library offers many electronic resources, such as e-books, audiobooks, electronic magazines, databases, and more. The library focuses heavily on electronic resources, and their stated goals for 2015 for the Knox county budget are entirely electronic resources based - to implement a new e-book service, to evaluate streaming services for audio and video, and to evaluate services for chat/text messaging reference (Knox County Government, 2015). The library's assessment of electronic materials is largely restricted to looking at numbers, but every time a new electronic resource is added the circulation numbers increase, so it is highly likely that the library's users are in favor of new and better electronic resources (E. Nguyen, personal communication, 2015). Thus, the library's electronic resources are a liberating factor.

Technical services and reference services

The library's technical services are housed in Lawson McGhee library, and they are in charge of cataloging and preparing materials for all the branches, allowing the work to proceed from a centralized location. The library offers reference services at all locations, by phone, and online through their "Ask a Librarian" service. The Lawson McGhee library is the only location with a dedicated reference desk staffed with specifically reference librarians, however - branch libraries' circulation desks double as a place to ask reference questions, and staff on hand may or may not be trained reference librarians. Technical services are invaluable in allowing patrons to find what they are looking for and reference services are there solely to help patrons, and thus both serve as liberating factors.

Library systems and library networks

The Knox County Public Library consists of 18 locations as well as the East Tennessee History Center and Archives. As a system under the governance of the county, it is not part of the larger Tennessee State Libraries group, and thus does not share in their resources such as READS. Services provided by the KCPL are instead shared only between the system's locations. While not having access to the larger state resources could be a limiting factor, instead the library has amassed an impressive collection of materials for itself that has instead become a strength. Further, any physical materials that the library does not hold can be requested through Interlibrary Loan from a larger network of libraries, a useful user-centered initiative. Altogether, this is thus a liberating factor in the amount of services it offers to patrons.

User instruction and customer services

The library offers many courses for user instruction, particularly in terms of computer training and genealogy, as well as several other subjects (Calendar & Programs, 2014). These are courses that have been offered for some time and continue to be offered because many people show up for them, one of the ways in which it can help to gain feedback by counting the numbers of patrons who attend. The library's customer services are also exceptional; the staff is very friendly and helpful to patrons. Overall, these are both liberating factors, as they provide users with new information and help when they are lost.

Adult and/or youth services

The library's youth services are very strong and very in demand by the public, judging by circulation records and counts of the number of patrons who show up for youth programs such as storytimes as well as the Children's Festival of Reading, which last year drew in more than 10,000 attendees (2013-2014 Annual Report, 2015). The library's youth services are overall a liberating factor, as they are consistently some of the most utilized services offered by the library. In regard to the Storytimes to Go kits, they are also considered a youth service, and with additional marketing will become a very popular one if the previously discussed assessment is any indicator.

References

Knox County Public Library. (2015). 2013-2014 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/sites/default/files/kcpl-annual-report-2014.pdf
Knox County Public Library. (2014). About Knox County Public Library. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Ask A Librarian. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/services/ask-librarian
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Calendar & Programs. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Keep in Touch. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/keep-touch
Knox County Public Library. (2014). The Library Advisory Board. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/library-advisory-board
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Policies. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/policies
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Suggest a Purchase. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/explore-collection/suggest-purchase
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

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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