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Danny Hussey
1. The Public Library Context

Abstract

This case study will provide an analysis of the Obion County Public Library which is located in Union City, Tennessee. The case study will focus specifically on sources of library funding, resource allocation and outcomes. The majority of the statistics provided within this case study were derived from the Tennessee Public Library Survey for 2013 - 2014, public financial reports, organizational reports, census data, and the Obion County Public Library website. The information and statistics gathered provide a concise overview of various programs, projects, collections and services and their relationships to budgetary constraints and potential fundraising opportunities.

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 Obion County Public Library is the only public library located in Obion County Tennessee. The Obion County Public Library is a part of the Obion River regional library system. The official population area served by the library is 31,340 people. The facility is a 30,000 square foot building on approximately 4 acres of land. It includes a grand reading room, public computer area, large study and meeting rooms, a computer lab, a spacious children’s library, teacher resource center, 14 staff offices and departments and a genealogical research room. The new facility hosts a large outdoor area which includes a large parking lot, outdoor reading areas, the library park, the library gardens, water fountains, and an outdoor amphitheater with a covered stage. The total cost of the new facility was 2.6 million dollars contributed by 3 individual donors (oclibrary.org 2014). Total number of current employees at the Obion County Public Library is 22. This includes 11 full-time employees. The library director currently possesses a bachelor’s degree and works 40 hours per week. The assistant director also holds a bachelor’s degree and works 40 hours per week. The posted salary for the director found is $52,020 a year and the salary for the assistant director is $37,527. The lowest paid full time employee at the organization is the library assistant position with some required college experience. This position pays $19,990 a year. The average salaried employee makes $25,377 a year and works an average of 37.5 hours a week. The library is open 55 hours per week with 4.5 hours per week after 6 PM. The library is open until 3:30 PM on Saturdays and closed on Sunday. The library was open 2860 hours in 2013 (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013). The Obion County Public Library attendance via statistics gathered from a laser door counter found at the site show 127,138 people visited the library in 2013. During 2013, the library assisted with 6,450 reference questions, 129,006 adult circulations, and 42,230 juvenile circulations. The library grand total for completed circulations was 171,236 in 2013. The total number of library programs in 2013 was 255, with a total attendance for these programs at 6,435 people (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013). The primary limiting factors and performance issues of programming and services are determined by investigating several influences. The primary factor in most need of attention is how well advertising and publicity are being implemented for events, programs and services. Issues in regards to dates and times of the events and programs, and whether or not they conflict with other community programs and events is a common performance issue is many programs administered. Many additional programs are requested but due to budgetary constraints the library is not able to implement the frequency of instructional classes, children’s programs, and outreach programming. (oclibrary.org, 2014). Several professional instructors for computer classes require a fee which may or may not be feasible for the organization at the time. Finding better access to meaningful instructors and coursework that meets the needs of the community is increasingly important for the Obion County Public Library. The library also plans strengthen its communication model and standardize its publicity methods as to maximize the reach of its events and programs. Issues with budgetary constraints and limits of communication and advertising are connected short fallings because many of the libraries opportunities to give via charitable donation are not readily available to patrons. Information on planned giving and charitable giving is hard to find at the library location. The staff does not have a dedicated fundraising or grant coordinator. Additional communication and structure is needed to reign in proper funding to extend some of these needed programs. Strengthening budgetary accountability, fundraising and communication in these areas will help better fulfill the mission of the Obion County Public Library, and help to enrich the lives of the citizens of Obion County.

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).

Matthews (2004) provides a planning framework (p. 29) which has five key components: rationale, vision, market, offerings, and capabilities. The Obion County Public Library effectively communicates a clearly defined rationale and mission. The Why (rationale) is exemplified by providing patrons with a wide range of meaningful library materials and quality experiences. This is done by providing the user’s access to multiple forms of information through various methods and outlets. This is reflected in the organizations mission statement. Various services are provided that reflect this notion. Whether providing a considerable budget for books and materials that are readily available for checkout or providing access to online tools and databases provided by the state, the library becomes the causeway of information flow. Quality experiences are provided by the procurement of various programs and services provided each month. These include a myriad of children’s programs, adult self-help classes, computer classes, craft classes, public speakers, and other informative opportunities and experiences. My providing accessible materials, programs, and services that enable quality experiences, the Obion County Public Library validates it’s mission and it’s state reason for existing. The Where (vision) is stated in the library’s vision statement states “The Obion County Public Library is the area’s gateway to unlimited opportunities for personal growth and community advancement.” This notion combined with the library missions statement frame an emphasis on providing the community with opportunities for self-advancement and community advancement. This idea is solidified by the notions mentioned in the library mission statement. The library sets out to provide personal and community advancement by providing access to information. The mission statement reads “by providing them with a wide range of meaningful library materials and quality experiences.” The Who (market) is described in the 2013 census, the population was 32,827. The county’s largest city is Union City with a population of 10,888 (U.S. Census 2012). The largest percentage group is adults age 20-64, with children and teens making up around one fourth of the population total (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Tradition plays an important role in the lives of the townspeople. 24.4% of Obion County residents are over the age of sixty (U.S Census 2012). The Obion County area remains a very economically challenged area of Tennessee. Median family incomes are $40,516 ($12,530 below the national average), and 17.1% of families in Obion County are below the poverty level (Census, 2008-2012). The U.S. Department Labor Statistics for Obion County (2012) lists unemployment for the region at 6.3%. According to the Census for 2012, manufacturing is the largest occupational segment, employing 20.5% of Obion County’s population of ages 16 and older. Obion County proudly provides its residents a typical small town environment, a haven for retirement, with a slow leisurely lifestyle. The What (offerings) are identified as various programs that target children and adults. Thea children’s library provides the highest level of programming hours per year. These programs include children’s story time, children’s educational events, art and craft classes, and the summer reading program. Various teen and tween activities include the Teen Advisory Group or T.A.G. club which helps host game and movie nights and coordinate board game and teen book club events. Several programs and services also aim directly at older members of the community, homebound services, outreach bookmobile, nifty-fifty bingo, sit-n-stich, and various senior craft classes are held monthly. The How (capabilities) are identified in the vision and mission statement. The Obion County Public Library will continue to provide services and programs prevalent to the fulfillment of the state mission and vision, but the level and frequency of these programs and services are what is most jeopardized during budgetary contraction. Until recent years the library has seen a systematic increase in budget at a rate of 2.2 percent until the last half decade in which the budget has remained the same (oclibrary.org 2014). This in essence is a budgetary cut when the increase in cost and calculated rates of inflation are considered. This budgetary freeze has also created a staff salary contraction to occur which limits the available salaries to hire educated and qualified libraries. To maintain the quality of excellence required to fulfilling the library mission the library must streamline its costs and processes as to dampen the blows of fiscal cutbacks. This requires a rethinking budgetary processes are carried out, and continual pursuit of additional funding. Each of these aforementioned services fundamentally rely on budgets that must be streamlined and maintained.

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 is: “The Obion County Public Library is the area’s gateway to unlimited opportunities for personal growth and community advancement.” This vision statement of the Obion County Public Library is somewhat vague, but it does compliment the organizations mission statement in regards to its aspirations to better individuals and the community as a whole. In the reading Weingand (2001) offers several service responses about various roles a library can fulfill. The Obion County Public Library meets all of these expectations. For basic literacy, the library provides afterschool programs that focus on reading exercises with children’s librarians. A file is kept on each afterschool student and the progress of the child’s reading is kept and evaluated. Early literacy computers, classrooms visits, and the summer reading program help to bolster literacy for young readers and listeners. Business and career information is provided by the Tennessee Career Coach which is available at the library monthly, along with yearly provided access to employment software on public library computers, like Winway Resume Maker and Career Transitions databases. Common spaces include the availability of meeting rooms available to the public. The library partners with the Job World International, a local employment service that uses public computer spaces to teach and recruit for potential job openings. Community referral is available through the community referral brochure which is a printed brochure updated yearly. Consumer reports and access to consumer review information are available at the library, foreign language tools are provided in online databases, and various public speakers present monthly on current topics in national and local news. The Obion County Public Library also serves as a major hub for government information, including tax, immigration, and other documents. Information literacy and lifelong learning are a major aspect of library operations as GED tutors and testing is held bimonthly at the library. The library provides public access computers, large collection of fiction and nonfiction books, a video collection, and newspaper and magazine subscriptions. The library also provides “The Tennessee Room” which is a genealogical research area specializing in local and national genealogical research. This area is staff with a fulltime genealogist to provide research and instruction for genealogical research (oclibrary.org 2014). The Obion County Public Library is a strong community leader and receives the commitment of thousands of citizens per year in the form of patronage, volunteering, and political support. A large portion of the library budget is spent on maintaining the library collection and providing meaningful services. As noted in the library mission and vision statement, providing access to information is crucial to the betterment of individuals and the greater community.

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

Our core values are the foundation upon which we perform our work and interact with each other and our communities. We value:

  • Excellence in Service
  • Free and Equal Access to Library Services
  • Integrity, Trust, and Privacy


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

The Obion County Public Library has not released a comprehensive strategic plan, the goals outlined within the Obion County Public Library 2014 budget state many of the library’s goals in the upcoming year. The library plans to add (2) additional positions to the library staff in the upcoming year and increase the fulltime librarian’s yearly salary by 3%. This is due to the fact that the library staff has not seen raises in (3) years. The library also hopes to add additional incentives for librarians to gain additional training and increase access to education. The total number of current employees at the Obion County Public Library is 22. This includes 11 full-time employees. The library director currently possesses a bachelor’s degree and works 40 hours per week. The assistant director also holds a bachelor’s degree and works 40 hours per week. The posted salary for the director found is $52,020 a year and the salary for the assistant director is $37,527. The lowest paid full time employee at the organization is the library assistant position with some required college experience. This position pays $19,990 a year. The average salaried employee makes $25,377 a year and works an average of 37.5 hours a week. The library hopes to add (2) full time staff positions. One position will focus on event planning and public relation the other position is aimed at assisting with acquisitions. (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013). The second area of improvement is to increase the frequency of advertising and communication with the community. This is aimed at increasing attendance of library events and increasing the number of items circulated per year. The Obion County Public Library gathers attendance data via statistics gathered from a laser door counter found at the site show 127,138 people visited the library in 2013. During 2013, the library assisted with 6,450 reference questions, 129,006 adult circulations, and 42,230 juvenile circulations. The library grand total for completed circulations was 171,236 in 2013. The total number of library programs in 2013 was 255, with a total attendance for these programs at 6,435 people (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013). Both of these areas include an increase in fiscal responsibility and streamlining of budgets as to provide the resources available to take on new employees and better promote library programs, materials, and services.

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

As mentioned previously, the primary factor in most need of attention is how well advertising and publicity are being implemented for events, programs and services. The library must strengthen its communication model and standardize its publicity methods as to maximize the reach of its events and programs. Issues with budgetary constraints and limits of communication and advertising are connected with the greater issue of reduced funding. If the library were to not only standardize its communication and advertising principals, but also overhaul its charitable giving options, the library could possibly increase its access for charitable giving and also increase its program advertising. Funds raised by increased opportunities to give, could help supplement costs of increasing the frequency of advertising. The translation of more funding derived from book sales, donations, planned giving programs, and fundraising and grant opportunities could strengthen budgetary accountability and hedge against the cost of increased communication and additional positions created. This communication could come in the form of employing the public relations coordinator outlined within the budgetary objectives for 2014 as outlined and further the reach of programs, services, and charitable giving opportunities.

References

Department of Labor Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. (n.d.). Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?en+47
Matthews, J. R. (2007). The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
National Agricultural Information System - USDA Regional IPM Center. (n.d.). National Information System - Regional IPM Centers. Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://www.ipmcenters.org/cropprofiles/docs/TNfieldcorn.pdf
Obion County Board of Education. (n.d.). Online Policy Utility. Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://www.boardpolicy.net/documents/default.asp?iBoard=30
Obion County Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved on June 10, 2014 from http://www.obioncounty.org/index.php/discover-obion-county.html
Obion County Public Library. (2014). Obion County Public Library. http://oclibrary.org/.
Obion County Public Library. (2014). Obion County Public Library Online Researcher. http://75.130.66.226/.
R.C. Forrester. "Obion County". Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1012
Tennessee Data center County Surveys. (n.d.). . Retrieved June 10, 2014, from http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs132/1112524074655/archive/1117231270306.html
Tennessee Public Library Survey. Yearly Report 2012 – 2013. Union City, TN: Author.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2010-2012. American Community Survey. Obion County, Tennessee. Retrieved on June 5, 2014 from http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_12_3YR_DP02&prodType=table.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2008-2012. American FactFinder. Retrieved on June 5, 2014 from http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk
Weingand, D. E. (2001). Administration of the Small Public Library (Fourth Edition). Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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