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Danny Hussey
2. Identification of the Public Library Users


This research project will study the Obion County Public Library (OCPL) which serves Union City Tennessee and the surrounding county of Obion. The official population area served by the library is 31,340 people ( This project will study the various methods available for charitable giving at the library. The study will provide a concise overview of various programs, projects, collections and services and their relationships to budgetary constraints and potential fundraising opportunities.

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.

The Obion County Public Library features three distinct user populations, which include users under the age of 18, adults ages 18-55, and older adults who are 55 years and over. Each of these segments interact with services provided by the library in various ways. According to the statistics retrieved from the library’s Integrated Library System called “Alexandria”, the library currently possesses 26,012 library card holders ( According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2012 American Community Survey, Obion County currently has a population of 31,340 people. This data combined shows that 83% of area residents have library cards.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau People Quickfacts for 2013, the percentage of people under the age of 18 years old for the county is 22.2%. The U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey for 2013 shows that 26.4% of the population served is over the age of 55. The remaining population of ages 18-55 is 51.4%. The proportions of library users are likely skewed toward patrons over the age of 55 and under the age of 18 (based upon existing national trends), the largest population and primary audience are adults from age 18-55. This accounts for approximately 13,370 library cards found in the library system records.
The Obion County Public Library’s secondary audience is adults over the age of 55. This accounts for 8,273 library cards in the library records. The tertiary audience is children under the age of 18 which accounts 6,957 children in the serving area. 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’s 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 children’s library participates in measuring outcome for both the children’s and teen programs. The Obion County Public Library Summer Reading Survey includes several questions at the end to gather additional data needed for in-house reporting. These surveys are distributed during the last month of the summer reading club and completed surveys are sent to the children’s librarians for collation. The children’s librarians are encouraged to collect as many surveys as possible but were not given a minimum required number. Each student is contained within a file which includes basic information, reading and completion lists, program completions and milestone achievement records. Any special considerations are also included within these records. Last year’s records indicate the 2,551 children participated in the Summer Reading Program (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013).
Other statistics include:
• Over (1,200) readers preregistered for Summer Reading
• Over (900) listeners preregistered for Summer Reading
• 25 Girls and Boys Club members attended Summer Reading
• 5 Spanish-speaking families participated in Summer Reading
• 531 kids from a local low-performing elementary school attended
• 5 families from a local housing project attended
• 5 Latino teens participated in Summer Reading
• 42 teens ages fifteen to eighteen attended Teen Summer Reading
• Over (10,000) children’s books circulated during Summer Reading
• Over (500) individual prizes were awarded for reading achievements
• Over (50) students increased their reading level during Summer Reading
• Over (190) children exceed 100 books read during Summer Reading
(Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013)

Adult programs are also available on a regular monthly basis. Each month a minimum of two computer classes are given. Last month, the classes included a Microsoft Excel 2010 class and an email class. Computer class attendance is usually consistent at 5 to 20 guests per class. These classes are given at assorted times during the week, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. The Adult Book Club meets once a month with currently 14 active members and is hosted and coordinated by one of the library’s reference librarians. The genealogical staff hosts a minimum of one monthly geological class per month. Last month’s class brought in an instructor to teach about the Find-A-Grave website which included how to find grave sites and obituary information. This class had 25 participate from ages 35 to age 70. These classes usually involve 20 to 25 students per class (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013).

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 Obion County Public Library has several individuals who are both knowledgeable about the library setting about interested members of the community. The first list of individuals is considered stakeholders and serve as contact points for this research project, they include: Michele Barnes, Director; Reba Hudson, Circulation Manager; Carolina Conner, Children’s Librarian; Penny Chestine; Event Coordintor, CJ Sullivan; Technology Coordinator, and Bill Dahnke; Head Cataloger. In addition to these members, the chairmen of the Friends of the Library Board Rob Joyner, who is a member of various organizations including Kiwanis Club, Rotary, Obion County Historical Society, and Obion County Main Street Board. With respect to this research project, stakeholders both within the library and within the community have been identified (personal communication, February 2, 2014).

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?

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 (U.S. Census, 2008-2012). The Obion County Public Library is within an area specific to scarcity of financial resources and limited in staff and support personnel. The American Library Association defines a rural library as a library which serves an immediate operation area of 25,000 or less people. Rural libraries sometimes feature common characteristics such as low income, low population, and geographic isolation (Rural Library Survey, 2012). Obion County Public Library organizers feel as if they face tough challenges in regards to economic and social weaknesses when in comparison to other regional institutional not-for-profits or larger institutions. The Obion County Public Library operates on a very small budget and has a smaller support staff and personnel to sustain existing programs and operations. Various demographic and community data must be explored as to measure the impacts these factors will have on charitable giving opportunities which directly impact all forms of programs and services at the library.
One striking thing to note about rural Obion County living conditions is the poverty. The rural poor experience 30% more inadequate housing conditions than urban poor according to the Rural Policy Research Institute. 50% of rural poor do not own a car. Unlike cities where public transportation is readily available, nearly 40% of the rural population lives in areas without public transportation. Rural workers are nearly twice more likely to earn minimum wage than urban workers (RUPRI 2014). Finding educated staff for rural libraries may also seem challenging fewer individuals with BA degrees or higher education are in rural areas (RUPRI, 2014). It becomes clear that Obion County communities have challenging differences in regards to metropolitan library areas. These social, economic, and geographical limitations are factors to be seriously considered when creating sustainable charitable giving programs.
Although these factors seem grim Obion County Public Library still stands to benefit its organization and community with implementing more charitable giving options at the library. According to research conducted by the American Library Association, Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries 50% more often than they go to the movies. Polls conducted found that 92% of respondents expect libraries to be needed in the future despite increases of availability of information via the internet (ALA Planned Giving, 2014). Other organizations within the community such as churches, universities, various not-for-profit institutions are available to accept charitable donations as well as the library. Many times churches may see the bulk of charitable donations and planned giving in form of bequests or incorporation of the institution within wills.

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

A SWOT analysis provides an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of the Obion County Public Library as perceived from the perspectives of eight individuals interviewed. Four of the individuals are full time staff members of the Obion County Public Library, the other four individuals are library users from the community. Each individual interviewed was asked to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats the library may face. The interview began with a discussion to the external applicants. What the best strength the library has, was the first question asked. All four of the community members first noted qualities of the library environment. They agreed that the library was very nice and clean and that they admired its design. Positive marks from all four external applicants noted the building, particularly the new tile floor, was very attractive. Two applicants mentioned that the staff was very helpful and courteous during trips to the library. Another applicant noted that the staff was very friendly and inviting. All four applicants noted staff friendliness as the second strongest feature of the Obion County Public Library. Other noted strengths were public meeting rooms, a vast number of programs provided, and children’s reading programs. The overall quality of the building was primarily noted strength in this section of the interviews (personal communication, February 2, 2014). The primary noted weakness by three of the four applicants was issues in regarding noise. A direct quote from the college student was as follows: “There are not enough quiet places in the library for individual study. Groups tend to be loud and sound carries in the building. This becomes a problem when I am studying for a big exam.” Another applicant noted, “Not enough quiet places to study, sometimes it’s very loud and that gets annoying.” Other assorted weaknesses noted by applicants included “Too much empty space on the shelves”. More adult activities and evening classes were also noted as a weakness. Another noted weakness is that book covers are not ‘shown off’ enough (personal communication, February 2, 2014). The user suggested placing more items’ book covers out to help circulate them. Applicants noted that they enjoyed seeing the book covers on the top shelves. More displays and staff selection displays were also requested in this section of the interview. The last applicant noted that he did not see any weaknesses currently at the Obion County Public Library. When interviewed and asked about opportunities for the library in the coming years one applicant noted that more interesting events and partnership with other community and cultural events would help strengthen the library. Another external applicant noted more computer classes, outdoor music, entertainment, and programming could help to keep the library vibrant in the community. Two applicants both noted that technology classes will always be needed as the world keeps advancing. Opportunities for the library included remarks about the importance of technology in several areas. Also, applicants responded to the importance of academics, and the library’s importance in regards to research. All four external applicants noted the importance of technology and the importance of education several times during the opportunities portion of the interview (personal communication, February 2, 2015). Threats to the library in the coming years showed various responses. Funding was the most often mentioned hurdle the library will most likely face. The worry of a weakening local government and weakening state government was noted by two of the four applicants. Two of the four applicants noted that the ease of technology and the laziness of the public would bring the demise of libraries. One applicant noted, “I think many communities are too lazy to defend their libraries. They think the internet and screens can give them everything.” Some others noted responses include lack of space for expansion, eBooks taking over in popularity, and damaging changes to county and city budgets (personal communication, February 2, 2015). The strongest responses from internal and external applicants interviewed during the SWOT analysis were positive remarks in regards to the quality of the facility. The quality of the structure is the library’s biggest strength. In 2003, the library received a large charitable donation of around $2.6 million to build a new library building. This is a noted response from both internal and external applicants surveyed during this analysis. Other strengths included within the external and internal audience, the quality of library staff. Although the quality of the staff was noted more frequently in the internal analysis, both groups had positive remarks about the library staff. Library weaknesses offered by the library staff in the internal analysis included responses in regards to frequency of activities and adult activities provided. Frequency of programming and increases in adult programming were a common feature in the external analysis as well. Inconsistencies in responses on opportunities for the library included the library’s opportunity to provide digital media such as e-books, video, and other assorted computer technology availability. The same number of applicants also noted library technology increases could threaten the library in the future. Both internal and external applicants show positive and negative responses in regards to increases in technological and digital presence within the library. The most common threat noted by internal applicants was funding related. External applicants also noted weakening funding opportunities could jeopardize the library’s ability to remain vibrant (personal communication, February 2, 2014). In regards to this analysis, the library building is a popular talking point of applicants. Continued proper building maintenance must be implemented to protect this asset. A weakness of too few adult events and programming was the primary addressed weakness for the organization. The library must continue to increase the number of programs offered by the library. Increased marketing and communication of these programs and services is also intrinsic. In regards to advancing digital and electronic resources, the positive and negative aspects according to interview applicants are debatable. The increase of electronic materials may help to bolster participation from various community members and users in the future, but could also help to detach library users from needing a facility. The most consistent threat noted to the library was a weakening local, state, and federal government that could have implications on funding. The library must continue to communicate its viability and defend its current funding while also continuing to seek out new funding opportunities to ensure organizational growth (personal communication, February 2, 2015).

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.

As stated on the organization’s website, the mission of the Obion County Public Library is “To enrich and improve the lives of the citizens of Obion County by providing them with a wide range of meaningful library materials and quality experiences.” The library measures this success by implementing surveys then are distributed periodically throughout the year. Completed surveys are asked to be submitted after any library instruction program as well. The children’s librarians are often encouraged to collect as many surveys as possible. This data is then collated and analyzed (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013).
The library’s goals and objectives are outlined in the Executive Summary section of the library's strategic plan which began in 2012. The plan for 2012-2015 features the following strategic directions: Provide highly motivated and well-trained staff to provide personal and exceptional service, be a strong, reliable partner, seen as advancing community needs, be widely recognized as the community "hub" (the central place to connect, learn and grow), encourage cultural diversity represented by our community, increase outreach to underserved areas and individuals in our community, and communicate the impact of the library on our community. Additionally, the plan states several sub areas of focus including providing opportunities for staff development and education, partnering with area businesses, and expanding library services for non-traditional users (Tennessee Public Library Survey 2012 - 2013). Nowhere in the strategic plan does it identify developing meaningful ways for patrons to give back via charitable donations or planned giving. The aspect of fundraising at the Obion County Public Library is an underdeveloped area.
Accountability for completion of grants falls on the director and assistant director. Typically, the assistant director seeks out specific grants for special materials, programs, and services, but no set standard exists for this process. According to Financial Statements and Supplementary Information the library received $337,820 from the county and $168,911 as appropriations for operating in funding year 2013. Special revenue entered into the Library Foundation and Friends of the Library group equated to $19,392 dollars. This funding was provided via charitable gifts, memorials, donations, book sales, and outside grants. The grants in this amount were $1,000 provided by the Walmart Community Giving Program and $2,500 provided by Little General Convenient Stores (personal communication, February 2, 2015). These amounts do not include communications service reimbursement provided by eRate which is the name for the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund. This is a federal refund on communications services administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This refund was in the amount of $10,877 dollars. Other non-tradition funding sources are fines and fees which were $15,439 dollars and another $12,911 dollars for technology made possible through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) as administered through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In this case, traditional charitable gifts equated to 3.83% of the libraries total operating cost and 11.8% if all outside funding, fines, and fees are included.
Upon entering the front doors of the organization, visitors see a large 10’ x 15’ carved wooden oak tree with bronze and silver plates and insignia inscribing various individuals, organizations, and businesses. This decoration is called ‘the giving tree’. The plaques also inform the viewer that the large stones equaled 100,000 dollars in donations, medium stones equate to 50,000 dollar donations, small stones equal 25,000, Golden acorn’s equal 10,000 in donations, brown acorns were worth 5,000 in donations, the brass leaf was worth 1,000 in donations, and the copper leaves were for donations of $500. Any donations less than 500 were listed in a donor book that was presented on a podium beside the circulation desk. Projects like these help to bolster public giving as it exhibits importance and recognition to charitable donors.
The circulation desk does not have any materials associated with fundraising or donation information. This brochure rack includes the Friends of the Library brochure outlines various steps of giving and another brochure with information similar to what was featured at the front door near the giving tree. Other information is present about how to volunteer at the library and how donating books to the library is handled at the facility. The children’s library only features brochures in regards to events and programming. When visiting the organization’s website, it does not have a specific button for donations on the homepage. Resolving these issues would help to make charitable giving programs more accessible in the building and online.

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

Analyzing how and why users interact with the library is essential to improving the implementation of programs and services. Focusing on users helps the library personnel to see what it is like being a library user. Focusing on a user-centered design for charitable giving would mean learning about and incorporating more methods of giving for the library. This needs to make giving more accessible and recommended.
Most large charitable investments want to maximize benefits and return. These returns can be donor objectives such as enriching a family legacy or tax incentives. Construction of a methodical financial plan is important in charitable giving. An effective planned giving program creates a wide range of planned gift options. These planned gift options can be solicited by a rural library fundraiser or the library director. Gifts from planned giving financial vehicles may not immediately be beneficial, but these programs strengthen your annual capital giving programs as well as solicit the option to give. Many planned gifts can give continually in small amounts far into the future or give one large amount. Charitable giving programs require patience and persistence (Dowd, 2014). When organizations develop and strengthen their charitable giving programs they invest in themselves. Developing charitable giving programs are investments into the future of institutions.


Caudle, G. (2009, August 5). Donor Plans to fund new Discovery Park Museum. Union City Messenger, p. A1.
Dowd, S. (2014). Beyond book sales: the complete guide to raising real money for your library. Chicago: Neal-Schuman.
Husock, H. (2013, November 19). 60 Minutes And The Gates-Buffett 'Giving Pledge': What They Got Right--and Wrong. Forbes. Retrieved July 12, 2014, from
Obion County Public Library. (2014). Obion County Public Library.
Obion County Public Library. (2014). Obion County Public Library Online Researcher.
Obion County Commission. (2013). Obion County Public Library Yearly Budget & Appropriations. Union City, Tennessee.
RUPRI Rural Definitions. (n.d.). RUPRI. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from
Rural Library Survey. (n.d.). American Library Association, Retrieved July 5, 2014, from
Tennessee Public Library Survey. Yearly Report 2012 – 2013. Union City, TN: Author.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2010-2013. American Community Survey. Obion County, Tennessee. Retrieved on June 5, 2014 from
U.S. Census Bureau. 2008-2012. American FactFinder. Retrieved on June 5, 2014 from

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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