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Danny Hussey
7. User-Centered Assessment/Evaluation in PL Services

Abstract

            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 (oclibrary.org). This project studied the various methods available for charitable giving at the library. The study provided a concise overview of available giving options and explored how the processes related to user-centered issues such as availability, accessibility, and incentives are accessed from the user perspective.

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

Library governance for the Obion County Public Library is a liberating factor and strength. The current library governance in place allows for flexibility and innovation. The Obion County Public Library develops a strategic plan each year. This develops an agenda for the library. The plan is designed to be broad enough as to allow innovative methods of production and access for library programs and services. This includes charitable giving services which was the focal point of this study. Library governance is considered a liberating factor in regards to all library programs and services.  The strategic plan of the Obion County Public Library has a user-centered view of library management and aims at connecting users to the organization. The board which constructs this plan, along with the director, is made up of various community leaders from several areas (oclibrary.org). This formulation of leadership creates direction for the library and helps to formulate consensus on goals the organization may have. This form of shared governance takes into consideration the user perspective and the needs of programs incorporated into the institution such as charitable giving.

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

The library identity of the Obion County Public Library can be considered a liberating and limiting factor of the institution. The Obion County Public Library is committed through its mission, vision, and strategic goals to be as user-centered as possible. This process is not flawless. Many shortcomings regarding access and meeting the needs of various user-groups does not perform as well as intended. This is a developing aspect of the organization. Budgets may not allow proper advertising revenue to help programs and services reach the most in need. Many times the organizations utilizes digital strategies to disseminate tools and media available to the community. Often times the digital divide does not allow certain community members to have access or knowledge on how to reach these tools or services. Programs and services are constantly being developed and implemented to help reach community members that may be left behind in regards to access and making meaningful impacts (oclibrary.org). User groups expect a level of assistance and support for various processes related to access to tools, information, programs and services. The relationship that exists between the library as an institution and included user groups is continually evaluated and further developed as to between meet the needs of the community and create more effective methods of communication.

Community analysis and needs assessment

In regards to the charitable giving program analysis, the proportions of library users are skewed toward patrons over the age of 55. This makes users over 55 the largest population and primary audience for charitable giving services. These users account for approximately 13,370 library cards found in the library system records and when compared data evaluated in this project, have the highest probability of charitable gift giving. Of the surveys completed, males were 54% more likely to answer no to having given to a nonprofit in the past year than females. The largest pool of potential donors who had given to a nonprofit institution at a frequency of once per year or more were females ages 55 and older. Of this group sampled, qualitative responses from this user group revealed a high interest in charitable gift giving for memorials and honorariums. This data suggests that an increased in marketing targeted at females over the age of 55 would be the most likely to receive positive response and possible charitable donations made in the future. Historically, the library has received the largest one time gifts from males over the age of 55, but consequently the highest frequency of gifts given over time come from females over the age of 55. Various methods of communication aimed at aging populations within the community must be further explored. Many times organizations focus primarily on the performance of institutional websites. In this case it does appear that the library website requires major renovation. In regards to this analysis, most prominent users are over the age of 55, it could also be lucrative to increase tangible media and advertising as many of these users identify with this type of marketing. Tangible media or ‘deliverables’ such as mailers, flyers, and newsletters should be aimed at the specific user population over the age of 55. This could prove to be the most viable for the performing user group.

Marketplace dynamics/advertising

Marketplace dynamic and advertising are a limiting factor of charitable giving services. The Obion County Public Library publicizes its charitable giving opportunities through print, on-line, and word of mouth marketing. Very rarely are links featured on library social media pages such as Twitter or Facebook. Very little signage exists outside of the Giving Tree area signage. This signage area also includes a printed handout which describes the charitable giving options available at the library (oclibrary.org). Many times charitable giving pamphlets are limited in scope and are not professionally printed. Other printed handouts about donating materials include itemized tax receipt, and details about cash gifts are found within a printed handout behind the circulation desk. These brochures are administered when patrons ask about giving opportunities. The librarians do not know details about the specific ways to give. The website includes a ‘Support the Library’ tab which includes a list of giving opportunities (oclibrary.org). This area of the site also includes volunteer information, which is known to confuse many users. The conjoining of volunteerism and charitable giving within the site dilutes each aspect and adds confusion to the user experience (oclibrary.org). More thorough information about giving and a dedicated area that describes charitable giving opportunities is needed within the website and an increase in the frequency of newsletters, recognition mailers, flyers, and brochures should be developed and made accessible.

Evaluation action plan

The director of the Obion County Public Library was an integral component to the deployment of this study. Prior to this project very little user centered evaluations had been performed to gather feedback about charitable giving services at the Obion County Public Library. This research and assessment was a liberating factor because it looked for answers to questions that had not been asked before about library users. This was liberating as it opens new potential for the library. All of the goals of the research focused on the user. The first was to determine which charitable giving services the user is most likely to use, and to find suggestions for improvement of existing giving options.  Each question of the evaluation helped to determine the direction of charitable giving services at the Obion County Public Library. The second objective was to understand the effectiveness of the delivery methods of communication.  This objective aimed at understanding which communication methods worked.  The third objective was to better understand what users have participated in charitable donations previously and the potential frequency and likelihood of charitable giving in regards to what method of giving options would be used in the future and for what reason the user would be willing to give.

Assessment and evaluation methods

The Obion County Public Library assesses patron satisfaction in various ways. This is a liberating factor. The library provides evaluations at the completion of programs administered at the library site. Various evaluations are deployed each year to assess patron feedback about various aspects of library operations. One of the most evaluated areas is in technology performance and instruction. Limiting factors in this area are in regards to what services received evaluations annually. While technology and collection development are consistently researched, other areas such as charitable giving services, website performance, and advertising strategies are rarely evaluated. In this case, the assessment tool designed for the project provided rich data for the Obion County Public Library to explore and determine next steps regarding charitable giving services.

Personnel management

This can be considered a limiting factor in several areas of charitable giving services. Although data from research suggests an overall effective interaction with library staff in regards to charitable donations and how details are communicated about particular charitable giving programs, more training is needed so that every staff member can effectively communicate not only available programs but the need donors to make significant donations. The librarian must be able to accurately describe each of the charitable giving programs at the library.
Library gift items such as books, magazines, and manuscripts are always accepted but documentation provided during the donation process describes that items are not guaranteed to enter the library collection. Materials are handed over to the Friends of the Library who gauge the quality and value the item may serve in the library collection. If the title is old, or a duplicate title already in the collection, it will be entered as a book sale item. During this process the user is given a small sheet of paper which outlines these details. Often times the librarian completing this process does not effectively communicate where donated items go to the patron. The information that is provided upon each donation describes that often times items will not enter the collection yet many users still struggle with understanding why a donated item did not go into the collection(oclibrary.org). This is the most noteworthy disconnect between users and the organization in regards to donating items and materials. Librarians must learn charitable giving options themselves if they are to accurately communicate these services to patrons.

Finances

Similar to many of libraries, the Obion County Public Library has a limited budget. In most cases the budget is considered a limiting factor. For several years the Obion County Public Library has had a flat budget. The library’s buying power has actually decreased in this time period due to inflation. This makes charitable giving more important than ever. The Obion County Public Library has been fortunate enough in the past decade to facilitate several large charitable donations that have helped to add building additions such as the Library Amphitheater (oclibrary.org). In regards to building maintenance, the library has seen dramatic increases in cost to maintaining the library facility which was also provided by one large charitable donation. An increased need of charitable donations does not substitute the cost of implementing new strategies and advertising to grow donations. Advocacy and outreach about charitable giving has increased due to the capacities of library personnel and staff creating flyers and writing newsletters about the importance of giving (oclibrary.org). Often times more support personnel and tools are needed to adequately make impacts on charitable donors as to secure new funding.

Policy development

Policies about various issues are important at the Obion County Public Library. They are considered a liberating factor before they serve library leadership as a pathway to navigating key issues that arise in regards to institutional factors.  The Obion County Public Library has well documented policies and procedures for most services administered. In regards to charitable giving, basic guidelines for charitable giving are outlined within the organizational policy handbook. These policies identify the various programs but are vague in regards to specific functions and practices (oclibrary.org). More development of charitable giving policies and encapsulation of various program details are still needed to accurately assist in the proper implementation of charitable giving services.

Collections and collection management

Collections and collection management are not an intrinsic component of charitable giving services for the Obion County Public Library. The major aspect that is relevant would be the donation of library materials and whether or not they are added to the library collection. This process is handled by the Friends of the Library organization. This process is completed by comparing the item to the existing library collection and gauging the need of the materials. If the title is old, or a duplicate title already in the collection, it will be entered as a book sale item. The Obion County Public Library and Friends of the Library provide quality service for developing the library collection and providing assistance to library users about finding or identifying materials (oclibrary.org). A strong collections policy and educated staff make actively managing the collection function to meet the needs of patrons.

Electronic resources and technology assessment

Electronic resources and technology are a liberating factor for the Obion County Public Library because it connects more patrons with information and tools are require. Technology helps to streamline library processes and more effectively serve the community. Technology plays an important role in access to several programs and services such as charitable giving. Technology is an important area to consider when assessing and implementing methods of communication with donors. Communication with patrons can occur through websites, emails, and social media. Technical services continue to evolve in the public library due to additional automation and better integrated systems for cataloging, interlibrary loan, and reference services. The Obion County Public Library also host weekly classes that meet many diverse needs. Classes include topics from computer basics to advanced word processing. Assessing technology needs of patrons is critical for libraries (oclibrary.org). The Obion County Public continually pursues expanding access to technology.

Technical services and reference services

These services are considered liberating because they comprise a significant amount of user interaction at the library. The Obion County Public Library does not man a virtual reference desk online. Reference questions are taken by form, over the phone, and in person. The reference desk is staffed at all times of open hours and the library has (1) full time reference librarians and (2) part-time employees (oclibrary.org). Traditional reference work and research is performed here. Many times reference librarians will search online databases and for specific information needs. Like other technical services, reference continues to evolve in the public library. The evolution of access and retrieval methods are changing rapidly as new information technology systems emerge.

Library systems and library networks

Library systems and library networks are a liberating factor before they are intrinsic to most services and processes performed at the library. Each area utilizes computer technology, shared information resources, and various information technology tools to complete their daily processes. The library environment is very systems focused at the Obion County Public Library. Library staff members are educated in the use of various computer software and hardware. New programs and tools are implemented often and library staff members are required to receive training on these tools. Training is provided by the Technology Department at the library and the Obion River Regional Library. The integrated library system plays an integral role in the performance of the entire library. The books communicate with the library system upon checkout or renewal. These systems also communicate with security systems. All item records and patron data is stored one site within a database. That database is then syncs all organizational data to a datacenter offsite (oclibrary.org). Faster performing internet, computers, and networking are constantly pursued by the library. Communication systems place a vital role in organizational advertising. Much of the advertising for charitable giving services is communicated online. Phone, fax, and email help staff members communicate with donors. Annual donor newsletters which describe upcoming projects, donor appreciation memoirs, and donor spotlights help to highlight influential donors (oclibrary.org).

User instruction and customer services

This is a liberating factor in regards to charitable giving services. The project data showed that when patrons were asked whether or not questions about donations were answered respectfully and completely by library staff 41% agreed and only 14% disagreed. This data leads the researcher to believe that when user groups interact directly with staff members about giving they are helped successfully, but if other modes of communication about potential giving are sought out the user either does not find what they are looking for or are not happy with the information found about charitable giving options. Good customer service is required by librarians who are hired at the library. Although data from research suggests an overall effective interaction with library staff in regards to charitable donations and how details are communicated about particular charitable giving programs, more training is still needed so that every staff member can effectively communicate not only available programs, but the need for donors to make significant donations (oclibrary.org).. The librarian must be able to accurately describe each program and features of charitable giving services.
Computer classes are requested often at the Obion County Public Library. Several training opportunities are present for staff and patrons each month. Computer, employment, media, web, eBook, and language classes are offered monthly. Staffs are given monthly instruction of various library processes (oclibrary.org). The Obion County Public Library remains committed to providing meaningful coursework and instruction so that the people of Obion County remain life-long learners.

Adult and/or youth services

The area is considered a liberating factor. The library has sought to provide more offerings for youth with its creation of the Teen Advisory Board, or T.A.G. this program focuses of specific Teen programming such as movie nights, lock ins, book clubs, creative crafts, and other social events. The Children’s library hosts a myriad of children’s programming services such as story time, crafts, puppet workshops, and other special programs such as American Girl Club, Lego Club, and Afterschool Minecraft Events. Adult services include various book club, painting groups, and musical events at the library amphitheater. Many of these programs are supported by donations made. Charitable giving services help to support much of the additional programs and services offered relevant to adult and youth services. The Obion County Public Library works diligently to meet the diverse needs of its users and provide meaningful programs and experiences (oclibrary.org). The Obion County Public Library creates and administers these programs from a user center perspective.

References

Obion County Public Library. (2015). Obion County Public Library. http://oclibrary.org/.
Obion County Public Library Financial Report. Yearly Report 2013 – 2014. Union City, TN: Author.
Obion County Public Library Survey. Yearly Survey 2013 – 2014.
U.S. Census Bureau. 2010-2013. 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.


Spring 2015

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