The focus of this study is on the Bristol Public Library (BPL) which serves approximately 44,000 residents of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia. More specifically this study seeks to assess and evaluate BPL's Adult Learning Lab (A.L.L.) in terms of the library's strategic plan and the needs of its community. This paper provides an examination of the Kingsport Public Library (KPL) adult programming. The scope, objectives, activities, and resources that surround the programming will be explored as well as the effectiveness of the programming at meeting the needs of the community. The similarities and differences between the programming offered at KPL and BPL will be identified and the use of user-centered assessment and evaluation will be discussed.
Kingsport Public Library (KPL), is located in downtown Kingsport, Tennessee. The library serves approximately 53,000 individuals, primarily residing in Sullivan County, Tennessee (United States Census Bureau, 2013). KPL is a part of the Watauga Regional Library Consortium, which includes six county libraries and nine library systems (Lane, M., 2007, February 20). Currently, the library offers several adult classes and programs to library patrons free of charge. KPL offers computer classes, job clinics, adult literacy tutoring, eBook workshops, and FAFSA workshops (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). The libraries reference librarians are also available during library hours to assist patrons with any additional needs on a one-on-one basis (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14).
Currently, the computer classes are on a brief hiatus as the library updates to Microsoft Word 2013 and develops new training material (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). The library is also currently switching to a new integrated library system, which requires a lot of dedication from the libraries technology staff during this time. The classes are expected to start back during fall of 2015. Every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. is KPL's job lab. These sessions are open to anyone, no library card required, for assistance with creating a resume and applying for online jobs (Kingsport Public Library, 2015a). During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, these sessions had 114 attendees (Kingsport Public Library, 2015, July). The library also collaborates with local businesses to offer photography workshops (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). In addition, the library offers several adult series throughout the year that changes based on the interests of the community. Currently, KPL is offering a Healthful Hints series (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). According to Cassell, after this series ends the library plans to start a Genealogy series (personal communication, 2015, April 14).
As far as adult programming is concerned, KPL only uses used user-centered assessment and evaluation to assess their job clinics. The primary tool used by KPL is satisfaction surveys. However, due to the low response rate for the surveys the library has decided to begin exploring alternative methods for assessing the programs. Currently, library staff base the success of programs and classes by attendance rates.
Kingsport Public Library's adult programming is actively promoted by both the library and the city of Kingsport. The library advertises the programming on its website, Facebook page, with power points on the first floor of the library, and signage around Kingsport (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). The city also lists the adult programming on their event calendar. Additionally, channel 16 news plays the power point advertising upcoming events and the Kingsport Times advertises the programming in both their print and online publications (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14).
The adult programming is managed by a five-member Adult Programming Committee (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). The committee is in charge of deciding which programming to continue and which to cancel as well as developing new programming based on analysis of the community needs/interests. The sessions are led by the library's reference librarians. This set up works out great because attendees who need more specialized assistance can continue working with the reference librarians outside of the class.
Kingsport Public Libraries adult programming is a core aspect of the services offered to attract current and potential users to the library. Anyone interested in the programming is allowed to attend, as participants are not required to have a library card to participate. KPL's mission is "to grow and develop with the community to meet the people's cultural, educational, and information needs in a welcoming settings that supports lifelong learning (Kingsport Public Library, n.d.). The adult programming at KPL complements the mission by continuously evaluating their offerings to assure they are developing with and fulfilling the needs of the community (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). The adult programming is dedicated to supporting lifelong learning, this is demonstrated by the adult literacy and computer classes. The library supports the community's educational needs by providing assistance filling out FAFSA's. This service helps by assisting community members in finding ways to afford higher education. The library also offers several series throughout the semester based on community interests, some examples include a health series, gardening series, and a genealogy series. By offering the adult literacy and computer classes, KPL is also supporting its vision to "inspire and sustain a literate citizenry, enhancing lives through knowledge and information" (Kingsport Public Library, n.d.).
KPL users are encouraged to provide feedback on their perceptions of the services offered. Specifically, the library conducts user's surveys after the job clinics asking participants to rate the service and offer any suggestions for improvement (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). However, due to the low response rate the library is currently looking for other methods of acquiring user input (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14).
The Kingsport Public Library provides a number of high-quality adult programming throughout the year. Based on the attendance and the input provided by users the KPL staff agree that the adult programming is effectively reaching the community residents (Cassell, K., personal communication, 2015, April 14). During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, there a total of 843 participants in the adult programming sessions (Kingsport Public Library, 2015, June). According to Karen Cassell, KPL Reference Librarian, the classes are well attended and are enjoyed by the participants (personal communication, 2015, April 14). Two of the greatest strengths of the adult programming at KPL are the strong patron interest and the ability of the library to adjust the programming to the community's needs and interests.
The adult programming at Kingsport Public Library and Bristol Public Library (BPL) have several similarities as well as differences. For starters, both libraries provide the services for free to anyone wishing to attend. They are both focused on lifelong learning and enhancing the skills and education of the community. They both offer assistance with adult literacy, computer skills, financial aid assistance and help finding/applying for jobs online as well as creating resumes.
The primary difference between the two is that KPL offers the service in scheduled group classes while BPL offers the majority of their services through one-on-one walk-in sessions. The BPL's A.L.L. has its own area in the library and is open for walk-in service Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. On the other hand, all of KPL's programming currently share an auditorium thus must stick to a strict programming schedule. Additionally, the KPL's adult programming is part of the libraries budget while at BPL it is funded by grants and fundraising efforts. The BPL has a sole staff person dedicated entirely to planning and implementing the adult services while at KPL there is a five-member committee in charge of developing the programs and all of the reference staff have a part in teaching the classes.
User-centered assessment of adult programming is not being used to its full potential in either library. Both KPL and BPL could benefit from the addition of more user-centered assessment and evaluation techniques. KPL has not experienced good response rates with their current methods and BPL is just beginning to implement user-user centered assessment of the adult programming. Both libraries could benefit from posting web-based surveys on their websites/Facebook pages as well as distributing them through the libraries email list. Both libraries expressed that patron input of the service is highly important to the future development of new programming and the improvement of current offerings. However, the main constraint stopping both libraries from implementing more user-centered evaluation is limited staffing.
Kingsport Public Library. (2015). Computer Classes. Retrieved on April 24th, 2015 from http://www.kingsportlibrary.org/events/categories/computer-classes/
Kingsport Public Library (2015a). Job Lab. Retrieved on April 24th, 2015 from http://www.kingsportlibrary.org/events/job-lab-2-2015-04-29/
Kingsport Public Library. (2015, June). Reference Annual Statistics Summary July, 2014-June, 2015.
Kingsport Public Library. (n.d.). Mission/Vision. Retrieved from http://www.kingsportlibrary.org/library-info/missionvision/
Lane, M., (2007, February 20). Kingsport BMA eliminates non-resident library card fee. Kingsport Times News. Retrieved from http://www.timesnews.net/article/3733596/kingsport-bma-eliminates-non-resident-library-card-fee
United States Census Bureau. (2013). State & County Quick Facts: Kingsport (city), Tennessee. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47/4739560.html
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