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The Public Library Context

Abstract

The following work will identify and describe the Art Circle Public Library in Crossville, Tennessee; attention will be given to the facility, collections, staff, services, vision and mission statements, and overall organization of the library. The information in this work was obtained through the author's experiences in working with the library, interviews with staff members, and other sources.

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 Art Circle Public Library (ACPL) in Crossville, Tennessee is the only library in Cumberland County: it has no branches. It serves a population of approximately 57,500 people (United States Census Bureau, 2014), hosts approximately 85,500 items available for loan (Breeding, 2014), and is centrally located in downtown Crossville. The library opened the doors to its current facility in May of 2010 (Wattenbarger, 2010), and as of January 2015, has six full-time employees and 18 regular part-time employees. The employees consist of the Director, Deputy Director, Assistant Deputy Director (the author), the Children's Librarian, the Adult Services/Reference Librarian, and the Security/Maintenance employee. The library is governed by a nine-member Board of Trustees, who are in turn appointed by the Cumberland County Commission (Houston, 2015). The library is a county entity; the City of Crossville does not provide funding or have a say in the governance of the facility. The ACPL has two non-profit organizations that provide funding for extra books, materials, and other needs: the Friends of the Art Circle Public Library (Friends) and the Art Circle Public Library Foundation (Foundation) (Susie Randleman, personal communication, January 25, 2015).

The ACPL is part of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, in the Falling Water River Region, which grants it access to state-wide programs such as the Tennessee Electronic Library, the Regional E-book and Audiobook Download System, and the interlibrary loan system. These services are well used by the staff and patrons of the library (Tennessee State Library and Archives, n.d.).

The library's strengths lie in the staff, programming, and the strengths of the collection. The staff is trained to be as helpful as possible to the patrons in locating pertinent information or to finding where the patron might obtain information if it is not held in the library's collection. The programming aspires to meet the needs of the community, hosting concerts and classes as well as events for children and teens. Feedback and requests for classes or workshops are given due consideration and those requests fulfilled if possible. The strengths of the collection lie mostly in the interests of the locals; as there is a very high retiree population, the fiction collection gets more attention and use than the non-fiction, thus the fiction collection is particularly strong (Susie Randleman, personal communication, January 25, 2015).

The weaknesses of the library lie in public internet access, which is currently being addressed by testing different internet service providers; a difficult time with patrons not returning materials which leaves holes in series that the staff does not discover for weeks or months; the architecture of the building, which was designed to be beautiful rather than functional; and the presence of two smaller collections, at least one of which might better be merged with the larger part of the library rather than held separate (James Houston, personal communication, January 25, 2015). This is what shall be addressed with this project, in relation to the ACPL's Tennessee Collection.

1.2 Summarize the PL organization's mission, goals, and objectives

The ACPL mission statement, as stated at www.artcirclelibrary.info, is:
The Art Circle Public Library will efficiently and effectively deliver innovative library services to all residents of Cumberland County that will:

  • assist them to continue to grow and learn throughout their lives;
  • provide the materials, programs, and services needed to meet their recreational needs;
  • help them to attain their educational goals;
  • encourage them to meet and interact with others in their community.

The primary mission of the library, then, is to provide the community with the range of services that best suits their distinct needs. The primary goal is to improve the lives of the citizenry by encouraging life-long learning and fostering a sense of community. The mission and the goals work well together, as providing services to assist the community very much improves the lives of the citizens involved in that community (Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees, 2012).

The goals of the ACPL, as detailed in the Long Range Plan, all support the mission statement; they include offering an environment for meeting and connecting with other members of the community, providing resources to fulfill recreational needs, and providing access to information on broad variety of topics in multiple formats to encourage both formal and informal learning (Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees, 2012).

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).

Market: Before any substantive analysis of the ACPL can be presented, some background on the clientele is helpful. The ACPL serves the entirety of Cumberland County, Tennessee, located on the Cumberland Plateau and approximately 70 miles from Knoxville, Tennessee. According to the United States Census Bureau, the county had a population of 57,466 in 2013, with 81.5% of those people over the age of 18, which is 4.5% lower than the state average. The high retiree population likely accounts for some of that, with 28.4% of the county over the age of 65, almost twice the state average of 14.7. The racial makeup of the population is remarkably homogeneous: 97.3% of the county is white.

Rationale: The rationale of the library in its current facility is to be the living room of the community. When the plans for the current building were being drawn, it was envisioned as a place where all could gather for information, education, and entertainment in a relaxed and home-like atmosphere (Wattenbarger, 2010). The organization is there to provide as many services to the community as the staff can provide. This is reflective of the community's desire to have such a facility, and perhaps indicative of the high retiree population that has the free time and energy to spend in a library rather than working.

Vision: The vision statement of the library, which shall be examined more closely in section 1.4, is relatively brief and fairly normal for a library's vision (Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees, 2014). It indicates that the library wants to provide excellent library services (which are not specified in the vision statement itself) that will enhance the lives of the citizens of Cumberland County. This is a fairly lofty but vague vision that is supported by the Long Range Plan, as discussed in section 1.2.

Offerings and capabilities: The library offers services for people across the spectrum of ages and literacy levels. The Children's section is designed to interest children from birth to approximately age 12, housing board books and picture books for the very young, progressing into the non-fiction and fiction needs of school children. One of the Children's staff members is in the process of color-coding all applicable books with their AR (Accelerated Reader) score in order to help children who need reading material at a certain level. The Children's director holds story and craft time every week, and the Library Director offers puppet shows between two and four times a month. There are other, special, programs offered as they can be put together (Patty Dalton, personal communication, January 25, 2015). Ranging up from Children's, the Young Adult services are handled by the Assistant Deputy Director and a dedicated volunteer. The YA fiction books are housed upstairs near the regular adult fiction. There is not a YA non-fiction section; there was previously, but those books were integrated into the Juvenile and regular adult collections in 2013 due to lack of use. YA programming ranges from one to four events per month, and typically involves a great deal of discussion on various fan groups for popular media. Both departments, Children and YA, offer summer reading programs for their patrons, which vary in events depending on the chosen theme for the year. Both also have access to digital resources: the library has access to TEL (Tennessee Electronic Library) through the Regional and State Libraries, which offers age-appropriate research materials for school or personal enrichment (Tennessee electronic library, n.d.).

The services that are offered to adults are the grounding services of the library; after all, the service base of the ACPL is 81.5% over the age of 18 (United States Census Bureau, 2014). TEL offers access to journals, magazines, and newspapers as well as test preparation and job search preparation materials (Tennessee Electronic Library, n.d.). The library itself offers a great deal of fiction, a great deal of non-fiction, interlibrary loan, and programming. There are concerts held between two and four times a month in the meeting room, a space that can be rented by individuals or groups needing the space for any event. There are study rooms available for anyone who wishes to study either without the noise that comes from a community living room, or those who wish to have a study group and not bother anyone else in the library (James Houston, personal communication, January 25, 2015). The Adult Services Librarian regularly hosts craft workshops, and there are technology classes offered periodically. Anyone with general technology questions is usually referred to the Deputy Director or his assistant. The card catalog is available online, and patrons may set up a PIN so they can access their current record and reserve items. The library offers print books, e-books through the Regional E-book and Audiobook Download System from the State, audiobooks, and DVDs. There are 18 public Internet computers that patrons can use for research, job applications, or recreation; printouts are available for a fee, as is the copy machine. Wi-Fi is free and accessible most places in the building, and there is a notary on staff (James Houston, personal communication, January 25, 2015).

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).

As stated at www.artcirclelibrary.info, the vision statement of the ACPL is:

The Art Circle Public Library will build an inviting and comfortable facility, where the staff will provide excellence in library services, meeting the needs and desires of the people of Cumberland County in their pursuit of knowledge, enjoyment, lifelong learning, and the expanding world of information technology.

This vision statement, brief as it is, encompasses most of the public library roles described in Weingard's Administration of the Small Public Library: community activities center, community information center, formal education support center, independent learning center, popular materials center, reference library, and preschooler's door to learning. To some degree, the library acts as a research center, but it does not have the resources available to handle the sort of in-depth research that Weingard seems to imply (Weingand, 2001). The ACPL actively responds to these roles, offering assistance with basic literacy at all ages through its own resources or by community referral, maintaining materials to assist patrons with career and business information, providing a commons area through the main building and meeting facilities alike, and keeping up with recent consumer information to help residents make the best possible consumer decisions. The library also responds with cultural awareness; at least as much awareness as can be done with a population that is so homogeneous. Formal learning support and general information are provided, and government information is all handled at the reference desk including tax forms, which are also placed in the foyer every year upon arrival. Information literacy is a problem in this area, as noted by the Adult Services Librarian's experiences in assisting patrons, as is technological literacy. The library does respond by offering classes and training staff to handle basic technology and information questions. Local history and genealogy is handled by the Cumberland County Archives and Family Heritage Center, which was split from the main ACPL in 2010. Local history books are still found at the ACPL facility, but detailed questions and all genealogy is referred to the archivist (James Houston, personal communication, January 25, 2015).

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

The ACPL does not currently have a values statement in place, but the values of the organization are made fairly clear by the mission statement, vision statement, and Long Range Plan.

The Art Circle Public Library, in its many roles,

  • Values knowledge
  • Values life-long learning
  • Values the individual members of the community and each person's growth
  • Values a sense of community between the individual members
  • Values the current interests and trends of the community
  • Values freedom of information and the privacy of the citizens
  • Values the fundamental right of every person to access information

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

The Long Range Plan, last approved by the Cumberland County Board of Trustees in 2012, lists several major goals for the library. The first is to give the people an "environment where they can meet and connect with others in the community and participate in public discourse about community issues." The library strategies for this goal include to increase community awareness of library services and programs, providing audio-visual equipment and catering kitchen for the meeting rooms, and offering cultural and educational programs. Another goal is that "all people in Cumberland County will find resources to fulfill their desire for information about popular cultural and social trends and their desire for satisfying recreational experiences." The library seeks to fulfill this goal by weeding the collection several times per year, seeking ways to improve the procedures around library cards, creating displays and exhibits relevant to current topics of interest, and training the staff regarding popular materials.

The other major goals of the Long Range Plan all revolve around information access, be it general information, lifelong learning, or formal education support (Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees, 2012). The strategies the library uses to achieve these information goals include reaching out to students, providing programming for all school ages, providing and keeping online reference services updated, and maintaining a collection of topics of local interest: the Tennessee Collection.

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

The service that needs the most attention is the wireless Internet access, and it is currently getting attention through the efforts of the staff and Board members (James Houston, personal communication, January 25, 2015). This project will focus on the Tennessee Collection, as it is a relatively small collection that is currently occupying three full ranges on the non-fiction side of the library. The materials are things that either relate to Tennessee or were written by authors from Tennessee. It is the opinion of several staff members that these ranges could be put to better use and the Tennessee Collection reintegrated into the regular fiction and non-fiction collections. The collection is not widely used and occasionally confuses patrons who are seeking information or especially fiction, as it seldom occurs to a patron to look in that area for a fiction book rather than shelved alphabetically by author (Margo Brown, personal communication, January 25, 2015). Reintegrating the books would help with locating them through browsing and possibly increase their circulation. Further, eliminating this separate collection would open the ranges for the non-fiction to expand as the Director, Susie Randleman, is actively developing that collection as of January 2015.

References

Breeding, M. (2014, December 13). Art Circle Public Library. Retrieved from http://librarytechnology.org/libraries/library.pl?id=6072
Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees. (2012, April 17). Long range plan.
Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees. (2014, November). Vision/Mission. Retrieved from http://artcirclelibrary.info/Information/vision_mission.htm
Houston, J. (2015, January 28). Board of Trustee Meetings. Retrieved from http://artcirclelibrary.info/Information/board_of_trustees.htm
Tennessee electronic library. (n.d.). TEL. Retrieved from http://tntel.tnsos.org/
Tennessee State Library and Archives. (n.d.). Public Library Directory. Retrieved from http://tnsos.net/TSLA/PLD/index.php?county=Cumberland&sel=count&submit=submit#data
United States Census Bureau. (2014, December 4). Cumberland County QuickFacts. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47/47035.html
Wattenbarger, M. (2010, May 6). Home News New Art Circle Library celebrates grand opening [Editorial]. Crossville Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.crossville-chronicle.com/news/new- art-circle-library-celebrates-grand-opening/article_19b8b973-9df9-5638-94d2-ec292f5ed94a.html
Weingand, D. E. (2001). Administration of the small public library (4th ed.). Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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