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Identification of the Public Library Users

Abstract

The following work will identify and describe the users of the Art Circle Public Library in Crossville, Tennessee; attention will be given to the primary, secondary and tertiary users, the demographic breakdown of the service population, and civic opportunities and problems. A brief SWOT analysis is included, as well as the measures by which the library measures its degrees of success and the usefulness of user-centered evaluation and assessment on the library's programs and services. The information in this work was obtained through interviews with staff members, and the United States Census Bureau, and county websites.

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 primary group of people that interact with the library are adults over the age of 45, which is hardly surprising considering the demographics of the area that will be discussed in detail in section 2.3. As adults are the majority of the population, and Cumberland County has a disproportionate number of adults over the age of 65, adults 45 and over are the largest group that interacts with the library (United States Census Bureau, 2014). The potential users in this category, considering the very large retiree population, is in excess of 45% of the county, or more than 25,800 people (United States Census Bureau, 2014).

The secondary group as far as the library is concerned, based on the programming available, is children birth through 10. Again, this is not surprising, as libraries traditionally offer many children's programs in order to engage children in reading, as well as to entice families to come into the library (Personal communication, Patty Dalton, February 5, 2015). Based on statistics from the US Census Bureau, the population under the age of 18 is approximately 18.5% of the total population, or roughly 1% per year. As such, 10% of the population is likely to be age 10 or below, or 5,700 children (United States Census Bureau, 2014).

The tertiary group, which may well include members of both primary and secondary groups, is the poor of Cumberland County. These are people who lack home access to computers or the internet, and view the library as a connection to the social and informational spheres that the world wide web can offer. The primary shelter for the homeless, the Bread of Life Mission, is within half a mile of the ACPL and so is the Crossville Housing Authority (CHA), which adjoins an apartment complex that takes CHA subsidies (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). With such ready access, the residents of these facilities regularly make use of the library for technology, both for job searches and for online social interaction. Persons below the poverty level of Cumberland County constitute 17.6% of the total population, or just over 10,000 people (United States Census Bureau, 2014).

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.

Any of the full-time librarians at the ACPL are knowledgeable about the setting and the people using it, and all have proven willing to discuss the library and its patrons. The Library Director, Susie Randleman, obviously must have an overarching knowledge of the entire setting of the library and the patrons using it (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). The Deputy Director, James Houston, is in a similar position of needing the overarching knowledge. He arranges most of the employee scheduling and handles the event calendar, as well as being the go-to person when anything happens that virtually any employee doesn't know how to handle (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). Patty Dalton is the Children's librarian, and as such has more specialized knowledge about children and parents that are interested in library services rather than a broad understanding (Personal communication, Patty Dalton, February 5, 2015), and Margo Brown is the Adult Services librarian, and holds similarly specialized knowledge about the adults (Personal communication, Margo Brown, February 5, 2015).

All contact persons who use or might use the library are referred to by initials in order to protect their privacy. P.A. is a female in her mid-30s with three children ranging from 8-18 (S.A., G.A., and L.A.). D.M. is a middle-aged female who frequents the library for new fiction. M.T. is a late 30s male who is more likely to use the online databases and downloadable audiobooks than the physical collection. K.H. and D.H. are a married couple with two children, 5 and 8, who are in the library regularly for children's books.

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?

According to the US Census Bureau, the average educational level of Cumberland County is at the high school level, with approximately 81% of adults over 25 holding a high school diploma, while only 17% of that group hold a bachelor's or higher. Household income level is lower than the state average, with the median household income sitting at $37,188 compared to the state average of $44,298: 17.6% of the population is below the poverty line (United States Census Bureau, 2014). Racial makeup is almost entirely white with 97.3% of the population. Hispanics are the next group, at 2.7%, and no other single race making up an entire percentage point. African Americans make up .6%, American Indians .4%, Asians .5%, Pacific Islanders .1%, and two or more races 1% (United States Census Bureau, 2014).

The workforce in Cumberland County is primarily in service and sales, as 42.5% of the civilian population is in one of those two sectors. An additional 15% is in production and transportation, and 33.5% in management, business, the sciences, and the arts (United States Census Bureau, 2014). A statistically large portion of the population is retired with 28.4% of the population over 65, and as such a significant number of people are employed to tend to the needs of the retiree population. There are statistically fewer children than the state average, 18.5% to the state's 23%. This leaves 53.1% of the population as adults aged 19-64. The gender split is average for the state, 51.2% female (United States Census Bureau, 2014).

The county is fairly rural, though does boast several cultural opportunities. The Cumberland County Playhouse draws in both visitors and talent from the surrounding area for performances of Broadway and off-Broadway plays (Crossville Cumberland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2015). The Palace Theater, originally built in the 1930's and completely renovated between 1996-2001, is situated downtown and hosts classic movies, live stage concerts, and occasionally serves as a meeting hall (Young, n.d.). The there are several state parks including Cumberland Mountain State Park, the Obed River Park, and Ozone Falls (Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, n.d.). There are lakes that offer fishing and boating opportunities, and Crossville is the Golf Capital of Tennessee, as it is home to at ten golf courses (Crossville Cumberland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, n.d.).

Civic opportunities are fairly easy to find; the county has chapters of Rotary International, Kiwanis International, the Lion's Club International, the Exchange Club, and the United Fund. Other non-profits are scattered through the county, and volunteering is very popular with the retired community (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015).

Civic problems almost all center on the lack of professional opportunities available. There are few sizable businesses and as such few opportunities for advancement; people with high ambitions tend to simply leave the area, and those left behind have a hard time with any social mobility (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). There is not terribly much industry of any kind, which is not helpful for the poverty rate or unemployment. To some degree, this has to do with the high retiree population, many of whom moved to the area specifically for its lack of industry, and now are vehemently opposed to any attempt to bring industry to the county (Personal communication, Brock Hill, 2010).

All of these issues are reflected in the library; there are virtually no programs devoted to diversity, as there is so little of it. The programs that instruct new users on their ipads are incredibly well attended, with waiting lists that extend for months; generally all the students in these classes are retired adults trying to adjust to technology (Personal communication, Kaye Randolph, February 2, 2015). The puppet shows are among the best-attended programs that the library offers, to the point that they are no longer hosted in the Children's section, but must be held in the larger meeting room (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). There are more programs scheduled during the day, when working adults can't attend but stay-at-home parents or grandparents can (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). Few programs are specifically aimed at the poor of the county, but they make extensive use of the library's public computers and DVD collection (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015).

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

The strengths of the ACPL lie in its staff, its collections, and its programming. The staff is trained to assist patrons, and if the staff member is unable to assist, to get contact information and then find someone who can. The collection has been curated long enough to be tailored to local interests, and expanded for local needs. It is the only library in the county, which means it is the only source of library services at all. Internet services, especially free services, are not common in the area and this is a very large pull for the library. The popular materials section is also a draw, as is the meeting facility (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). The weaknesses lie in its staffing level, which prevents the immediate access of all the services available, the level of theft, and the perception of the library as an antiquated, unneeded facility by some members of the community (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). Opportunities lie in creating or expanding outreach programs, improving digital collections, and getting staff better trained to handle technology questions (Personal communication, Margo Brown, February 5, 2015). There are not terribly many threats to the ACPL at this time, at least not major threats. Minor threats include the extreme delays in getting the internet service upgraded to handle the actual usage, the challenges involved in teaching information and technology literacy, and the layout of the building; it was designed to be the living room of the community, and at least some of the patrons wish it was a quieter building. It was also not designed with enough space to expand any of the collections to the degree that staff and patrons would like (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 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.

By and large, the ACPL measures success by way of statistics, as it is impractical to collect other outcomes (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). Comment forms are available, and the director has done surveys in the past, but these are far from compulsory (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). Comment forms generally pick up the more negative sentiments, and surveys generally pick up those who are not in a hurry. As the primary mission of the ACPL is to promote lifelong learning and reading, the statistics on circulation and educational programming attendance work reasonably well; the purpose of entertainment and a cultural center are also served by circulation stats (fiction and movies) and concert attendance (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). If nothing else, the primary funding body of the ACPL, the Cumberland County Commission, respects solid attendance and circulation statistics (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015).

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

The director of the ACPL is very much of the opinion that user-centered evaluation is incredibly valuable, but collecting it without annoying the patrons is very problematic; most people come to the library for specific purposes, and do not like being bothered with surveys (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015). The library has put forth voluntary surveys for their patrons at several occasions, but these are not done on a regular basis (Personal communication, Susie Randleman, February 5, 2015).

In regards to the full technology classes, rather than the one-session workshops, that are currently offered, user-centered evaluation is currently done at the end of each course (Personal communication, James Houston, February 5, 2015). Regarding the workshops and general programs, such as the regular children's or teen's programming, user-centered evaluation would be quite helpful to verify that the current offerings were what the patrons wanted, or to change the programs to suit the patrons and see what kind of workshops they would also like to see (Personal communication, Patty Dalton, February 5, 2015). It would allow the staff to bring potential programs or user desires to the attention of the Board or to any of the other funding bodies that might be willing to fund expansions, new collections, or new technology. The issue facing user-centered evaluation in any form other than brief conversations with staff or comment forms is that, as mentioned previously, many patrons view surveys as an intrusion into their day and do not wish to complete them (Personal communication, Margo Brown, February 5, 2015).

References

Crossville Cumberland County Convention and Visitors Bureau. (2015). Live entertainment. Retrieved from http://www.golfcapitaltenn.com/activities.php?p=Entertainment
Crossville Cumberland County Convention and Visitors Bureau. (n.d.). Tennessee's golifing paradise. Retrieved from http://www.golfcapitaltenn.com/activities.php?p=Golf
Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce. (n.d.). Parks & nature. Retrieved from http://www.crossville-chamber.com/visiting.php?pg=26
United States Census Bureau. (2014, December). Cumberland County QuickFacts. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47/47035.html
Young, J. (n.d.). A short history of Crossville's Palace Theater. Retrieved from http://www.palacetheatre-crossville.com/

Spring 2015

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