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Collecting and Analyzing Data

Abstract

The following work will discuss the results from a user-centered survey regarding the Tennessee Collection for the Art Circle Public Library in Crossville, Tennessee. The feedback from the survey will show whether the collection is well known, used, and liked and will be useful in determining if the Library should reintegrate the materials of the Tennessee Collection into the broader collections of the Library. This work will also discuss the methods of the survey itself and possible improvements should the Library require more user-centered feedback on this topic.

Conduct community analysis and implement your evaluation action plan to gather feedback from users about your selected PL service under study. Report in terms of the following:
Summarize and report findings (question-by-question) based on data gathered while conducting user-centered assessment/evaluation about your selected PL service. If applicable, provide transcription of data collected as an appendix. (Provide other forms of data collected).
6.1 Critique and analyze data collected: Discuss and report user feedback about the PL service in terms of their needs and information experiences, availability and access, barriers/challenges faced in using the select service, kinds of benefits in using the service, suggestions for improving the service, etc.

For this analysis, surveys were distributed and collected at the Art Circle Public Library in Crossville, Tennessee regarding the Tennessee Collection. As this project was quite limited in time and by the fact that all surveys were completely voluntary, only twelve were collected. This is a small sample size and the Library should likely consider a larger sample size should they choose to take user feedback into account regarding any decision on the Tennessee Collection. Further, as will be discussed in section 6.4, the Library might consider revising the questionnaire in order to obtain more pertinent information.

According the twelve user feedback surveys that were collected, this collection is generally known about but does not see much use. The first two questions determined this by asking if the user was aware of the collection at all, and how many times over the past year the user had made use of the collection. Eleven of the surveys indicated that the users knew about the collection. Of those that knew about it, only one indicated that they had used the collection more than twice over the last year; all other surveys indicated between zero and two uses. The third question asked about the effect the reintegration of the Tennessee Collection would have on the user. Possibly due to the small usage, most users would not be affected by the re-integration of the Tennessee Collection into the main collections: eleven reported that they would not be affected at all. One reported that they would be affected negatively; their reasoning was that they like the convenience of having all the local works in one spot and think it says positive things about a community when the library has special collections for local works. This individual's suggestion for the collection involved selective weeding to reduce its footprint and to move it to the front of the non-fiction, rather than the back, where it would be more easily seen and more easily pointed out by staff.

The fourth question gauged users' opinions on whether or not they would like to see the non-fiction collection expanded to take over the three book ranges currently occupied by the Tennessee Collection by offering four answers: "Yes, the non-fiction is cramped," "Yes, the TN Collection is confusing," "No, I like the TN Collection," and "Don't care either way." Of these, no user responded that the collection was confusing, two responded that they liked the collection, five did not care either way, and six responded that the non-fiction was cramped; one user circled both "Yes, the non-fiction is cramped" and "No, I like the TN Collection," making the total response to this question thirteen rather than twelve. This user also noted in the comments that while the non-fiction is cramped, they are fond of the Tennessee collection and would prefer to examine other solutions rather than completely eliminating it and reintegrating all the materials.

The fifth question involved the demographics of the users, requesting that they choose a gender from "male," "female," or "prefer not to say" and age range from the options of "12-18," "19-24," "25-44," "45-64," and "65+." Two users chose not to the gender question at all, one preferred not to say, two were male, and the other seven were female. The majority of the users were also over the age of 45: only one was 12-18, none were 19-24, two were 25-44, four were 45-64 and 3 were 65+. Two users did not answer the age question, though they were not the users who declined to reveal their gender. This either speaks about the users' views regarding gender or the layout of the survey.

The sixth and final question simply asked for any comments the user had regarding the Tennessee Collection. There were three comments from the twelve surveys, and these comments have been included above with the appropriate question. For the actual survey presented to the users, please see the appendix for section 5.

6.2 Improvement strategies: Present a plan for improvement strategies to implement in relation to the selected service for the PL to follow based on the data that you collected during this study. Develop a categorization scheme for the improvement strategies under different headings as appropriate (e.g., web representation, training, marketing to users, etc.).

As the project is to dismantle and reintegrate a collection, there are not many improvement strategies available. There are other options to completely reintegrating the collection, which will be discussed in section 6.3, but as the project is very straightforward there is not much room for changing or improving.

Improvements to the existing collection, however, are very much possible, and largely lie in the realm of promotion. The collection is not widely used, as noted in section 3.2, with a 30-day ratio of books circulated to books uncirculated of 1:21. This lack of use would likely be helped by more active promotion of the collection, either in outside advertising, internal displays, or even partnering with the school system to reach children old enough to make use of the materials for projects on Tennessee. Programs on local history could point patrons to the collection and increase its usage, or it could be moved to a more prominent location in the library. User feedback could be gathered on what materials patrons would like to see in the Tennessee collection, and that feedback used to guide the development of the collection and expand the collection to make use of the ranges it currently occupies, which have a great deal of empty space.

Other problems with the collection according to staff include the very awkward mixture of books, including large print and juvenile items that are not even on the same floor as their main collections. This could be improved by reintegrating just those few items that are a long way from being browsed by their intended audiences, and would free several shelves and possibly allow the collection to be housed in two ranges rather than three. The staff further noted that the sections within the Tennessee collection often lead to incorrect shelving- it contains reference materials, non-fiction, fiction, juvenile fiction, juvenile non-fiction, large print fiction, large print non-fiction, oversized, and oversized reference. Attempting to keep all of these classifications separated within the Tennessee Collection is difficult at best. Reintegrating or relabeling some of the materials would simplify the shelving and make the Tennessee Collection easier to use.

6.3 Report findings to your PL and provide feedback about their response to your findings.

Due to the time constraints involved with this project and the specific timing of the survey as it coincided with the first round of the library's budget hearings with Cumberland County, the author was unable to present the survey results to the director or the full Board of Trustees. The results were discussed with the James Houston, the Deputy Director, and the idea of reintegrating the Tennessee Collection was met favorably. The possibility of reintegrating some of the categories of the Tennessee Collection, specifically the fiction and juvenile materials was discussed, as was the possibility of moving the collection to the front of the non-fiction section rather than at the very back. The final option was well received indeed, as moving it to the more prominent position would offer the collection more visibility and allow for the staff to better monitor the collection, as some of the Tennessee collection (reference especially) is expensive or impossible to replace in the event of theft. At its current location, theft of any of the Tennessee collection materials is relatively easy despite the library's RFID tagging system. There is an outdoor balcony at that end of the floor, and books can be taken out and dropped to a person waiting below, or just onto the ground to be retrieved minutes later.

The possibility to implement any of these suggestions or a full reintegration of the Tennessee collection as originally proposed will not be seriously considered until after the budget cycle has run and may well be vetoed at that point. However, the chance to do something more useful with the collection and the space it currently occupies was met favorably by at least one member of the management staff.

6.4 Critique your process: Discuss and report your process while conducting user-centered assessment in your evaluation action plan and include your observations, what worked and did not work, obstacles and challenges, etc. Provide a discussion of the most interesting facts that emerged during the process.

This was the author's first attempt at creating a user-centric survey for a library service or collection; the questionnaire and results probably reflect this. Any subsequent attempts will benefit from this experience. More questions could have been used to gather more information; brevity for the user was high priority for this project under the assumption that more people would return them if it did not take long to complete. The answers provided, having gone through a round of testing, would be adjusted with either the removal of provided answers that no one chose or changed to something entirely different. Further, advice regarding all questions would be sought from the Director or Board as they would have different insights to the process and some have gathered user feedback before. The demographics question would probably be removed, as it provided little useful data in relation to this particular project. Demographics are more useful in creating and fine-tuning services and collections, they are less useful in dismantling them.

The time allotted for distribution and collection of surveys would be considerably longer than the week that was available for this one; one week, given the rate of surveys returned, was nowhere near long enough to collect a large enough number of responses to be statistically meaningful. For a library this size, twelve responses is not enough to form a good analysis on the whole patronage of the Library. The sample size is simply too small.

The author freely admits that personal biases went into the creation of this user survey. It is impossible to do otherwise, but the level of bias becomes more obvious in hindsight after analyzing the returned surveys than it was during the initial creation of the questions. This would be addressed in any subsequent surveys in order to be more neutral to the issue. While biases are impossible to avoid, the questions are far more heavily slanted toward the author's opinion on the Tennessee Collection rather than the neutrality that would give true patron feedback.

The more interesting fact that emerged during this process was that every comment actually left about the collection was positive, which indicates that patrons at least like the idea of a specific collection of local works. It seems that, despite the lack of use, people enjoy having a Tennessee collection and might view it as a status symbol or as a sign that the library cares about the community. With this underlying fondness, a complete dismantling of the collection is possibly unwarranted. Regardless of the final outcome, the experience of designing and analyzing the user's feedback of the Tennessee Collection has been incredibly valuable.

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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