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User-Centered Assessment/Evaluation in PL Services

Abstract

The following work will briefly analyze various aspects of the operations of the Art Circle Public Library in Crossville, Tennessee as they relate to user-centered evaluation and as they relate to the Tennessee Collection project as detailed in previous works. This work is based on the author's interactions with the library and staff over the course of this project

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):

1.Library governance

The governance of the Art Circle Public Library is through the Cumberland County Library board, whose members are appointed by the Cumberland County Commission. The Library Board meets every other month, with the various committees meeting as needed (J. Houston, personal communication, April 20, 2015). This is a fairly standard method of governance, and lends itself well to the handling of a facility funded by the public. Whether or not this method is a liberating or a limiting factor, however, is strictly dependent upon the current makeup of the board: a poorly chosen Board member can create havoc within the library. This is perhaps limiting itself, but human nature will color any effort that involves people. Factors of personality are things that library staff must adjust for in Boards, in co-workers, and the patrons themselves.

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

The mission/vision statements of the ACPL are brief and to the point; they try to take into account the fact that library services are always in a state of flux as time moves forward and the needs of the community will change (Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees, 2014). As such, there are few specifics included beyond providing the community with services that will enhance their lives. These were not designed to be specific policy, but rather guidelines for the organization. On the whole, the library identity of the ACPL is a liberating factor. This organization is designed to provide a supportive atmosphere to the community and offer what expertise we have available on any subject a patron wishes to research. The library identity allows for the organization to adapt to changing times and desires, so long as the governance does the same.

3. Community analysis and needs assessment

The ACPL does not run much official community analysis or needs assessment, relying on patron requests and the knowledge the staff has of the community (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). Full needs assessments are time consuming prospects, as is community analysis to the degree that any large-scale project would require, and the library lacks the staff to do them frequently. This is a limiting factor when it comes to user-centered feedback regarding the library as a whole. Regarding the Tennessee collection project, community analysis was more useful than the author originally anticipated, and was a liberating factor in understanding the desires of the community, albeit through the lens of a very small sample size.

4. Marketplace dynamics/advertising

The advertising of the ACPL is somewhat limited due to budgetary constraints, but every effort is made to make all local media outlets aware of library events. The calendars of events are sent to the radio stations, the newspaper, and the Chamber of Commerce. These are also posted to Facebook and some efforts are being made to get an ACPL Twitter running (M. Brown, personal communication, April 24, 2015). These modes of advertising are all liberating as far as the library is concerned, and could potentially be put to use in regards to the Tennessee Collection by way of promoting its use, informing of its move, or simply to announce an expansion of the non-fiction.

5. Evaluation action plan

As mentioned previously, the ACPL does not do many formal user-centered evaluations. Those it does do are centered on individual classes rather than holistic library services, which assists the class instructors more than it does the library administration (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). In this, the library is currently limited and would probably benefit from coming up with an evaluation action plan, everything from determining which services need user-centered feedback the most and how to handle getting user assessment. Regarding the Tennessee Collection project, developing an evaluation plan was quite helpful as gathering user-centered feedback in this manner was a new experience for the author. Mapping out the steps required and the end questions the survey needed to answer made the actual process possible to handle, as without it the survey would have been considerably less useful.

6. Assessment and evaluation methods

Despite the lack of formal user-evaluations for the ACPL, the possibilities for conducting them have become easier with the availability of tools like SurveyMonkey.com and the ease of communicating with other libraries through listservs and other electronic forums. Electronic evaluations are easier for some patrons and more difficult for others, so it is probably wise to take this into account when designing any survey: with the ACPL's high retiree population, it might be best to design the survey on the web but keep paper copies on hand for patrons who do not wish to use a computer. The possibilities are liberating, though the current amount of user-evaluation is somewhat limiting. For the part of the Tennessee Collection project, the selected method of a paper survey worked reasonably well, though the question design would benefit from more experience with designing questions.

7. Personnel management

Personnel management, in the context of the Tennessee Collection project, is almost irrelevant. While any change to that collection would require staff and volunteer time, it would not be an ongoing effort and would require no permanent changes to personnel. In the context of the ACPL itself, the personnel management is limited by budget constraints (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). The administration handles the staff to the best of their ability; the current arrangement is stable and the employees happy with their departments. As with the library governance, any personnel issues are also dependent on the various personalities involved; this can be either limiting or liberating, with the situation determining which.

8. Finances

As with personnel management, the finances involved in the Tennessee Collection project are almost irrelevant. Aside from potential processing supplies, there is no monetary cost involved in either dismantling or moving this collection, and certainly none in leaving it as it currently stands. The finances of the ACPL as a whole, as with most libraries, is a limiting factor. While the library is not poorly funded and the Maintenance of Effort agreement with the State of Tennessee prevents major cuts to funding, it is among the majority of libraries that do not have enough money to provide every service that the staff would like to offer (M. Brown, personal communication, April 24, 2015).

9. Policy development

Policy development is another area that is nearly irrelevant to any changes in the Tennessee Collection, at least as a liberating or limiting factor. The current Chair of the Library Board of Trustees has devoted time and effort to revising and updating the library's policies, and this can only be considered liberating. The policies are currently being reviewed with a critical eye for language and to reflect how the library actually works in the current facility, rather than how the Board thought the new facility would function during construction (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). Policies that are reviewed and updated as needed are very much a liberating factor, as an organization can't function consistently without current, regularly enforced policies.

10. Collections and collection management

Collection management is a liberating factor for the ACPL. Between the primary funding body, Cumberland County, and the two non-profits that currently support the library, there is usually enough money to do what the director finds most important. As with most libraries, there's never as much as the director would like to have, but she puts considerably effort into developing the main collections (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). As far as the Tennessee Collection, management is a bit more limiting. Special collections are not the primary focus of the library, and the lack of patrons requesting materials from this collection means that it is not top priority for funding.

11. Electronic resources and technology assessment

The ACPL does have a technology plan which involves periodic assessment of the available technology and plans to replace it as it ages. This is a liberating factor, as obsolescence is taken into account and new machines and updated operating systems are regularly being put into place. The Deputy Director keeps a wish list in the event that grants or other windfalls turn up, and the library keeps several devices to use for demonstrations regarding the Tennessee READS program (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). Electronic resources, aside from the OPAC, are another nearly irrelevant factor when dealing with the Tennessee Collection, as there are no electronic resources in the collection nor current plans to add any.

12. Technical services and reference services

Technical services offered to patrons are a liberating factor in the operation of the library, though they are limited to the staff's areas of expertise. There is no on-site IT personnel, either for the staff or for the instruction of patrons. However, what technical areas the staff has, they offer freely and patrons do benefit from this. Reference services are also a liberating factor, as the reference librarian has sixteen years of reference experience and is very familiar with all the library's resources (M. Brown, personal communication, April 24, 2015). Both technical and reference services are also nearly irrelevant in regards to the Tennessee Collection, unless a patron has specific questions that can be answered with the materials that are housed there. Even for those questions, the reintegration of the Tennessee Collection into the main collections would not affect those people looking for answers.

13. Library systems and library networks

The ACPL is not in a metro or county library system; it is the only library in Cumberland County, there are no branches. It is part of the state regional system, and makes use of state services such as Interlibrary Loan and the Tennessee Electronic Library (J. Houston, personal communication, April 24, 2015). The lack of any branches is a limiting factor; the library is responsible for all the patrons in the county, and it is difficult to specialize events for the smaller communities that are farther from town. Participation in the regional system is liberating, as the library doesn't have to purchase its own access to databases, manage an e-book collection, and can use the Interlibrary Loan system. As far as the Tennessee Collection is concerned, it is particular to the ACPL, and library networks and systems are not relevant.

14. User instruction and customer services

User instruction at the ACPL is done via workshops, a few classes, and one-on-one instruction with patrons. The library offers as much instruction as staffing and expertise allows, and this is a limiting factor. The library does not have the staff time nor the expertise necessary to do as much class-style instruction in technology as many patrons would like. What instruction there is has been highly reviewed by the patrons, the library is just not able to offer technology classes with high frequency (M. Brown, personal communication, April 24, 2015). The Tennessee Collection is also limited by customer services: the staff is not able to guide people there easily as they are often unable to leave the Adult Services desk.

15. Adult and/or youth services

The services across the spectrum of ages that are offered by the ACPL are a liberating factor for the library. The children's librarian is very experienced and there are typically at least two programs a week, the adult services are handled by more staff members and there is a variety of programs offered by both staff and by outside agencies that wish to offer free programming (P. Dalton, personal communication, April 24, 2015). The Tennessee Collection is considered an Adult service, rather than a youth or children's service. This classification is deliberately limiting, as it targets a specific audience and does not try to cater to the entire age range that enters the library.

References

Cumberland County Library Board of Trustees. (2014, November). Vision/Mission. Retrieved from http://artcirclelibrary.info/Information/vision_mission.htm

Spring 2015

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