Assignment 1: The Public Library Context
The library I am working with is the Knox County Public Library. I am evaluating the main branch, Lawson Mcghee, which is located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. I am evaluating the reference service.
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 public library agency discussed in this paper is the Knox County Public Library. The specific branch discussed is Lawson Mcghee, which is located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. This organization is publicly funded, primarily through the local wheel tax (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 201). This means that anyone in Knox County that has a registered vehicle is funding the public library and should utilize it as an important community resource. According to the website, Knox County Library has over one million items available in either physical or digital formats (Knox County Public Library, 2014). They also have 19 area branches throughout the county (Knox County Public Library, 2014). The library has a budget of 12.6 million dollars for the 2014-2015 fiscal year (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 201). Although this budget seems extensive, it must be split between the nineteen branches. If the budget is evenly split, that amounts to only 663,100 dollars per branch. The library has an advisory board that helps make public policy decisions. They have bi-monthly meetings that are open to the public (Knox County Public Library, 2014d). Each branch of the public library has its own manager as well (J. Drumheller, personal communication, January 26, 2015).
Knox County Public Library employs 138 people full time (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 202). They also have 71 part time employees (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 202). According to the Public Library Survey conducted by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, in the 2012 fiscal year, Knox County employed 37 total librarians. 29 of those have ALA-accredited MLS degrees (Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2012). Volunteers are also welcome at the Knox County Library. The library hosts many activities and utilizes volunteers to help these events run smoothly (Knox County Public Library, 2014g).
The members of the Knox County library can be anyone interested in utilizing the services they provide. If a person resides in Knox County, he or she may provide proof of residency and obtain a library card at no charge. However, one does not have to live in Knox County to have a card. For an annual fee of $40, anyone can apply for a library card. (Knox County Public Library, 2014e).
The strength of the Knox County library lies in the many branches throughout the county. The large number of branches makes it possible to conveniently extend services to more people in Knoxville. Some of these services include children's story telling activities and adult book clubs (Knox County Public Library, 2014b). Utilizing these services is an excellent way to get involved in the community, however, many people may not want to drive prolonged distances for these activities. That is why having branches in most suburbs is such a strength.
A major weakness of the library is the lack of funding. A lack of funding can lead to many other problems for the public library. For example, without proper funding, computers and other technologies may not stay up-to-date. This could lead to slower computer processing times, which can be frustrating for patrons. Another drawback from a lack of funding is less money for programming. This can lead to a decline in overall use of the library.
1.2 Summarize the PL organization's mission, goals, and objectives.
The Knox County Public Library's mission statement is "to serve all residents as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center through a wide variety of resources, services and programs" (Knox County Public Library, 2014). This demonstrates that the library does not just want to be known as a place to check out books, but also a community center. Although goals and objectives are not available, it is clear from the mission statement that the Knox County Public Library hopes to become an important and lasting part of the community by offering important services that will enhance and enrich Knoxville and its inhabitants.
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).
The Knox County Public Library exists to provide information and services to the public. The mission statement declares that the library aims to be a community and information center for the public (Knox County Public Library, 2014). The library continues to provide these services because it is publicly funded. As long as tax money is put into the library, it will stay open (J. Drumheller, personal communication, January 26, 2015).
The vision for the Knox County Public Library is to remain a center of learning and information for the citizens (Knox County Public Library, 2014). The best way for the library to achieve this goal is to continue to provide access to technologies, information, books and the Internet.
The library serves the community. Citizens that pay wheel tax fund the library, but all citizens are welcome to use the facilities (Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2012). In fact, for a $40 annual fee, people from outside the community are welcome to use the library as well (Knox County Public Library, 2014e).
The library provides a myriad of services. Obviously, the library provides book and periodical loaning. Both physical and digital copies are available (Knox County Public Library, 2014). The library also has services such as reference, a children's center, interlibrary loan, a delivery service for disabled patrons, and meeting rooms (Knox County Public Library, 2014f). Programs are another service that the library offers. These programs vary by age group. Book clubs are available for adults, story time is available for children, and they even have specialized interest groups (Knox County Public Library, 2014b). One of these groups is specifically for people interested in knitting and crocheting (Knox County Public Library, 2014b).
The library requires resources to provide these programs and services. For example, computers are needed for Internet access and reference services. Excellent librarians are also necessary, especially in the reference and children's departments. Librarians should be well-educated and also provide great customer service. Safe and clean environments are also important. Patrons may not want to use facilities that are dirty or located in very dangerous areas.
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).
The Knox County Public Library's vision statement reads, "Knox County Public Library: The essential connection for lifelong learning and information for every citizen" (Knox County Public Library, 2014). Based on this vision statement, it is clear that the public library acts as a community information center (Weingand, 2001, p. 8). This can be seen because the vision statement emphasizes access to information for all citizens. The library also acts as an independent learning center as well as a formal education support center (Weingand, 2001, p. 8). For example, librarians are happy to assist with school projects, but they also help patrons find information for their own personal benefit. Finally, the Knox County Public Library is definitely a reference library (Weingand, 2001, p. 8). The reference librarians are committed to helping people learn and obtain information, which are both of the values emphasized in the vision statement.
The Knox County Public Library also offers service responses. The library acts as a community commons (Weingand, 2001, p. 9). The Library advisory board encourages the public to come to meetings and make suggestions for improving the library (Knox County Public Library, 2014d). The library also provides cultural awareness and local history (Weingand, 2001, p. 9). This can be seen at the two East Tennessee History Centers. Both of these locations are involved with documenting the culture and history of East Tennessee (Knox County Public Library, 2014c). Information literacy, lifelong learning, and general information are all services that the public library offers (Weingand, 2001, p. 9). These are all service responses that can be answered through the reference department. Reference librarians help patrons to find information relating to each of these areas.
1.5 Develop a sample PL Values Statement (see Ch. 3. Matthews 2004, p. 34-35).
The value statement for a public library could be:
We encourage open access to information for all.
We are committed to providing friendly and knowledgeable customer service.
We value providing services and programs that enrich the lives of the community members.
We are committed to providing a safe and clean environment for patrons of all ages.
We are committed to providing and teaching new technologies.
We value the opinions and suggestions of our patrons to help us provide better services.
1.6 List various strategic aims of the PL and at least three specific library strategies in relation to potential services to improve.
The Knox County budget lists three goals for the public library. First, they aim to implement the Axis 360 e-book service (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 202). This service is a "media circulation platform" that allows libraries to provide eBooks to their patrons (Baker & Taylor, 2015). This would improve the library's circulation service by increasing the amount of materials available to the patrons. eBooks are important because they allow patrons to borrow them without the danger of losing the library's physical property. They are also convenient because if a patron doesn't have time to come to the library, he or she can still borrow materials.
The second goal for the library is to evaluate video and music streaming services for public libraries (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 202). This type of service could drastically extend the services available to the public. In fact, this type of service could bring in teens and young adults, which is a demographic the Knox County Library seems to neglect. This would also be an improvement to the circulation service.
The third goal is to evaluate text messaging and chat reference services (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 202). This is something that would make consulting with reference librarians much easier. Rather than phoning, emailing, or asking reference questions in person, patrons could have an answer faster. This would be an extension to the reference service. It could possibly increase the relevance of the reference desk because of how convenient it would be to get help.
1.7 If you could develop/extend one PL service to help this organization to be more helpful, what would it be? Why?
A service directed at young adults seems to be necessary for the Knox County library system. A young adult book club may be a worthy investment. In fact, according to the events calendar for the library, there are no teen events scheduled for the month of February (Knox County Public Library, 2014b). It is important to include teens in library activities, because they are the future. If young adults do not participate in library services, they may not look into them as adults. It is important that young people be involved to ensure the continued importance of libraries.
Reference List Baker & Taylor. (2015). Axis 360. Retrieved from http://www.btol.com/axis360.cfm.
Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2012). Public libraries survey, fiscal year 2012. Retrieved from https://harvester.census.gov/imls/search/Library_Detail.asp?ID=TN0133-002&ThisType=CE&LibraryName=&LibraryID=&Address=&City=&State=TN&Zip=&Distance=&County=knox&PhoneAreaCode=&Phone=&ResultSetNumber=2&LibTypes=LS%2CCE%2CBR%2CBS%2CBM&StateSelectedIndex=43&procqstr=1.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). About. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about.
Knox County Public Library. (2014) Calendar & programs. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/hours-and-locations/calvin-m-mcclung-historical-collection.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Library Advisory Board. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/library-advisory-board.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Library cards. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/policies/library-cards.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Services. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/services.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Support the library. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/support-library.
Knox County, Tennessee Government. (2013). FY 2015 budget adopted. Knoxville: Knox County Government. Retrieved from http://www.knoxcounty.org/finance/pdfs/2014_2015_budget/2014-2015adopted_budget_detail.pdf.
Weingand, D. E. (2001). Administration of the Small Public Library (Fourth Edition). Chicago: American Library Association.
Contact K.C. Williams451 Communications Building, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0341