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Lindsay Pearce
Assignment 7: User Centered Assessment/Evaluation in PL Services


Abstract
The library used for this assignment is the Knox County Public Library. This project will be evaluating the main branch, Lawson Mcghee, which is located in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. This project will specifically evaluate the reference service. 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):
Library governance
The Knox County Public Library is governed by an advisory board. The advisory board helps the library make public policy decisions. They have bi-monthly meetings that are open to the public (Knox County Public Library, 2014b). Each branch of the public library has its own manager as well (J. Drumheller, personal communication, January 26, 2015). The library's governance can be seen as a liberating factor for the library as a whole. This is because the public is invited to come to the board meetings, which allows users to speak up about library policy. The library's governance can also be a liberating factor for the reference service, because each individual branch manager can oversee the reference service and ensure that the users of each particular branch are getting the reference materials and answers they need.
Library identity (mission, vision, strategic aims, etc.)
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). The vision statement is to remain a center of learning and information for the citizens (Knox County Public Library, 2014). These can be seen as liberating factors for both the library and the reference service. The library's aim is to help the public first and foremost. The reference service allows them to do this by assisting patrons find the information they need, which enhances the community as a whole. Other library services, such as the circulation service and computer workshops for beginners also serve these needs and enhance the community.
Community analysis and needs assessment
Community analysis and needs assessment can be seen as a limiting factor for the library. This is because the library does not regularly survey the patrons that attend the library. Therefore, the library has to generalize about the population based on old census information and current predictions. If the library were to survey the users, it would make it clear what the exact interests, ethnical makeup, religion, and income statistics of the population are, which would make collection development easier. However, this can be a liberating factor for the reference service, because the queries made by patrons can help to clarify this information, even when the census information is older. For example, if many patrons are asking about genealogical information, the library could purchase books on that topic.
Marketplace dynamics/advertising
The Knox County Public library has events throughout the year that are advertised publicly throughout the city. For example, the library hosts an annual children's book festival that is advertised online and in other forms of media (Knox County Public Library, n.d.b). Therefore, advertising for the library as a whole can be seen as a liberating factor. However, the reference service itself does not get advertised. The only advertisement that is done for the reference service is in a brochure given to new library cardholders (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). For this reason, advertising can be seen as a limiting factor for the reference service. In fact, some users are not aware that the reference service even exists.
Evaluation action plan
The library currently does not have an evaluation action plan (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). This can be seen as a limiting factor for the library. Developing an evaluation action plan can help ensure that user evaluations are done regularly. An action plan can also ensure that evaluations are similar from year to year, to ensure that data collection is accurately reflecting the user population. The lack of an evaluation action plan is also a limiting factor for the reference service. Without evaluations, the reference service will have a difficult time determining if it is providing the best answers and customer service possible to patrons.
Assessment and evaluation methods
Assessment and evaluation methods can be seen as a limiting factor for the success of the reference service. Currently, the Knox County Public Library does not regularly conduct user assessment or evaluations (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). This can hinder the success of the reference service, because if there is some aspect of the reference service that users are not getting or are unsatisfied with, the library would not know. The library has done evaluations in the past, and the results were positive (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). However, the last survey done was in 2009. Staff and resources may have changed in that time, which would make a user assessment useful. User surveys would be beneficial to the library as a whole for the same reasons. The library can't know how the users feel about services provided unless they actively seek that information.
Personnel management
Personnel management can be seen as a liberating factor for the public library. Each branch of the library has a branch manager (J. Drumheller, personal communication, January 26, 2015). This helps ensure that personnel are managed on a more local basis. This also helps ensure that personnel know their direct supervisors, which can make them more confident discussing any issues that may arise at work. Personnel management can be seen as a liberating factor for the reference service as well, because the reference service has a department head, Janet Drumheller, who is in charge of personnel. She selects reference librarians personally, to ensure that users are getting the best service possible.
Finances
As with most publicly funded entities, finances can be seen as a limiting factor. This is true for both the library as a whole and the reference service. The budget for the Knox County Public Library is 12.6 million dollars. However, that budget must be split between all 19 branches, which comes out to 663,100 dollars per branch (Knox County, Tennessee Government, 2013, p. 201). This is not much money, which can hinder the amount of programming the library can provide. In regards to the reference service, the budget can affect the types and amounts of database subscriptions the library can provide. This can impact the way the reference service is able to answer patron queries.
Policy development
Policy development can be seen as a liberating factor for the library and the reference service. Policy development is liberating because the public has the ability to influence policy development (Knox County Public Library, 2014). The library's board meetings are open to the public and encourage patron participation (Knox County Public Library, 2014). Involving the public can help ensure that the patrons are involved and knowledgeable about library policy. It also helps the library avoid making policies that will anger or alienate the patrons. The same can be said for any reference policies that are made at these meetings.
Collections and collection management
The collections at the Knox County Public Library can be seen as a liberating factor. The library provides eBooks and other digital resources as well, which allows patrons with limited mobility to access materials (Knox County Public Library, n.d.c). This allows more people to use the library's materials. Additionally, the reference service collection can also be seen as a liberating factor. Past user evaluations indicate that users are pleased with the resources provided to them in regards to their queries (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). This suggests that the materials and databases the reference service has are excellent.
Electronic resources and technology assessment
The library has an extensive eBook collection, as well as online databases for patrons to use (Knox County Public Library, n.d.c). This is a liberating factor for the library, as many elderly patrons have difficulties obtaining transportation to the library. With digital and electronic resources, they are able to use library materials from home. The reference service utilizes digital resources in order to answer many of the queries sent in by patrons. Additionally, the reference service allows patrons to send in questions via email, which allows users to utilize the reference service even if they cannot come into the library (J. Drumheller, personal communication, April 17, 2015). These digital resources are definitely a liberating factor for the reference service.
Technical services and reference services
According to surveys conducted for this project, and past library user evaluations, the reference service does an excellent job providing customer service and answering user queries. The reference librarians are highly trained, and are chosen to give users the best possible service. Therefore, the reference service can be seen as a liberating factor for the library. Patrons that know about the reference service can feel confident in the level of service and resources provided at the reference desk. The librarians at the reference desk are also trained in assisting patrons with the library computers, which can also be seen as a liberating factor.
Library systems and library networks
Library systems can be seen as a liberating factor of the Knox County Public Library. The library has an online catalog that is very easy to search. The library also has a network that is available for patrons to use while at the library. However, the library network can be seen as a limiting factor for the reference service. Many libraries allow patrons to ask reference questions via a chat feature, but the Knox County Public Library does not. This would open up the reference service to many more users than the service currently has. Teens and patrons with mobility issues may be more inclined to use the reference service if a chat feature was available.
User instruction and customer services
Customer services can be seen as a liberating factor for the reference service. In the user assessment the library conducted in 2009, patrons overwhelmingly stated that the customer service received was excellent. In the survey conducted for the purposes of this project, the users that had frequented the reference desk were also extremely pleased with the level of customer service they received (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). For the library as a whole, customer service is also a liberating factor. User instruction is also a liberating factor for both the library and the reference service. The library offers instructional classes for patrons to attend, which helps keep the local population informed (Knox County Public Library, n.d.). The reference service also helps teach patrons how to search for information, rather than just giving them the answer (J. Drumheller, personal communication, January 26, 2015).
Adult and/or youth services
Adult services at the Knox County Public Library can be seen as a liberating feature for the library. There are many adult programs and activities available at the library. For example, once a month the library sponsors a lunchtime book club (Knox County Public Library, n.d.). However, youth services can be seen as both a liberating factor and a limiting factor. The library hosts an abundant amount of programs for toddlers and very young children, such as the Children's Festival of Reading (Knox County Public Library, n.d.b). However, the library is very lacking in programs for teens. On the events calendar for the library, there are no teen events listed for the month of April (Knox County Public Library, n.d.). In terms of the reference service, the library gives new card members a pamphlet when they get their library card that describes the reference service (J. Drumheller, personal communication, March 3, 2015). The library could also provide programming that teaches children about the reference service, so they know it is available as a service in the future. Teaching children about different aspects of the library may make them more likely to use or remember those services in the future.
References
Knox County Public Library. (2014). About. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). Library Advisory Board. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/about/library-advisory-board.
Knox County Public Library. (n.d.). Calendar & programs. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs.
Knox County Public Library. (n.d.). Children's festival of reading 2015. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/calendar-programs/childrens-festival-reading-2015.
Knox County Public Library. (n.d.). Explore the collection. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/explore-collection.
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.

Spring 2015

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