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INSC 554: Public Library Management and Services

Service to Assess/Evaluate (15 Points)

3.1 Identify a specific service(s), program(s), collection(s), facilities, and/or other activities to assess/evaluate in your PL.

The service that would be assessed below is Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The Library is aimed to close school readiness gap. It provides free reading books to children under 5 to support early child education.

3.2 Describe the selected PL service. Analyze the selected PL service in relation to user-centered issues (who and how many users use the service, how often is the service used, strengths/weaknesses of the PL service, etc.).

The Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is administered through Knox County Public Library (KCPL). In 1996, Dolly Parton started to send out books to young children in Sevier County. Since then, along with The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, Dolly Parton has successfully reached out lots of young children in the entire state of Tennessee.

These free books are funded by foundations, corporations, grants and donors (Knox County Public Library). KCPL's local Board of Advisors is responsible to raise funds for half of books and mailing, promotes the program and registers children. The Governor's Books from Birth Foundation covers the other half and provides necessary support such as public relations. The Dollywood Foundation is in charge of other operation details of the program. For example, it will take responsibility to carefully select books for the Library to ensure they are appropriate for the target users to read and enjoy.

Every month, child from birth to age 5 in Knox County who registers the program will receive a free age-appropriate book in regardless of the family incomes. The program allows children from poor families to have the same opportunities of reading books as those who can afford books.

The partnership between KCPL and two foundations guarantees a strong support for the program. With the partnership, the program is able to have a sustainable financial support, a reliable and effective distribution logistics, and carefully chosen books. Moreover, the program is not only provided in Knox County; it's available across the entire Tennessee state. This means, a great many young children living beyond Knox County area will potentially benefit from the program.

3.3 Discuss the relative importance of this PL service. How much difference does it make in the success of your PL organization or in the quality of life in the community served by the agency?

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is dedicated to prepare young children for school readiness. According to Annie E. Casey Foundation (2013), about 12% of school-age children in Tennessee repeat at least one grade level and 33% of fourth graders' reading achievement is at a below-basic level (KCPL, 2014 Annual Report). The program meets the need for better early childhood education and will help close the gap of school readiness. Further, Matthews (2007) suggested that there are more library users in middle-income families than in low-income families. The program enables each registered child to have free books to read in regardless of family incomes. The program alleviates the family financial burdens in book purchase. Early age development is helpful to enhance children's performance in school; hence, the program is also important in increasing the educational levels among communities.

3.4 Define the selected PL service you are assessing/evaluating by listing keywords that are associated with it. Which word(s) would you use in searching for information about this service? Tag the most productive subject term.

The keywords associated with the program are Dolly Parton, early child development, early childhood education, children under the age of five, free books, book readings, mailing service. I would probably use free books, because free books are what the registered children will actually get from the program. Dolly Parton is also a good choice because the name is easy to remember and she is the one who initiated the idea of the program.

3.5 What are the existing ways that the PL provides information about the selected PL service? (in the physical library environment and on the web). Is there effective advertising/marketing of the PL service? Rank the ways that users find information about the selected PL service?

Users can get information about the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library from KCPL's website under the section of programs and partnerships. They can also access the information in the annual report of KCPL. A possible effective way of advertising the program is hosting a book exhibition in the Imagination Library. Parents usually are very careful about what their kids read at a young age. Besides, the marketing team would also like to consider mailing ad posters to families who have children under age 5. The ad could include information about the program and benefits of it. And statistics about the relationship between early child development and school readiness gap will very likely to help attract interest parents.

3.6 Discuss the interest users of the PL or other members of the community might have in this PL service. How much actual and potential demand exists for it? What events or sources are likely to stimulate interest in this PL service? What is the likely life of this interest?

The program is targeted at children from birth to age 5 in regardless of family income. Hence, supporting parents who have children aged 5 or under 5 would be interested in the program. Since the program is at no cost to the family, there could be many potential interest users in the communities.

According to the sex and age distribution chart of 2013 Knox County (Burchett, 2013, p265), there are 26,920 children under age 5 in the year of 2013, and they take up 5.9% of the total population in Knox County. Although the number of 5-year-old children is unknown, it can be reasonably predicted that there are around 30,000 children who can become the users of the program. The annual report of 2013-2014 shows that the total enrollments of the program is 17,780 (KCPL, 2014 Annual Report). There are 5,583 total new enrollments in 2013 (KCPL, 2014 Annual Report). About 68% of all Knox County children under the age of five receive books, and Knox County "retains the highest urban registration percentage in the United States" (KCPL, 2013-2014 Annual Report, p.12). Potential users are likely to become new users when they find out whether they are satisfied with the mailing speed and the quality of books. The interest could possibly goes on until child grows up and no longer eligible for the program.

3.7 Identify, evaluate, and come to a conclusion on alternative resources/agencies that provide such services. Where might potential users go for this service IF your PL did not exist and did not provide this service? To what degree do alternative sources minimize the need for such a service? Using appropriate alternative resources (both offline and online), indicate the degree to which affordable, useful, and recent resources provide similar services.

Currently, there is no alternative program in Knox County for the same users. If the program doesn't exist, children under age 5 would have to borrow books from KCPL system or to purchase books from bookstores and online book vendors. The collaboration of KCPL and other two foundations provides a strong back-up support for the program. Considering the fact that the service is available across the entire Tennessee state, it can be predictable that a similar program would demand much resource, funding, as well as energy and effort from all institutions and humans that are involved in it.

3.8 Reviewing the variables mentioned above, does it seem reasonable to gather user-centered feedback to assess/evaluate the selected PL service? Provide a strong justification statement.

It is reasonable to gather user-centered feedbacks to assess Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. User-centered feedback will allow the program manager to know what works and what doesn't work in the program. The part where what doesn't work could be adapted to meet the needs of users. Also, user-centered feedbacks help the library to evaluate the work of library staff so that the quality of the service could be enhanced in the future. In the Dolly Parton's Imagination Library program, many factors would affect the quality of the service. First, it is reasonable to ask users to evaluate whether their children receive a book in time each month. Second, children's parents can assess the quality of the received books, such as whether the books are age-appropriate and whether the books tell a good story and help enhance the reading skills of their children. Possible ways of gathering feedbacks could be focus group, surveys and interviews.

References

Knox County Public Library. (2014). 2014 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/sites/default/files/kcpl-annual-report-2014.pdf

Knox County Public Library. (N.D.). Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org.

Burchett, T. (2013). 2014-2015 Adopted Budget Detail. Retrieved from http://www.knoxcounty.org/finance/pdfs/2014_2015_budget/2014-2015adopted_budget_detail.pdf

Spring 2015

Contact K.C. Williams

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