INSC 554: Public Library Management and Services
7.User-Centered Assessment/Evaluation in PL Services (10 Points)
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):
The Knox County Public Library (KCPL) is governed and funded by Knox County government. The library advisory board consists of 9 members from 9 different districts respectively. The board members are recommended by Mayor and are approved by County Commission (KCPL website). The library advisory board meets every two months to discuss library issues and affairs. The leadership of Knox County government has enabled KCPL to have a strong support in performing its missions.
The Dolly Parton's Imagination Library (DPIL) is one of the feature programs in KCPL. The 2013 advisory board of the program consists of 17 members from a variety of working environment (including Knoxville News Sentinel, Knox County Schools, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, etc.). The diversity of the committee members has made sure users' voice can be best heard. The DPIL program receives financial support from the Governor's Books from Birth Foundation, corporations, grants, and individuals to benefit every eligible Knox County child (DPIL, 2013 Annual Report).
Library identity (mission, vision, strategic aims, etc.)
The KCPL's vision is to become the "essential connection for lifelong learning and information for every citizen" (KCPL website). KCPL is missioned to serve as an educational, informational, recreational and cultural center. The mission is based on the consideration of citizens' variety of needs. In the center, users have access to a variety of resources, services and programs. The DPIL program, for example, is aimed to make each eligible child has their own library in regardless of their parents' income. The KCPL has been dedicated to serve its users with better facilities. In the coming years, users will see long-lived upgrades, including technology improvements, across the whole KCPL system (Burchett, 2013). The improvement of technology is a response to the ever-changing digital environment and enabled users to have access to all kinds of information channels.
Community analysis and needs assessment
Any user-centered services in a public library should be based on the analysis of community concerns and assessment of users' needs. It's hard for a library to thrive from providing all kinds of services to users. In this case, it is especially important to find out what users need and then adapt library services to meet their needs. Based on analysis of the demographic characteristics of Knox County, Children are the primary segment of the user community. KCPL provides a variety of services for children, such as pre-school storytime, summer reading festivals, and movie nights. And another proof of KCPL's effort in taking care of users' needs is its demonstrated input into historical archiving and other accessible historical materials. In recognition of Tennessee's rich and long history, KCPL established East Tennessee History Center and Calvin M. McClung Historical Collections to allow users track down family genealogy and explore local history.
Just like a business company, a public library also needs to sell its products through marketing/advertising. Marketing is especially important and meaningful when the library has limited resources to offer (Weingand, 2001). To make effective use of constrained resources, a public library should identify strategies to reach out to target users. As a proactive method of selling products to users, marketing should not only aim to respond to users' current needs; good marketing should also think one step further than users (Weingand, 2001).
The DPIL believes that the best way to enroll eligible child is by word-of-mouth (DPIL, 2013 Annual Report, p.8). It encourages parents of registered children to recommend the program to friends and family members. The DPIL also hosts Kids Jamboree event in West Town Mall to share stories, music, crafts, and cakes with parents and children (DPIL, 2013 Annual Report, p.7). Due to the surrounding of the location (where parents and children who go out for shopping may pass by), the event is also expected to attract parents and children who are not enrolled to join in the program.
Evaluation action plan
The purpose of an evaluation action plan is to justify and plan user assessment action. Because users experience and their thoughts are valuable to the short and long strategies of a library, evaluation action plan is of vital importance the survival of the library. User-centered feedbacks will allow library directors know how much success they've accomplished. Also feedbacks will help directors find out what works for users and what doesn't. Directors are very likely to make services go into wrong directions if they assume themselves to be the actual users. Hence, the evaluation action plan will let them know more about things on the users' sides.
Assessment and evaluation methods
To assess the effective of the selected service and to find possible ways to promote the service to more children who are eligible to enroll into the service, the survey questions are designed to collect users' behaviors, thoughts and suggestions. The user-centered survey consists of both qualitative and quantitative questions. There are multiple ways to deliver the questionnaires. However, considering the cost and convenience factors, and also based on the fact that electronic survey is advantaged in reaching out more users, the survey was administrated through SurveyMonkey, the link of which was sent to users via email by the program coordinator.
Like other issues associated with public library management, personnel administration should also meet community needs. In two areas that have different characteristics, personnel management would differ in staff selection, numbers, specialty areas and performing tasks (Weingand, 2001). Besides, other personnel functions such as evaluation staff and annual performance review are beneficial to the use of library in the final. Staffs with professional knowledge and qualified skills will be more likely to meet the demands of users. And the performance evaluation will help the library to examine the service qualities thus guarantee users receive best service.
The University of Tennessee, which is located in the downtown Knoxville, has an ALA-credited Information Sciences program. Janet Drumheller, the director of reference department of Lawson McGhee, said that she is very glad that they have such a good human resource in town and she welcomes IS students to join their team.
If a library comes up with a good program that meets the community concerns but there is no money set aside for the program, then it's probably nothing. It is not surprising that finances sometimes could be the biggest barrier to meet the community needs. This implies that financial problems are essential to running program or service. DPIL program mails one free age-appropriate book to eligible child every month. The big concern of the program is where to raise funding for books purchase. The funding sources of 2013 for the program have come from grants, foundations, private, government, corporate and others (DPIL, 2013 Annual Report), without which Knox County Child might not be able to enjoy their books from Imagination library. Hence, sustainable financial support to a program ensures a healthy and long development of it.
KCPL has policies in regarding to library cards, computers and Internet use, materials selection and volunteering (KCPL website). Policies are developed by library administrators and approved by advisory board. As "guidelines that assist the library in fulfilling the roles/service responses selected for meeting the needs of the community", policies are meaningful and essential to the library's daily operations (Weingand, 2001, Chapter 5, p.73). These policies are intended to ensure users have a comfortable and productive environment to study and research. KCPL has developed rules to guarantee appropriate behaviors in the library, such as eating and drinking are prohibited, and parents should not leave children under 10 unsupervised (KCPL website).
Collections and collection management
As has been mentioned in above points, KCPL established Calvin M. McClung Historical Collections and East Tennessee Historical center to serve users who are interested in tracking down family genealogy or local historical stories. This is a good example of how collection development should be tailored to community needs. To develop or manage a collection that attracts users and offers valuable services to them, collection developers should consider factors such as audience demographics, culture, values and users' needs (Matthews, 2007). All these factors would have impacts on the content and formats of the collection (Matthews, 2007). The rich and long history of Tennessee and the location of Knoxville in the state have determined that the greater Knox area is a place that many historians and researchers would like to visit.
Electronic resources and technology assessment
KCPL now provides over 80 databases and electronic resources to users (KCPL, 2014 Annual Report). The service has enabled users to view and download materials from library computers or even from home. The service doesn't only bring convenience, it is also an efficient way to save money and distribute information to more users. Stated in the 2013 Budget Report (Burchett, 2013), KCPL is going to have its technology facilities updated in next few years to better meet users' needs. It is important to evaluate technology from users' end. Users may find the library's online information system is not user-friendly, some of the file links may be not working, or some of the software needs to be updated, etc. To only have subscripted databases and available online resources is not enough, the more important thing is that users are actually using them efficiently.
Technical services and reference services
KCPL provides a variety of resources for users to learn and use advanced technologies. Users are able to make an appointment with a reference librarian to learn how to use their devices (KCPL, 2014 Annual Report). They can also register computer workshops to learn basic computer skills. However, the computer workshops have been open for over 15 years, and it might be suspicious that whether they can continue fulfill the needs of users. So it would be important to do a user-centered survey to discover their thoughts and needs. And the library might also want to attract more users of different age range by adapting the content of computer workshops.
Library systems and library networks
Library systems and library networks are closely related to users' experience with online resources (databases, e-journals, e-magazines, library website, etc). Library systems and networks support library's daily operations and have effect on users' activities, such as communications between branch libraries and interlibrary loan requests. What's more, the design of library systems should be user-centered, which means the system should obey usability rules. The final goal of the interface design is to bring joyful experience to users and assists them to accomplish tasks effectively (Rogers, Sharp, & Preece, 2011). Hence, the development and maintenance of library systems and networks are also important in providing effective service to users.
User instruction and customer services
The goal of user instructions is to teach users use library resources more effectively (Matthews, 2007). A library may have millions accessible resources accessible to users, but for users how to use these resources is another thing. So it is important to make sure each user knows how to make use of resources for their study and research. In customer services, each library is dedicated to giving customers high quality services. Users' satisfaction is the ultimate pursuit of customer services. However, as discussed in class, it's not possible to make sure each customer is satisfied. But it's possible to develop service evaluation plans to assess the qualities and find ways to enhance the libraries' performance.
Adult and/or youth services
KCPL has provided a variety of services and resources for adult and youth. Before planning a new program or assessing current program, it's important to look at demographic data (educational level, household income, racial make-up, age levels, culture awareness, etc) to find out what adult and youth might be interested in and what they might need for their study and work. Aside of adult collections, KCPL has developed services for adult to establish connection with the community, such as concerts, movie night and historical center and collection (KCPL website). When assessing youth services, libraries should also pay attention to their close relation to innovations and technologies so that they are more likely to provide attracting services to youth.
Burchett, T. (2013). 2014-2015 Adopted Budget Detail. Retrieved from http://www.knoxcounty.org/finance/pdfs/2014_2015_budget/2014-2015adopted_budget_detail.pdf
Matthews, J. R. (2007). The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited
Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Knox County. (2013). 2013 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/sites/default/files/il2013annualreport_final.pdf
Knox County Public Library. (N.D.). Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org.
Knox County Public Library. (2014). 2014 Annual Report. Retrieved from http://www.knoxlib.org/sites/default/files/kcpl-annual-report-2014.pdf
Rogers, Y., Sharp, H., & Preece, J. (2011). Interaction Design: beyond human-computer interaction (3rd Edition ed.). West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley.
Weingand, D. E. (2001). Administration of the Small Public Library (Fourth Edition). Chicago, IL: American Library Association
Contact K.C. Williams451 Communications Building, 1345 Circle Park Drive, Knoxville, TN 37996-0341