Cumulative Staff Planning Group Notes

Summary of Staff Strategic Plan Focus Groups
July 2008


Chris Bates and Vanessa Work Ramseur facilitated Staff Focus Groups during the last two weeks in July at Belmont Center, Cornelius, Freedom Regional, Main, Mint Hill, South County, University City Regional, and West Boulevard libraries. Mary Lou Brown from Myers Park Branch and Jessica Magelaner from Freedom Regional Library each took notes at 4 sessions.

Over 150 staff took time from busy summer schedules to spend time with their peer’s brain storming about the future of PLCMC. Summaries of each session have been posted online as part of the PLCMC Community Forum blog at

Cherished Library Experiences

Each session began with the opportunity for staff to share their own very positive or exceptional library experiences, and to share suggestions for how we can create experiences like these in libraries across Mecklenburg County We soon realized that a majority of library staff come from regions outside the southeast. A few noted memories of using Charlotte Mecklenburg libraries as children and young adults.

My small neighborhood library in Iowa was the first place I ever had an account. Having an official library card of her own made me feel like an adult.
When I first moved to Charlotte, I visited the North County Regional Library. At the time, I didn’t even realize that it was part of a countywide system, and was impressed by their huge selection of gardening books, as well as their videos and CDs.
I went to the Beatties Ford Road branch for summer reading as a child, and later went there to register to vote. My friends and I went to the old Coulwood branch back in high school to do homework and hang out. PLCMC and the library community have always been a large part of my life.
I remember going to the library for the first time when I was in second grade. The librarian took me to look for novels.  I was thrilled that I was allowed to check out as many as I could carry. When my mother saw how many books I had, she asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a librarian someday?”
In Brooklyn (NY), there used to be a bookmobile that would travel around and visit local nursery schools,” a staff member recalled. “The bookmobile staff presented story times and showed book-related videos for the children. I loved the experience of having programs on the bus, and was impressed by a particularly knowledgeable staff member, who became a positive male figure in my life.
My local library was truly tailored to meet the needs of its community. There were always plenty of children’s programs throughout the day and in the evening for working parents.
 I remember waiting for the local book mobile in Bryan, Texas. For him, and for other children in the area, seeing the book mobile coming was as exciting as seeing the ice cream truck.
While I was visiting a library in Chapel Hill, a family member checked out a particularly good Halloween picture book. A year later, they wanted to take it out again, but could not remember the author or title and were unable to locate it. The librarian on duty then looked all around with them, and even let us search through the branch storage closet to try to find it. Even though they were ultimately unable to find the book, I was impressed at the lengths the librarian went to for us.
Cherished Experiences summaries
1. A number of staff commented on the welcoming physical atmosphere of libraries from their pasts, particularly children’s areas. Some noted that they were encouraged to play in and fully inhabit the library. One remembered an occasion when Like any two-year-old, her son made a bit of a mess in the children’s area, but the staff there just laughed it off.
2. Staff members recalled the positive impact being a library volunteer had on them. One recalled that in elementary school, the librarian let her and her classmates volunteer at the branch, and gave them tasks like stamping the books. This gave her the feeling of being involved and doing something important. Another emphasized how volunteering made her feel like she was in on what goes on behind the scenes at the library. Another recalled how, in the past, as a library volunteer, he had been given more responsibility, and that this made him feel that he was making more of a contribution to the library and the community.
3. Staff commented frequently on how important accessibility was to them. Many walked or rode bicycles to the library as children. Others made special trips with family even though the library was farther away. Bookmobiles were remembered fondly as the sole means of access for some and as icons of the positive impact libraries made on their communities. One participant noted that there were sidewalks leading to the library in her community, , so it was safe for her to walk there with her children,
4. “Library staff made me feel important and valued. They knew me by name and remembered what I liked to read and recommended new books to me because they knew me.” Several staff remembered that someone “made time to show me around the building so that I could make it my own.”
5. “Library staff encouraged me.” A staff member recalled how, while in middle school, he had sought assistance with homework at the City View branch here in Charlotte. Staff there gave him the assistance he required, and remembered him by name during future interactions. Someone else remembered being taught how to find magazine articles for an important school assignment and using that skill over and over throughout school. Another staff member remembered being asked to leave his local branch for the day for rough housing and acting out. A library staff member called him by name and warned him that she wasn’t going to call his mother – this time. Looking back on the incident now, he appreciates how it was handled.
6. “The library and its staff had a family feel.” “It was free, open, and equal for everyone.” A staff member recalled that she loved how her local branch was small and had a family feel. Adults who had come to this library as children brought their children in for story times, and were still connecting with the staff they knew. One staff member recalled going to the North Branch as a child here in Charlotte. He remembers it as a “family-style” community, where the staff seemed to know everyone who came in the library. Staff noted that even in larger branches, staff made an effort to keep that personal relationship with patrons.
Community Changes and Trends

Political Changes or Trends
 • The library is providing non traditional services by offering spaces for early voting and serving as pick up locations for recycle bins
• CMS cutting media specialist positions means public libraries will be called on more than ever before to assist students – we’re already receiving more calls to do outreach in classrooms
• More people who work or visit Charlotte-Mecklenburg but don’t live in Mecklenburg County are coming in to use the libraries.
Roles to Meet Changes
• We should participate in more regional events.
• We should develop a partnership with CMS to see how we can help raise test scores and lower the drop out rate of students, particularly in the schools with greatest need.

Economic Changes or Trends
 • State of the economy is bringing more people to the library to use free services, do resumes, job searches and online applications and to find housing
• Baby boomers are retiring and other retirees are moving into the area
• More patron registrations
• There is a greater need for meeting room space
• Other agencies in the community are advertising or promoting visits to the library for services that they no longer provide
Roles to Meet Changes
• We should be more approachable to small businesses and develop a stronger presence in the business community.
• We are seeing more foot traffic in the library on weekends due to economy and rise in population
• We see opportunity for more daytime programming and book clubs, resume writing and job searching workshops
• We should devote more of our resources to collections and DVDS and find other sources of revenue in the absence of county funding
• The public no longer sees us as a traditional library and it expects more services from us – exam proctoring, fax and notary services, etc
• The public sees the library as a community information center. We should develop a 311 type information service in order to provide the public with community resource information more efficiently.

Social Changes or Trends
 • Exploding population
• Community is becoming more diverse with many languages and cultures being added to its fabric
• More people are taking advantage of Spanish conversation classes
• Summer camps and other child care groups are taking advantage of library programs for kids
• Increase in latch key kids coming to the library
• Seeing more mentoring with one on one interaction
• Seeing more people with special needs and mental health clients
• Finding that the needs of our customers are broader and constantly changing
• Along with many long time residents, some community members live or work in the area for a shorter time and then move again for a job promotion or other opportunity
• Increase in home schooling
• More teens are coming to the library
Roles to Meet Changes
• There is an opportunity for developing an advisory board for senior citizens and more health related programs including yoga classes.
• There is opportunity for more multigenerational programs and cultural awareness programs
• We should provide more movie programs and film series and provide refreshments.
• We should continue to evolve to meet community needs.
• We should work with community partners to find out directly how we can meet their needs and tailor our services accordingly.
• There is an opportunity to participate in art crawls.
• We should continue to be a destination place for daycare groups
• We need to work with and embrace teens in all library locations to identify their needs and be more nurturing in our interactions with them
• The library is a starting point for many people.  The library is the first place they come when they move to the community.

Technological Changes or Trends
 • Technology is changing.
• There are a larger percentage of customers without computer access.
• More teens are requiring internet access.
• The state of the economy is bringing more job seekers to the library for computer use.
• There is an increased need for computer help with more complicated or time consuming searches.
• Increase number of internet accessible computers
• Increased staff development to better meet the needs of internet users searching for jobs and seeking help with government assistance.  These types of searches require more time and attention from staff who feel the frustrations of not being able to completely satisfy the customer.  Staff suggested a library position dedicated to the computer side of public service who would become an expert in the types of resources available and who could assist and instruct patrons and families in these more complicated searches.  These resources could also be indexed and readily shared between branch locations. This would be particularly valuable to smaller branch libraries with limited staffing.
Roles to Meet Changes
• Digital Divide continues to impact library services. Many customers rely on the library as their only access to computers and technology classes. Some do not have the economic means or educational background that brings greater access
• Shift in economy
• Increase in technology
• More people using the library for computers & programs
• A need for more basic computer classes for those who don’t have home computers but who need to feel more comfortable using the library’s computers
• Offer more varied services and programs for those who are not interested in or comfortable with computers, particularly seniors.
• Studies show that increased use of technology is putting children at risk for having fewer verbal and written communication skills.
• These people will have computers with more high speed internet and will expect more online services from the library.
• There will also be a greater need for extended hours of operation for those who require computer use after work or school.
• We will continue to be a resource for online job searches and applications.
• There will be an increase in social networking both on the computer and in person because people will still want the personal contact.  People who can’t afford to drive long distances to visit friends and family will look to the library for interaction or to contact family. Web conferencing could help with this.
• The rapid increase in technology will provide a wealth of services to the public within easy access of the types of services that the library is currently providing (downloadable books, etc) but they will continue to look to us for free and convenient online service.
• Design buildings that fit better with technology and insure better technology training for staff. Install moving shelves.

Library Scenarios-High Tech libraries
• Describes PLCMC for most part
• A technology center with some library services
• Technology savvy staff giving one on one assistance
• Noise level has increased
• We have students congregating in groups
• Accurate description of what students do in our library
• All staff would be well trained, informative technology experts and could answer any technology question rather than handing the question off to someone else.
• There would be a small offering of books and self check out.
• This library would appeal to people who like to search for specific information online themselves without asking someone for help.
• Computer screens up and running all over the building with CNN and other sources giving customers constant up to the minute news.
• There would be a lot of job seekers, gamers, lots of activity
• People would bring their own PCs. 
• Would appeal to people who have never used libraries before because they think they are up tight, old fashioned and intimidating
• People would like the downloadable items, books and music
• Technology today is the way of survival.
• Technology for all ages
• Self check out is a growing service and many people like to be self sufficient.
• This type of library would be better received in metro or urban areas than in out lying areas
• Customers would like the quick “in and out” service.
• WIFI access is essential to customer needs.
• Would offer non traditional hours to fit the customers’ busy schedules
• Looks more like a computer lab or Apple store with lots of plasma screens advertising library programs and services
• Computers will be used by job seekers, seniors, teens and adults
• This type of library will appeal to customers who don’t use the library as much and who think of the library as old fashioned or who stopped coming due to a bad experience.
• Self service is desirable to some people.
• No downloading of music, movies
• Books on hand are not always hottest best sellers; people forced to place holds
• This type of library could be intimidating for many and would only appeal to a certain segment of the population that is technology savvy.
• Unrealistic for a library to look so high tech, like a computer lab
• Amount of patron self sufficiency is unrealistic
• Not a place for families and children
• No programming beyond technology classes
• No depth to collection, popular library focus and no classics
• Community would not be engaged; not a warm destination place
• No volunteers
• The warm feeling is gone
• Literacy and early child development is not addressed
• Loses appeal for library staff trained in areas other than technology
• Virtual Village and ImaginOn were conceived more along these lines but staff noted that many computers in those locations are not in use at different times of the day. We need to find out why that is the case.
• Not family friendly with the exception of gaming
• Collections lack depth
• Excludes population unfamiliar with computers
• Limited programming
• Book collection
• Older adults might not feel comfortable here.
• Assumes Internet is free, operable, all knowing
• Not everyone is comfortable with technology.
• Google doesn’t find everything
• Not enough staff to give one on one service with technology
• No children’s services or programs
• Not a quiet space/lots of activity and discussion going on
• No reader’s advisory or best sellers
• Students are also looking for books for homework help
• Many people looking for materials and physical items they can hold in their hands
• Sometimes customers want to be helped instead using self service
• Human interaction is necessary
• Many people want quiet space. Need a balance
• Books that are checked out at this location are delivered from other locations and while some customers might not mind waiting others would want the book right then.
• Will never be able to have entire staff at same technology skill level. Technology is so changing and it’s hard for everyone to keep up. Some people don’t require training to figure out how something works but we are not all “digital natives.”
• This library is very one dimensional and would not appeal to everyone in a diverse society.
• Customers might have to travel farther to get to this library.

Library Scenario-Book Centered Libraries
• Layout is generally focused on books and is a show case for the print collection.
• Friendly library staff who are avid readers and still believes in “the power of the book.”
• We are getting better at providing more comfortable seating for our readers.
• We do provide a broad selection of books.
• We are working to merchandise print collection.
• We like to provide good readers advisory because we are readers ourselves.
• We offer variety of book clubs across the system.
• We have recognizable children’s areas.
• We offer a wide range of children’s programs.
• Our children’s staff give special treatment to kids.
• Meets the expectations of what the public thinks a library should be by offering a quiet place to read or study
• Offers committed, well trained, well read staff who can do reader’s advisory at the drop of a hat
• Many book clubs for all ages
• Lots of learning spaces to meet ESL and literacy needs
• Offers quality storytellers with more story times and programs
• Comfortable chairs and reading areas
• Collection is in depth and broad
• Plenty of best sellers and other books for everyone
• Staff very knowledgeable about books and enjoys discussing books with customers
• Quiet library that encourages reading
• Traditional and old fashioned
• Staff is knowledgeable about books
• Print resources are in good supply for students when schools are closed. Able to find titles from reading lists.
• Comfortable chairs and reading area
• Lots of programs
• Reading would be encouraged
• Outstanding children’s collection
• Spacious family friendly spaces
• Inviting displays, easy to navigate
• Support for book groups• 
• No computers or technology
• Our collection is not quite as broad
• Our libraries are not as quiet
• Not as many of our patrons are readers
• Not as encouraging of reading on the spot
• Books are not our main research resource
• We do not put as much emphasis on print materials
• We do not have as much staff or space
• We are not the community’s first place to go
• Misses a large underserved population with low income, ESL and literacy needs and those without home computers
• Does not recognize the need for technology and does not offer it
• Lack of technology and non print resources, computers, wireless, internet access and public technology
• Lack of technology training for staff
• Lacks community space and the feeling that the library is the center of the community, offering no cultural experiences other than those that are book or literacy related.
• Small AV collection
• No instructional programming
• Not meeting everyone’s needs
• No training opportunities for public
• Limited resources for students or gaming
• Limited job search resources
• No resources for non-readers
• Fewer volunteer opportunities
• Limited staffing opportunities
• No DVDs
• No help for people needing government resources and other research help
• Misses a large underserved population with low income, ESL and literacy needs and those without home computers
• Does not recognize the need for technology and does not offer it
• Lacks community space and the feeling that the library is the center of the community, offering no cultural experiences other than those that are book or literacy related.
• Small AV collection
• No instructional programming


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