July 16th Staff Focus Group–Freedom Regional Library

Staff Focus Group Discussions for PLCMC’s Strategic Plan – July 2008

Staff Session #2
Freedom Regional Library
July 16, 2008

1. Exceptional and cherished library experiences shared with the group.

• A staff member recalled how, while in middle school, they had sought assistance with homework at the Cityview branch. Staff there gave them the assistance they required, and remembered them by name for future interactions.

• At Scaleybark, a patron came in needing very involved help in putting together a resume. Staff were able to give her the help that she required, and the patron later called them to thank them for their assistance and to let the staff members who had worked with her know that she had gotten the job she had applied for.

• A staff member recalled that they were always in the local library during their childhood, even though it was not always easy for them to travel to the nearest branch. They also appreciated the local bookmobile service, and noted the positive impact it had on their community. As a current staff member, they joined PLCMC wanting to bring this same experience to the Mecklenburg county community.

• A student who was having difficulty in high school was encouraged by staff to stay in school and graduate. Staff helped him communicate with his teachers, gave him research materials for papers and school projects and found him volunteer opportunities at his neighborhood branch. The student was able to graduate and continue with his schooling, and later made note of the support he had received from staff and the over-all family style community of the library in his dissertation.

• A staff member recalled how, in the past, as a volunteer, they had been given more responsibility, and that this made them feel like they were making more of a contribution to the library and the community.

• A staff member recalled how librarians in small communities had maintained one-on-one relationships with their younger patrons, and noted that even with PLCMC’s larger branches, staff still strive to keep that personal relationship with patrons.

• A staff member whose family members have always been regular visitors to the library noted that they have always had positive interactions with staff.

• A younger patron developed an interest in reading through encouragement from staff and involvement in the summer reading program. This patron maintained a close relationship with staff all through school, and invited staff to his high school graduation.

• A staff member’s mother noted that staff members are always courteous and friendly when she visits.

• A staff member recalled when the local bookmobile was the only readily available library. Patrons were only allowed to check out a certain number of books at a time, and were supposed to return bookmobile materials to the bookmobile, but she would try to return her bookmobile items to the local library in order to check out more books. The librarian on duty always reminded her of the rule, and then gave her a few paperbacks to read until the bookmobile made its rounds again.

Going forward with positive experiences:

• Give back what you’ve received in terms of positive library experiences; if you look at the exceptional library experiences staff have shared, almost all of them are related to good customer service.

• Library users need to be able to trust you and communicate with you – part of the public library experience is being able to connect with staff.

• One of the problems noted is that it’s easier for staff at smaller branches to make this connection than it is for staff at larger regionals. Regional staff may have so much to do on a day to day basis that it’s hard for them to find the time to stop and make a personal connection with individual users.

• Another noted thing was that no one’s positive experience recalled anything extravagant or expensive – the first thing that came into everyone’s mind was service and staff.

2. Community Changes/Trends

• Migration: more Northerners are moving to the South. This means communities and values are always changing – libraries need to become a central place of information for the community.

• Increase in unemployment: economic fluctuation means more people looking for work, and a lot of the people in the Mecklenburg County community do their job hunting at the library.

• The general population is aging: requests for the Library by Mail service are likely to increase as older patrons become unable to easily travel to the library. Holds and quick pick-ups are also likely to increase as older patrons make fewer trips to branches.

• Internet usage is up: more users are utilizing public PCs, and the demand for more public terminals and technology classes is increasing.

• Patron aggressiveness is increasing: as the economy worsens, patrons are growing more contentious about fines, even smaller fines that were not a problem in the past. Patrons are also less patient with wait times for public computers.

• Budget costs and higher gas prices are resulting in fewer library visits from school groups and day cares.

Ways for PLCMC to Meet These Changes

• Staff suggested utilizing bulletin boards, like other community centers do, to let members post flyers for others in the community. A few downsides to this are that some library users post flyers that aren’t appropriate for the library environment, and that the board can become too cluttered. A few branches have tried using bulletin boards, and have had to take them down because of these problems. A possible solution would be to have the boards, but have them in an area where staff can monitor and maintain them.

• Staff need to be sensitive to increased diversity; even though most libraries are building strong Spanish collections, and all branches offer Spanish library card applications and flyers, we still need to meet the needs of the many other ethnicities in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg area.

• Libraries need to be promoted through new venues, such as Discovery Place, the Mecklenburg county welcome center, in the newspapers and on the radio. PLCMC also needs more collaboration with more diverse venues, as we did when we had the Smart Card campaign that allowed patrons to use their library card for discounts all over the Mecklenburg County area.

• PLCMC needs more outreach to schools and day cares that are no longer able to come to us. The bookmobile is a good start, but it’s not enough.

• Staff need to be given the benefit of the doubt in patron disputes. As more patrons become increasingly contentious, it becomes difficult for staff members to enforce rules when patrons are able to complain at Main Library or other branches and receive different answers. All staff have been trained in how to handle patron disputes and problems; if a patron has already received an answer to a complaint at one branch, that should be the end of it.

Scenario A – High Tech Libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

• It would lead to more volunteer opportunities.


What is not likely or desired in this library?

• The majority of librarians are not Help Desk technicians.
• Everybody doesn’t know everything
• 50/50 for technology in libraries/ some still prefer the old-fashioned way.
• This example version of the library is not welcoming.
• People are not all technologically savvy, and some don’t want or care about new technology.
• Takes away staff/patron interaction.
• Impersonal/sterile environment.
• Only technology related – it would be a Virtual Village in every branch.
• Restrictions of what one can do on computers.


• Would lead to intensive weeding of collections
• Would need to provide up to date rooms.


Scenario B – Book centered libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

• Staff interaction – can happen.
• More programs related to books.
• More highly trained staff.
• Volunteers could help fill staffing needs – more volunteer opportunities.
• More partnerships.


What is not likely or desired in this library?

• All these things happening at once seem impossible.
• Completely missing computer/technology
• Can’t buy books to keep up with growth – no room!



• Building expansion – a big need for space to continue community growth.
• Need more money!


2 Responses to “July 16th Staff Focus Group–Freedom Regional Library”

  1. MCW Says:

    I hear a lot about The Bookmobile, and have looked at the pictures of it on Flickr. May I ask how I can find out where/if it’s touring? I’ve never seen it nor been in it.

  2. Karen Beach Says:

    Thank you for your question about our “bookmobile.” We launched a Mobile Literacy Outreach project in mid-June that includes using a colorful vehicle ( what you referred to as our “bookmobile” ) to go out into the community. Just for clarification, our summer project has not included the traditional bookmobile function of allowing people to check out materials.

    We received grant funds for the summer pilot and chose to focus our efforts on neighborhoods surrounding two elementary schools: Druid Hills and Allenbrook. The program goes into these neighborhoods three times a week, including stops in the schools’ parking lots and in a few other neighborhood areas to create a mini library experience. We’re essentially trying to create “literacy hot zones” – anchored by a colorful inviting vehicle that has the look and feel of a summertime favorite, the ice cream truck. Children are registered for library cards and PLCMC’s summer reading program. Each visit provides a new book given to each child to help build their in-home personal libraries for summer reading. Computer and Internet access with links to educational and literacy software, interactive games and other web sites provide ready access to electronic library tools. Reading-related activities and programs like storytelling help round out the experience. Summertime reading is critical for maintaining or gaining literacy skills during school breaks so our goal was to pilot a new way to reach children who don’t get to the library in the summer for a variety of reasons.

    This pilot project ends August 22. Response from the community has been very positive so far. We’re currently discussing possible plans, including funding and resource needs, for continuing and/or expanding a mobile literacy outreach initiative after that time.

    I hope this helps answer your question. If not, please let me know.

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