July 16th Staff Focus Group–Main Library

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

Staff Session #2

Main Library

July 16, 2008

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

· Several staff shared memories of growing up within walking distance of their home town libraries and of enjoying the freedom to browse the shelves without supervision, check out books and just hang out.

· A staff member still remembers the smell of the library during visits to her neighborhood book mobile as a child and through her teen years. She thought the librarian had a cool job!

· While working on a research project as a young teenager at the old North Branch of PLCMC, staff recalls the open and friendly help he got from a librarian who trusted him to take home a non-circulating resource.

· The public library was one of the few safe places one staff member was allowed to go when growing up in New York. There were lots of fun programs and the librarians knew her and her brothers and sisters and what they liked to read so they set books aside for them to be waiting when they arrived.

· “Miss Nancy” who wore a sweater with little pearls sewn in and a bun in her hair was another home town librarian who left a lasting impression on one of our staff by introducing her to “the whole library experience.”

· Others weren’t as lucky but talked about how their love of books and the world that the library opened for them kept them coming back to the library everyday despite the “mean and horrible” librarian!

· Several related the feeling of independence they got from being able to spend time in the library unsupervised or when being dropped off there. They felt that the library was a safe haven for them. One also recalled that the library was one of the first places she was allowed to take the family car when she first learned to drive.

· A Laura Ingalls Wilder program held at the Main Library when one of our staff was just ten years old is still remembered with fondness.

· While some staff spoke of having been limited to the number of books they could check out most said that their parents put few restrictions on what they read.

· An elderly patron rudely criticized a teenager for choosing a book on witchcraft and caused her to feel uncomfortable about approaching the desk but she was reassured when the librarian checked out the book to her without judgment.

· In one small town the school library shared space with the public library and the students were restricted to one half of the building. When one young girl had read her fill it took intervention from her mom for the librarian to allow her to check out books beyond the children’s collection.

· One spoke of her amazement as a child when her father was able to check out records at their library.

· Another of the staff once worked at a rural library and was very proud of the role the library accepted as being the center for culture and education for the entire community through programs and partnerships.

· Traveling to different towns and visiting the local libraries has been a good experience for one who said that library staff are always open and friendly. She has a sense of pride both for the profession and for PLCMC staff for remembering the human side of the job.

· Many years ago a security guard at the Main Library left a lasting impression on a teenage girl who is now a member of Main Library’s staff. She was saved from disgrace by a warning look she was given by the librarian who was also a friend of her mother. The security guard allowed her to stay at a table when her friends were warned one too many times for talking.

· A former children’s librarian treasures the memory of being recognized at the grocery store by one of her pint sized readers who greeted her with a shout of joy and a hug.

2. Community Changes/Trends

· Ethnic diversity/ gateway for immigrants

· Digital Divide

· Increase in retirees

· Increase in homeless population

· Influx of disabled vets from the Gulf and Iraq

· Shift in economy

· Higher rate of unemployment

· High gas prices

· Light rail and buses are bringing more people into the city. IMG & ML are busier particularly on the weekends. Older population doesn’t like to drive in uptown traffic and is finding it easier to use the NC Room.

· More people working from home

· More stay at home moms

· Current studies show that teens & kids are more social & awake after 9pm.

· Less dependence on cars and more light rail and bus use

· Competition from bookstores and coffee shops offering same types of services as library

· Increase in technology

· More people using the library for computers & programs

· CMS cutting resources and staff and in a constant state of flux, meeting one crisis after another.

· Greater use of private study rooms in libraries

· The community is becoming more compact and more urban with rapid increase in center city housing.

· The library will become more than a place to check out books but will be a meeting place for parents, teens and play dates for younger children.

· Neighborhood branches will see an increase in use due to rising gas prices and the state of the economy.

· There is an increase in crime and a change in the perception of crime. There is a concern that our jails are seeing an increase in young black males.

· Multiple housing units are being built in more traditional, single family home neighborhoods.

· The city commissioners’ priorities seem to be geared more towards sports activities and less on the arts, education and libraries.

· Environmental issues are a concern in the community with a desire for more ‘green’ buildings, better air quality and there is an added concern for a lack of water resources.

· Studies show that increased use of technology is putting children at risk for having fewer verbal and written communication skills.

· Literacy continues to be an issue.

· Today’s public expects 24 hour service.

Roles for the library in meeting these changing needs

· 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.

· Offer more volunteer opportunities and social activities for retirees. This would also help to offset the trend of hiring fewer staff.

· Work with other government agencies to provide resources & information for students (FAFSA, grants, etc) and others. Help all customers to navigate through a very fast moving information highway.

· Library should be more accessible to the community as an information gatherer & offer more free programs & activities for families.

· Increase in gas prices will result in more people working from home. These people will have computers with more high speed internet and will expect more online services from the library.

· People working from home will have more need for a place to go for free or inexpensive recreation close to home. Movies will be too expensive so the library will become a social hub. People will want extended hours to socialize.

· High gas prices may also bring about different work shifts or more flexible work schedules for people working in the home or outside of the home. Beginning their work day later and ending it later or working fewer days with longer hours will increase their need for extended library hours.

· 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 library will be more than a place to check out books but will become a destination as a meeting place for parents, teens and play dates for younger children.

· Stay at home moms will look to the library for social interaction with adults and other moms.

· 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.

· The role of the neighborhood branches may change with increased use and require an increase in services at those locations.

· More partnerships with CMS and other educational agencies and more collaboration between the library and other agencies for added funding and space

· The “Ice Cream Truck” has been popular and successful in bringing more services out into the community so we should consider expanding the library’s role in this area of outreach.

· We should maintain our continuity with the community and not change too much or too fast but remain familiar and comfortable for our customers.

· It is important that we are familiar with all the other resources being offered within our community by other organizations that excel in certain areas so that we can determine wisely how to use the library’s resources. Rather than duplicating a service we may choose to back away from that one area knowing that that particular need is already being filled. We will never have enough resources or funding to offer every service in every area and being aware of what is already out there will help us to make smart decisions.

· Work with the community to keep at risk students in school and out of trouble and plan outreach programs with the jails and prisons to help inmates adjust to going back into society

· Become more involved in the high school senior exit project

· Work with urban ministries with issues of the homeless

· More assistance for parents who home school their children

· We need to be proactive in advertising our services.

· We should work with our local county commissioners to resolve the parking issue in the center city. People do not like to pay for parking to attend a free service or event.

· Offer more programs for small business owners and for people thinking about starting their own business.

· Design buildings that fit better with technology and insure better technology training for staff. Install moving shelves.

· Partner with the art community for programs and services

· The library should go beyond its traditional role as information gatherer to take a broader look at its issues and concerns and be more proactive in its approach to resolving those issues.

Scenario A – High tech libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

· All staff would be informative technology experts and could answer any questions about email or how to find information online 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.

· There would be 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.

What is not likely or desired in this library?

· 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.

· This library is lacks many things: all programming, literacy, book groups, literature that is not current. There would be students but no print materials.

· Customers might have to travel farther to get to this library.


· This building would use more energy. Rewiring and reconfiguring would be necessary.

· It would be noisy.

· Would need other type of programs aside from technology and arts events

· Computers would be physically different as opposed to the desk top models we have now.

· Whatever the size or shape of the computer or the technology it would need to work and work well. The more familiar people are with the technology the more of it they will have and they will carry it with them at all times no matter where they are. They will expect the library’s equipment to work at least as well as their own or better. They will expect and demand the newest, latest and best. If they come in and it doesn’t work they will go somewhere else.

· This library would require more staff and longer hours.

· Would need more volunteers as trade off for more staff dollars spent

· Technology is expensive and would it would cost a lot to stay current.

· Partnerships with the community and volunteers might help with the cost. Could bring in people from tech companies who might trade free products for advertising.

· Would probably have fewer rules, less strict

· Would need more community spaces.

Scenario B – Book centered libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

· Comfortable reading area

· Friendly staff

· Lots of programs

· Reading would be encouraged

· Outstanding children’s collection

· Family friendly spaces

· Inviting displays, easy to navigate

· Support for book groups

· Comfortable chairs

What is not likely or desired in this library?

· Lack of technology, computers, wireless, internet access

· Lack of technology training for staff

· No dvds

· No help for people needing government resources and other research help


· With less technology would have a bigger budget for books and programming

· Technology would need to be scaled back

· Would need to divide quiet area from non-quiet area

· Would have many programs for literacy and reading but none for technology

· More staff intensive with more training for staff for reader’s advisory and more time one on one with customers. This might require smaller desks with all staff roaming.

· More opportunity for volunteers

· Community spaces would be available for community service organizations to meet


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