July 22nd Staff Focus Group–Cornelius Library

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

Staff Session #4

Cornelius Branch Library

July 22, 2008

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

· Several of our staff have fond memories of visiting the bookmobile as children. One said she felt like it was “just for her” when it pulled into her driveway every two weeks. The librarians were very friendly and encouraged her to read. Another’s first library experience was when the bookmobile came to Derita Elementary School and she recalled how much she loved it.

· A library fine from a one time visit as a child to the old North Branch followed one staff member all the way to high school when she was told she couldn’t graduate until she paid her fine at the public library!

· A first job interview with the Cabarrus County Library system was made easier when the librarian giving the interview remembered her as a child when she attended story times there and always wore clothes with teddy bears on them.

· One recalls taking her young children to Main Library in the 80’s and their attraction to the new online computer. She thought it was wonderful that her children had immediate access to the catalog and could easily find what they wanted with little or no assistance.

· Growing up in Davidson and participating in the summer reading program was fun even without the prize incentives that today’s young readers receive. One of our staff recalled keeping track of the books she read on buff colored cards that she still has. Others remembered getting stars on the cards for being exceptional readers.

· Going to Main Library to gather research for her high school papers was quite different from the tiny Cornelius branch library a staff member lived near. She was in awe by the size of the library and what was available to her, particularly access to magazine articles.

· Another staff member once worked as a librarian for an architecture and engineering firm and sometimes found the job challenging without having a background in those areas himself. He greatly valued the assistance he received from a librarian at a nearby engineering university library who educated him about engineering literature and terminology.

· Taking her preschool aged son to a library in a town they were visiting was fun because there were lots of puzzles that her son enjoyed and he was able to make friends with other children while they worked together.

· The group was amused to hear a branch manager tell a story of being kicked out of the library down the street from his Jr High School when he and three friends were sitting at a table. He said they thought they were talking quietly but then mentioned that a basketball was somehow involved . . . After a reprimand from the librarian they were asked to leave but invited to come back the next day. The librarian also promised not to call his mother who worked just around the corner.

2. Community Changes/Trends

· Traffic is a major issue particularly in the Cornelius & Mountain Island area and will be further impacted by future plans for a new mall with an added exit to highway 77.

· We are also seeing rapid population growth in these areas & more schools and homes are being built.

· The population is more diverse.

· Technology is changing.

· There is a larger percentage of customers without computer access.

· More teens are requiring internet access.

· CMS is facing a cut in budget with a loss of media specialists, librarians and resources.

· Changes in transportation and light rail will result in the development of communities along the tracks.

· High gas prices are bringing more people into the library.

· The state of the economy is bringing more job seekers to the library for computer use.

· We are seeing an increase in requests for exam proctoring.

· There is an increase in the number of tutors requiring tables and study rooms. UNCC sponsors free tutoring and this has impacted the University City Library.

· There are growing ESL needs.

· There are more requests for textbooks and workbooks.

· New residents have high expectations for the library and are seeking the same or better services than those provided by their former libraries.

· There is an increased need for computer help with more complicated or time consuming searches.

3. Roles for the library in meeting these changing needs

· Provide literacy programs and assistance for adults

· Help with basic literacy and ESL needs and provide more language materials to float among library locations

· Increase number of internet accessible computers

· More opportunities to build partnerships with schools

· Provide more tutoring and homework help for students

· Partner with CMS to increase teen services and give teens a more positive library experience and help them feel more comfortable asking for help

· Install small kiosks at rail stations for customers to check out or “swap out” paperbacks, etc.

· Increase public spaces with more tables and private study areas

Would like to see every library, regardless of size with a small quiet area set aside for tutoring

· Improve the structure of current bilingual programs to include more English classes for parents and other adults

· Provide more basic math resources for grades 6-8

· Need more staff with diverse training and language skills

· Partner with local businesses

· 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.

4. Scenario A – High tech libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

· Technology today is the way of survival.

· 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.

· Well trained tech savvy staff

· Would offer non traditional hours to fit the customers’ busy schedules

What is not likely or desired in this library?

· 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


· Internet policies – who gets on the computer, under what circumstances to do what would come into question

· Bandwidth – WIFI would be competing with same bandwidth as the internet computers and draining that resource

· Possibility for other types of programming, hosting web conferences, etc

· Would require more staff training and development.

5. Scenario B – Book centered libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

· 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 staff who is well read and 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

What is not likely or desired in this library?

· 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


· Would need no space for PCs or AV materials

· Would require a larger budget for display shelves and shelving in general and added work space.

· Comfortable seating and furnishings would be very important.

· Would require a much larger budget for books

· More story times, children’s programming and book clubs

· Staff strong on customer service and well read with professional story telling skills

· Would have limited opportunities for volunteers

· Technology would be non existent

· The budget would focus mainly on books and would require a large and varied collection of print materials, including old and new titles, hard to find titles and an extended reference collection.


2 Responses to “July 22nd Staff Focus Group–Cornelius Library”

  1. freshpulp Says:

    I only have a few problems I would be happy to see addressed at this branch.

    1) Better signage, Upkeep, and Bookdrop location. First of all, the sign for this building is entirely too hard to pick out ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/plcmc/2568009991 ) when you consider that every building in the town hall area of Cornelius looks exactly like this. White columns and brick walls. I almost miss the turn every time because there is no sign where there easily could be one out on the road pointing drivers in the right direction. There are always cars parallel parked against the sides of Catawba Ave., making it even harder to pick out the street that takes you to the library. I didn’t even know it was there, and I have been working up there for a total of about 5 years. I had just been going to North County, because I thought it was the only one in the area.

    As far as Upkeep goes, mainly I am talking about the parking lot. The entrance to the parking lot has an area of brick pavers that are in bad shape. The other day, when I pulled into the parking lot I dodged two huge broken pavers that had possibly been knocked loose from the driveway by traffic. These could easily puncture tires, and they are serving no purpose. Some improvements need to be made to this entrance area.

    Last, the bookdrop for all Libraries should be located in a way that you can drive up and drop off books. This library requires you to park (Often 15 spaces away) and walk to drop books off in a box that says “Book Drop” (Who knows if CD’s can go in there. I put mine in there anyway). Because of the small parking lot that is always packed, I can see why you have to walk to the book drop, but there is surely some type of workaround. I like dropping books off early morning on the way to work, and do not have time to waste. I’d rather be able to quickly drop the books off than pay a fine because I didn’t in time.

    2) Very crowded. Why is it like this? Mainly because the library was simply built too small. It is not made to accommodate both computer users who are seated and library guests who are browsing book shelves. The main problem I have run into is that every time you go down a aisle of books, someone is already there, and the aisles were made too small for two people to pass each other. You just have to suck it up and know you’re not going to get to what you want. And that is not good.

    Also, when you are standing in line to use the Self-Checkout (There should at least be two of these in the library. There is only ONE, and the window next to it that is not being used to pass books around the security that does not exist could easily house one more touch screen), you are having to constantly move out of the way of passing people, and generally are in everyone’s way.

    – So, Fixing those things would be a good start. They have nothing to do with the titles available in the library, because honestly, I haven’t been able to get a good look yet because I am having to deal with these issues.

  2. Chris Bates Says:

    “freshpulp” – reply to your comments from Ellen Giduz, Cornelius Branch Library Manager

    Thanks for your comments regarding the Cornelius Branch Library. I appreciate your taking the time to give detailed feedback, and I’ll respond as well as I can to each point:

    1. Better signage. Currently we have large signs identifying the library above the doors facing Washam and Catawba Streets. But we also have some lovely trees that obscure the view of these signs from some angles. Adding signage somewhere on the front lawn is certainly an option. However, the library system is looking at rebranding, so it is unlikely that any additional signage will be added until that change takes place.

    2. Upkeep (parking lot) and book drop location. As you noted, the entrance to the parking lot is deteriorating, and we already have a work order in for repairs. I’m hoping that we can kill two birds with one stone by widening the entrance to the parking lot, making an island in the middle of it for a book drop accessible from the driver’s side, and paving the entry/exit with regular asphalt. We will need to work with the Cornelius Planning Department and the utilities companies to see if we can reconfigure the entrance. Even if such a reconfiguration isn’t possible, there may be other options for placing the book drop in a more convenient location. It is a priority.

    3. Very Crowded. Our 5500 square foot building is uncomfortably small for the number of customers using it (about 10,000 a month), but we do adhere to all the recommended guidelines for aisle widths and clearances. The staff and I have studied the space and noise problems, shifted shelving and furnishings, and compacted the collection by weeding outdated or low circulation items in an effort to create functional, comfortable spaces for reading, browsing, school work and computer use. It’s an ongoing process and we welcome your specific suggestions for how best to utilize the limited space we have. Thanks to the foresight of the committee that built this library, we have the garden pavilion with an existing roof and foundation as a future expansion site if money becomes available.

    5. Only one express check terminal. Being a small branch, Cornelius was allocated one express check terminal to start. We expect to receive a second one and will reconfigure the desk area to accommodate it. In the meantime, we will try to do a better job of traffic control. Fortunately, we rarely have lines at the desk, but the confusion you have noted does occur, especially when we have groups in the library for programs and everyone wants to check out at once. Part of the problem is that people still think they need to pass items across the desk to avoid the security gate that is no longer there and are afraid to take their items around to the side of the desk to check them out at our third station. Old habits die hard, but better signage, updated instructions on the express check screen, and more guidance from the staff would help. We’ll work on it.
    Thanks again for sharing your concerns. Now that you’ve discovered there IS a branch in Cornelius, we hope you’ll be a frequent visitor and help us make it the best library it can be.

    Ellen Giduz
    Library Supervisor
    Cornelius Branch Library
    21105 Catawba Ave.
    Cornelius, NC 28031

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