July 23rd Staff Focus Group–University City Regional Library

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

Staff Session #6
University City
July 23, 2008

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

• A staff member who lived in Matthews recalled riding her bike to the local Matthews branch. She became close to a staff member who knew her and her family, and still keeps in touch with her today.

• A staff member recalled that in elementary school, the librarian let her and her classmates volunteer at the branch, and gave them tasks like stamping the books. She still recalls the feeling of being involved and doing something important.

• A staff member who used to live in Louisiana recalled going into a neighborhood branch and finding a children’s story-time taking place right in the middle of the building. It was a bit noisy, but none of the staff or the other patrons complained. She was impressed that the entire building was given over to the children for story hour, instead of having the program in a corner or separate room.

• A staff member recalled bringing her son, then two years old, into the local library in St. Louis. Like any two-year-old, he made a bit of a mess in the children’s area, but the staff there just laughed it off. The children’s librarian was very warm, and got to know him by name; the staff member herself ended up working there for a number of years.

• South County had an Egyptologist in to talk to patrons. A staff member was very impressed with the guest and the program.

• In Brooklyn, there used to be a bookmobile that would travel around and visit local nursery schools. A staff member recalled how they had story times and book-related videos for the children. She loved the experience of having programs on the bus, and was impressed by a particularly knowledgeable staff member, whom she recalls as a positive male figure in her life.

• As a child in Buffalo, NY, one staff member remembered walking to her local library. She loved that it was free, open, and equal for everyone.

• As a child in suburban Atlanta, one staff member recalled how, as a child, he had heard of a phone number you could call where they would answer any question you had. He called, of course, and asked how peanut butter was made. The librarians on the other end took his question very seriously, took down his number, and returned his call within 30 minutes to give him the answer. He still remembers how thrilled he was to be taken seriously.

• A staff member recalled going to the Beatties Ford Road branch for summer reading as a child, and later going there to register to vote, and recalls going to the old Coulwood branch back in high school. PLCMC and the library community have always been a large part of her life.

• One staff member recalled going to the old North Branch. He remembers it as a family-style community, where everyone seemed to know everyone else.

• A staff member remembered going to the library for the first time when she was in second grade. The librarian took her to look for novels, and she was thrilled that she was allowed to check out as many as she could carry. When her mother saw how many books she had, she asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a librarian someday?”


2. Community Changes/Trends

• More job seekers who need assistance with e-mail, resumes, applications and job websites.

• Increased job turnover in local businesses.

• People are more anxious and uncertain about their financial future.

• There is a higher crime rate, both in the library and in surrounding areas.

• An increase in traffic and parking problems at every branch.

• Growing international population.

• Increase in home-schooling, on-line college and graduate school courses, and students coming to the library for resources, tutors and proctors.

• New malls, schools and businesses are opening near PLCMC branches, bringing new users and new traffic patterns.

• Branches are, in general, noisier.

• Food is allowed in many libraries now.

• More people are using laptops and cell phones.

• Increasing socio-economic divide in Mecklenburg County.

• Increase in home-bound patrons, such as elderly and war veterans.

• Neighborhoods around branches are experiencing massive age shifts as older residents retire or move out and new, younger residents with children move in.

Ways for PLCMC to Meet These Changes

• PLCMC needs more computers, and we need to keep the equipment we have up to date.

• Increase in computer training for patrons and staff – more classes, more workshops.

• We could have easy-to-find links to job search sites for the PLCMC homepage or a page that is linked from the homepage.

• We should have more information about Mecklenburg County available to newcomers at every branch.

• We could reconsider our policy on fines, either lowering them or having amnesty days for people with high overdue fees.

• Branches need to be safer, so that patrons will feel that this a safe place for their children to come to story times and after-school activities. More officers and firmer rules are needed for every branch.

• Branches could offer more programs to the public on personal safety.

• Branches, especially regionals, (or any large branches), need to have more materials and services available for our growing international community.

• Spanish classes could be offered to employees as workshops.

• There should be more outreach to the ESL population.

• More clean-up is needed in branches due to food and drink spills.

• Branches need new buildings sooner.

• Need quiet rooms for those who want them.

• Need more community meeting spaces.

• Need more electrical outlets and spaces for WiFi use for patrons who bring in their laptops.

• Branches need floors that are easier to clean, especially in children’s areas.

• There should be a space at every branch for teens.

• There needs to be more sharing of programs and staff specialties between branches and from other libraries.
• Library could start meeting more needs online.

• Create a temporary depository for the blind.

• Set up a proctoring and tutoring policy and schedule for each branch; also look into possibility of acquiring more textbooks and workbooks.

Scenario A – High Tech Libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

• More PC users/laptop users
• Realistic for regionals
• More high-tech savvy users.
• Could have lots of kids computers
• Could have cool displays, shelving and lighting
• Potential for more volunteer opportunities

What is not likely or desired in this library?

• Amount/volume of check-in, check-out and holds
• No Children’s Services, check-out or programs
• Lots of money and staff – not realistic for PLCMC’s budget
• Eliminates traditional users
• Noise levels would be hard to maintain – it would probably get loud
• No good for parents with children
• No literary focus
• Nothing for senior population who are not familiar with computers


• Would need to have frequent renovation and a regular upgrade schedule.
• Would require a building with all of the bells and whistles: WiFi, net connections, outlets, and plenty of bandwidth.
• Staff would have to be constantly trained in use and maintenance of new technology
• Could utilize more volunteers in teaching staff and patrons how to use new technology
• Increased staffing – constant staff training and filled positions
• Increased technology programming with more advanced technology classes
• Decrease in outreach
• Would need to have a user-friendly and advanced library website
• Partnership opportunities with computer and electronic companies
• Would need a totally different approach dealing with children – something more like a daycare than a library program
• Increased budget
• Stricter(?) policies dealing with privacy on PCs
• Better-defined internet policy
• Changes to time and number of PC sessions per day
• More shared software
• Computer-friendly meeting spaces
• Furniture better designed for computer users, especially for WiFi areas

Scenario B – Book centered libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?

• Libraries display books in a pleasing manner
• Book/literacy needs met
• Some branches offer coffee
• Lots of display areas
• Children’s staff focuses attention on children

What is not likely or desired in this library?

• Not all locations offer coffee
• No mention of computer labs
• Not all branches have quiet areas
• Popular materials almost always have waiting lists
• Contained/quiet children’s area


• Not meeting everyone’s needs
• No internet access
• No computer classes/training for patrons
• Homebound/special needs completely ignored – no outreach
• No meeting spaces for groups
• Comfortable chairs need to be cleaned properly
• Need large sound-proofed facility and large staff
• Building would need to be specifically designed for special uses
• Large collection would need constant weeding, especially large print ad non-fiction
• Staffing retention would be very high (We’d all want to work there!)
• No volunteer opportunities
• No technology at all
• Couldn’t work on a limited budget
• Good opportunity for school partnerships
• Policies not mentioned in example – would have to have a lot of strict policies


2 Responses to “July 23rd Staff Focus Group–University City Regional Library”

  1. Owen Lawson Says:

    Good notes…when is the next meeting? I am interested in attending.

  2. Sarah Poole Says:

    Owen, we’re so happy that you’re interested in participating in upcoming focus group sessions.

    Please consider joining us at one of the upcoming community discussions in which we’ll be gathering thoughts about the “physical” aspects of our libraries — where they’re located, what people like/dislike about the libraries they visit and what enhancements could be made to make our customers’ experiences more convenient and enjoyable.

    We’ll be posting some information about this soon, but in the meantime the dates and times can be found on our news release page. There are five sessions happening during the first week in November.

    Here’s the link to that news release.

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