July 29th Staff Focus Group-Belmont Center Library

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

Staff Session #7
Belmont Center
July 29, 2008

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

• A staff member recalled that she loved how her local branch was small and had a family feel. Adults who had come to the library as children brought their children in for story times, and were still connecting with the staff they knew.

• A staff member remembered having former summer helpers who had become successful college graduates returning to visit.

• When one staff member was 14 or 15, he was asked to leave his local branch for the day for rough housing and acting out. A staff member who knew his family called his 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.

• In Washington DC, a staff member was glad to be able to go into the library to check out books and read as much as she liked for free, and recalls spending her Saturdays reading at her local branch.

• A staff member recalled how her small neighborhood library in Iowa was the first place she had ever had an account, and how having an official library card of her own made her feel like an adult.

• A staff member recalled how she had first come to Charlotte and visited the North County branch. At the time, she didn’t realize that it was part of a county-wide system, and was impressed by their huge selection of gardening books, as well as their videos and CDs.

• A staff member remembered the old West branch, and recalled how she had loved how isolated it felt, set off of the beaten path in the trees. Due to its small size, she was able to get to know all of the staff, and its peaceful atmosphere made it one of her favorite places to spend the weekend.

• A staff member remembered how friendly the staff were at her local branch. Their willingness to help her out and find her materials always made her feel important.

• A staff member recalled participating in his library’s summer reading program in Illinois. The librarian would come to the school for an assembly to tell the students about the program, and he enjoyed that it turned reading into a contest for them. He also recalled how the library had only one computer, and that the local children were still allowed to use it to play games.


2. Community Changes/Trends

• Housing value increased 75% in the Belmont area

• Belmont has easy access to the downtown area, which means more younger families with jobs downtown are moving there

• As the communities around the libraries change, the needs of patrons coming into the library are also changing

• The Belmont area is currently undergoing a big revitalization

• The Plaza Midwood area is becoming increasingly diverse, with more diverse stores opening in the area as well

• More people are immigrating to Charlotte from other countries – most of these new patrons need assistance filling out forms and applications on the internet

• More people who work in Charlotte but don’t live in Mecklenburg county are coming in to use the libraries
• We’re seeing more users from Outreach programs, such as the Salvation Army

• Education levels in patrons are changing – more young college graduates are moving in near the downtown area and coming to the libraries to job hunt

• 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

• The new light rail is changing traffic patterns

• The increased cost of living is affecting people’s entertainment spending – more people are coming to the library for DVDs and books

• More people in general are using the library

• More housing developments are being built around the county

• Unemployment rates are increasing, which means more job hunters at the library

• More businesses are requiring job applicants to apply online, which means more people using library internet computers, and needing staff assistance to fill out forms

• More trends towards going green, more organic options for buildings

• Increased use of online and electronic communication tools – more cell phones and laptops

• Recession leading to more early drop-outs by teens looking for jobs


Ways for PLCMC to Meet These Changes

• Need more technology available for non-English speaking patrons

• Need PCs designated for specific uses, such as PCs just for gaming, or resumes or job hunting

• Need more services in all areas of programming for increasingly diverse library patrons

• Better services for patrons who work locally but live outside of Mecklenburg county

• Need more outlets for personal electronic devices

• Need more parking spaces

• All branches need good security at all times, including better security cameras

• Need more tutoring at the library

• Need to partner in more areas with CMS and work with schools to meet needs of students

• Staff need to better train patrons to use our services; of course we always want to help, but sometimes the best help is showing patrons how to do it for themselves

• Need better rules about noise control, especially with more students using the library after school

• Need more quiet study areas in branches, preferably glass-encased

• Need to keep up with the county in revitalizing our communities. The city is making an effort to revitalize parts of Mecklenburg county – what are the libraries in those areas doing on their end?

• More service points and library information on light rail lines and other public transportation centers

• Have a downloadable audio book kiosk at light rail stops

• More flexibility on rules about food, drink and bags sizes for commuters

• More materials, especially bestsellers and DVDs

• Need to look more at needs of individual branches – some need more space, some need more computers, etc.

• Need teen areas at more locations

• Have different sections for different noise/activity levels, and better policies for enforcing these levels

• Need better communication about materials we already offer, such as free DVDs, and CDs

• Better technology training for staff

• Have specific service centers for technology training and access, similar to Virtual Village

• Have more resources about green/environmentally friendly topics

• More collaboration with other agencies, such as NC Cooperative Extension

• Need to strengthen our green policy for all branches of PLCMC


Scenario A – High Tech Libraries

What is likely or desired in this library?• Everybody wants computers
• More materials, both library and community are available online now
• More staff are having to serve as technology experts in computer labs


What is not likely or desired in this library?• Where are the books?
• No programs
• Nothing for younger children – what happens when parents come in with infants or toddlers?


Impacts:• Buildings would need to be completely rewired for all of this new technology
• Would spend a lot more on computers, but a lot less on books
• Programs, if any, would all be centered around PC and technology use
• Staff would all have to know everything about every piece of electronic equipment in the building
• Better opportunities for volunteers to teach or assist in technology classes
• Budget would all go to repairing and updating computers
• Could have partnerships with Dell, Microsoft, Bill Gates, technology schools
• Would need better time limits, filters, and adult content policies for PCs
• Would need rooms for people to hold online meetings, or to work with laptops


Scenario B – Book centered libraries• Customers do read and check out more than what they came in for
• Parents use the library as a reading resource for their kids
• It rings true that older senior want books
• Open spaces for story times
• Coffee would be nice, but only with good cleaning services

What is likely or desired in this library?


What is not likely or desired in this library?• Library is not currently a quiet place – although quiet spaces are needed
• Scenario does not meet the needs of half of our visitors because they are looking for technology or other electronic resources
• Cannot be just about books
• Doesn’t address that people learn in different ways other than books
• Don’t have open spaces like this in every location
• There is not really that much in this scenario for teens
• Space limitations all around
• Would be hard to find what you are looking for with all of this display area – staff would need photographic memories


Impacts:• Would need excellent telephone reference, as well as someone to act as an interpreter for bilingual services
• Would need a very different sort of training and better resources – not addressed in scenario
• Would need more space
• Would need a limitless budget

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