Notes from July 22nd Public Focus Group–University City Regional Library

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

Public Session # 3

University City Regional

July 22, 2008

1. What is one favorite thing about University City Regional.

– The Children’s Section, wants to do anything to help promote and expand this area of branch.

– Refers many people to University City Regional for the reference databases the library provides. Would like to create more public awareness of all the databases that the library provides access to.

– University City has a lot going for it; the building has a good design and location.

– The mission of PLCMC is something to believe in. All things that public libraries do well when working well with the community is respond to their needs.

2. What positive things or experiences have occurred in the library?

– As a mother, nothing more important than introducing children to reading. Whatever the vision of the library may be, there is hope that there will be a bigger and better children’s section because it is important to instill reading into children, as well as make them aware of the exciting programs the library has to offer.

– The expansion of Hickory Grove is a very good thing; it may take some of the pressure of off University City in terms of usage of materials. The community is excited about the expansion as well.

– In comparison to a smaller county with far less locations, the system is innovative and has many locations. Each branch has its own personality and characteristics that give it an identity. When asked about library locations, people talk about the branch specific to their community. There is a camaraderie and passion felt when going to locations and interacting with patrons in the system. They consider the library a part of their community.

– People enjoy going to the branch that is specialized for their location, other branches are visited in order to obtain materials for time sensitive projects.

3. What changes have occurred in the community and how can the library respond?

– There is now a diverse population, many people use Spanish as their primary language. Libraries should offer ESL classes and book collections in Spanish. Kids obtain a love of reading, no matter what language the material is in.

– Libraries should also have bilingual employees and literacy classes to educate staff who will be better able to help a Spanish speaking patron.

– Everyone in the community is smart, but there is a struggle within the communities. Libraries should bring parents together to tell them what the library is doing to determine what is and is not working in the community and in the library system.

– There should be a library community center for all in which educational parenting takes place and parents can talk about what they do in their households as well as what they can do to help support each other in the communities.

– The collection of materials for children should be diverse, characters of all races should be in materials.

– The University City area has the best diversity in the city; it is one of the few communities where there have never been economic or social restrictions that limit who can move in or out of the community.

– The library should partner with the YMCA summer camps and create a summer reading program for the campers. The layout of the YMCA locations throughout the city would make it easy for a branch to determine who they could partner with. The library could provide mobile literacy and technology for the kids. Making those connections with the YMCA are important for kids who can not get to the library.

4. What changes should the library take advantage of in the community?

– The library should keep inspiring a love of reading and learning. There are people ranging from senior citizens to young people who say they are not into reading. PLCMC should explain the benefits of reading and create goals for the individual when it comes to reading. The library needs to maintain and expand the identity for reading to the young and old, we need to make sure we reach out to them.

– How can the community help the library, especially people those who are willing to do collaborations and partnerships with PLCMC. If the library invites someone to partner with them, there could be an economic advantage to the library by spreading their name into the community.

– People feel engaged and part of the library, not separated from it. There is a lot of power in this because people can understand what the library does and they support this. A partnership between the library and community will be giving, but both will receive more in the end.

– The library should look for opportunities to make partnerships within the community that would make them the center of the community.

– The library has not figured out how to make connections with faith based organizations or the jail. More outreach should be done with both of these areas.

– There are several thousand people in homeless shelters with nothing to do during the day. The library should bring literacy to the shelters. Charlotte is a giving community, if the library appealed to the public to donate books for a shelter outreach program, the response would be overwhelming.

– The library should have more fundraising options for the budget. The money from the county needs to be supplemented with private fundraising in order to add to the book budget. If there is a love of books and buildings for the library system, the community has to know this, the money has to come from the public.

– The ability to access databases on the libraries website needs to be put on the forefront. Right now, it is not obvious on the website and it should not buried. The databases are a wonderful resource and they are very expensive. People should know that they can access this information from home and they don’t have to use gas to come to the library.

– When the library selects databases, the ease of use should be reviewed. In some cases, it is easier to obtain a hard copy of information, ask a librarian, or have the material explained rather than perform the research.

5. Scenario A: High Tech Library

– Words used to describe this scenario were “innovative,” “nice,” “excellent, need to promote more literacy, focusing on technology literacy,” and “no, almost exclusively technology except for the best sellers, which is not why I come to the library.’

– Based on this scenario, anything can be accessed from home and a large portion of University City residents have PCs. This scenario can be part of the library’s future, but it can be exclusive. There should be a combination of both scenarios.

– There is a concern for the 30-40% of people and low income people who may not be able to obtain this info because they do not have access to a computer. This is why outreach to communities is so important so people can have access to these resources.

– Computers are the most accessed part of Main Library. The library in general is one of the few places where people can get on the internet for free. It is important for people who have to find jobs and apply online as well as provide training. The use of technology is critical for a community.

– Using the reservation system for computers can be stressful because one may be kicked off for reaching their time limit, especially for a person who may be slower on the computer. The good thing is that if no one has a reservation afterwards, the computer time can be extended. One has to worry about the cost of gas to get to the library to use a computer, but they can master a technology skill in a safe, free place.

– At times, it can be intimidating to attend a technology class due to the skill level one may have.

– To have enough PCs in the system for all patrons, it would take a lot of staff time to monitor their usage. It would be better if the library had enough PCs with internet access so that there would be no need for a reservation system.

– The number of PCs that are supplied are taken by the demand of using more websites with high bandwidth, i.e. You Tube.

– Is it cost efficient to have a reference librarian on the floor to monitor terminals when they could be on the floor assisting patrons? The reservation system helps, but it is not an ideal situation for staff.

– Since technology has created more of a need for information because there is so much out there, will technology negate the need for librarians? People need to realize that the internet is not the answer to finding out information. The databases that libraries provide require someone to select the database

6. Scenario B: Book Based Library

– Words used to describe this scenario were “yes,” “appeals to me, old fashion state of mind,” “Large, a lot of space,” and “balance

– There should be a balance in libraries of both scenarios.

– Librarians are experts in knowledge and research, you can give them a topic and they can find information about it anywhere.

– Libraries are a people’s university. Schools would be overwhelmed with people using their library facility if it weren’t for libraries. Libraries are engines of learning, and should be supported.

– Libraries would be dramatically different if there were no staff to help patrons. Libraries are one of the few places in the community where people can get customer assistance.

– Having a Master’s in Library Science should be maintained as a standard in librarianship.

7. Safety in Libraries

– People would hope that patrons, especially children, feel comfortable and safe in libraries.

– Occasionally the library has disruptive visitors patrons, the staff can and does handle these situations. Having off duty police at the branch is helpful.

8. Closing Comments

– The master facilities plan should pay more attention to the Northeast part of Charlotte. There is a lack of a library facility in this area, which is why University City Regional is always busy. A strong case could be made proposing that the size of University City Regional is doubles and another branch is built 7-8 miles down.

– There should be a dynamic effort to increase the book budget. The money should come solely from the county. The library should concentrate more on fundraising goals to obtain money for the book budge. More Friends of the Library groups should be created in order to lobby the appropriate officials for money for the library collection. Books are the heart of the library and there should be as much money as possible for them.

– Libraries should make more of an effort to have a collection as well as distribute county and city documents, as well as communities. This info should be about schools, daycares, the environmental impact statement, projects in the community, annexation, etc. This type of information is not distributed equally amongst libraries and is mostly located in the North Carolina Room at Main Library. Branches should provide copies of city codes and ordinances that pertain to that area.

– Music collection needs to be more distributed throughout system, especially music for artist who you can not buy copies of their materials anymore.

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