Tibetan monks creating a mandala

Tibetan monks creating a mandala at the Multnomah County Central Library in Portland, Oregon. © Patrick Wohlmut, 2010.

In LI 811: Community Needs Analysis, one of our final assignments was to write a description of what a library looks like when it possesses an active culture of analysis and assessment. In response to this assignment, and based upon my coursework, discussions, and readings for that term, I proposed the following model. Though it specifically addresses the description of a library-wide culture of assessment, I believe that it encompasses a broad vision for the offering of library services as a whole. I have therefore adopted it as my personal philosophy of service.

Each of the following attitudes builds on the others, and suggests certain activities related to the day-to-day running of the library:

1.) Concerned & Aware
This library staff constantly listens to its patrons with the intent of determining and serving their needs. This listening can be informal, a part of active and interested conversation with patrons and observation. It can also be formal, taking the form of interviews, focus groups, and surveys. This library staff recognizes they are not set apart from their patronage, but are valuable members of the community.

2.) Timely
Information about patrons, and proposed services for them, are there right when they are needed. This may involve creating a database in which to store past assessment information for purposes of future comparison. This also may involve acting to confirm a perceived user need, via research, when that need is sensed by the librarian; and once that need is confirmed, tailoring and proposing services as soon as possible. This staff is open to changing its position to meet the needs of its user base.

3.) Methodological
The staff of this library is well-versed in numerous ways to gather data about patron needs, and uses them frequently as part of their daily duties. Both quantitative and qualitative methods are utilized to describe the community, to measure the success of efforts to serve them, and to tell the story of those efforts. These staff members use many tools to become experts on their community and their library.

4.) Accurate & Collaborative
The time has been taken by this staff to ascertain and collect the data that clearly and correctly describes the community and measures the success of the staff’s service efforts. Whether its done using the help of LibQUAL+, Balanced Scorecards, or a method developed in-house, this is a staff that stores data about its community and services and uses tested technological tools to help them organize it; triangulates it using multiple methods; uses it to collaborate often; and takes the long-view to determining what data will best aid them in their mission. This staff meets together often to discuss their community and agrees on the types of data that will enable them to do that the best. This staff relies on each other.

5.) Quality-Minded
The focus of this library staff is not on how best to make the institution work, but how to make it work best for the patrons. When a service is considered – such as adaptive information technology for sensory-impaired patrons, for example – a wide-range of possibilities to fulfill that service are researched. When that service is implemented, care is taken to assess it to make sure it is truly the best option. This staff understands that it is there to increase the quality of life for the members of its community through information services.

6.) Recursive
Awareness of a need gives way to data gathering and needs analysis. Analysis leads to creation and customization of services. Services lead on to assessment to determine and measure success, which leads to further needs analysis to keep up with change in the community. This staff understands that the process of understanding the community and its own services doesn’t end with one cycle of analysis and assessment. People change, groups change, lifestyles and businesses all change; therefore, the community changes. Thus, understanding a community is potentially a life-long process.

7.) Communicative
When this staff develops a clear picture of the community and its own place in it via the information services they provide, they don’t keep mum about it. They tell the story of what they’ve found. They tell it to each other in order to reinforce their own identity as an organization and to build organizational memory. They tell it to interested members of the community so that the community can either know more about themselves or add to the story in conversation with library staff. And they tell it to other library professionals so that they can all work together to build collective knowledge around analysis and assessment programs. This staff uses communication to strengthen their efforts and their place in the community.

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