Quick overview of the Needs Assessment survey

Information is great!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our needs assessment survey! The winners of the $25 Amazon gift cards have been notified.

As with all surveys, we wanted to learn more about the needs of our community. In our case, our community is our member libraries; and our need is figuring out what you guys need so we can better serve you. In any organization with a new director, it is valuable to spend this time asking around about things people want so we can keep building on successful partnerships from the past, as well as helping with the new needs a rapidly-changing profession like ours creates. Combining the information we learned here with the information learned in visiting our member libraries gives us a better picture of the things we can do to help support our libraries!

This will be a quick overview of the highlights of the results from the information received. We will be working on this for a while, and using this information to build services and materials we can offer to you. In any sort of partnership, things will keep changing and the work we do today will change too. We will be sending out another needs assessment survey in about a year and a half, to see where we are then, and what other kinds of things we can be doing.

The results here are not necessarily representative of all members, but they are giving us a basis to start thinking about things. People who are really interested in statistical testing and analysis should contact me, because I love to talk about that stuff! But this is designed as an overview, a place to start, and to have other information filled in from visits, discussions, and other sources around the system. So it may not be perfect, but every plan needs a starting point!

A few demographic facts:

  • a lot of our members are K-12 school libraries
  • most members have a community to serve between 300 and 3,000 people
  • most members have between one and four staff members.

Thinking about the issues facing our libraries, a few stand out here. Unsurprisingly, more than half of the respondents said budget problems are an issue they struggle with – the most frequently selected response. In the open question, where people could type in all kinds of things to bring up as important, some of the responses expanded on specific budget issues they are facing in their libraries or at the state and federal levels.

After that, there was less consensus on the big issues facing us as a system, but enough to give us some direction on the kinds of topics and material we can be providing to members to help you to be successful:

  • technology in the library
  • collection development
  • keeping up with new skill requirements
  • staff training
  • staffing
  • outreach
  • preservation or digitization of material

The open-ended question asking for expanded answers, or for other issues, returned a bunch of responses. It will take a while to sift through all of these to get a good handle on what people need; but budget, technology, and staffing stand out as big topics here.

We also asked the open-ended question “What else should we know about your library?” That is a massive question, with a world of possibilities for responses. About half the people doing the survey stopped here to give a response. As a new director, I really appreciate the thought people gave here. I have so much to learn about our libraries – and you guys keep changing and growing! – so everything you can tell me can give me ideas about the things we can do to help you to be successful. Several responses were about how lucky they were, and how much they liked their libraries and their communities. Many responses brought up issues they feel uncertain about, or problems they are facing, or things that we could work on in partnership with other CMLE libraries. Suggestions are always welcome, as we set priorities to help you guys!

Thinking about some specific priorities in training and assistance, we want to focus in on some things that you might not have time to work on yourselves, or that you might just need a boost to get you started in a good direction. We will also keep providing you with all kinds of training opportunities, online and in person, from all over the place to be sure you can find what you need! Check our Continuing Education page for our frequently-updated calendar.

One of our Key Topics will be Grants. Writing grants, administering grants, finding grants – it all takes time! They can provide your library with some great materials and resources, and we at CMLE Headquarters will be ready to help you. Most of the respondents to the survey said they would like to receive some online training opportunities here, and some help in finding grants for their libraries. A sizable number would also like some in-house training at CMLE HQ (or somewhere else) to give people a chance to work together and discuss plans. So we will be working to assemble information on our website where you can go any time to find places to search for grants, strategies and tips for applying, and ideas on partnerships to make the grant better for everyone. We will also be creating some individualized training for our CMLE members. And of course, we are always available to assist members one on one at any stage of the process, from “vague idea” to “final paperwork.”

Our second Key Topic is Advocacy. It would be nice to think that people just instinctively understand how valuable libraries are, and happily continue to support us with money and resources and visits – but we all know that’s not reality. Advocacy is not hard, but it is so necessary. This is our Monthly Topic for November, so we are gathering resources for you to use at your leisure on our Monthly Topic page on our website. We are also posting several blog entries this month on different aspects of this topic (these will also be collected on our Monthly Topic page). And we are providing in-house training for members to come together here at HQ to work on their advocacy skills.

Thinking about training in general, there was a pretty strong consensus that people wanted online training opportunities. So we will be working to provide material here, and links to all kinds of other online webinars, recordings, and classes. There were also many people who wanted training at HQ (or another physical location) where we could work together to learn new skills and practice in partnership with others. So we will also continue to provide in-person training, and will work to duplicate it online as much as possible to ensure it is accessible to everyone.

And what are people interested in working on? As you might expect, with such a broad spectrum of libraries and priorities that make up a multi-type system, there were a lot of different answers here! (We love this, because the more we can offer that is relevant to our members, the stronger we will all be!) Some of the more popular answers are:

  • Social media: using it, expanding it, policies for it
  • Grant writing
  • Advocacy: making an elevator speech, talking with politicians and funders, connecting with community members
  • Reader’s Advisory: recommending books is harder than it seems!, nonfiction, fiction, kids, YA/tween
  • Evaluation: figuring out ROI of service/materials/staffing/everything, measuring effectiveness
  • Information Literacy: print, online
  • Leadership skills: leading from any position, leading when new, leading when things are hard
  • Writing policies and procedures
  • Customer Service: it’s the heart of the profession, so it’s always good to think about new ways to do this!
  • Website creation and maintenance
  • Stress management: after a lot of study of libraries around the country, it’s surprising (or not?) how stressed library staff are – and burned out staff are not providing great service, so let’s talk about ways to help us all
  • Conflict resolution skills: conflicts among staff, conflicts between staff and managers, conflicts with patrons
  • Basic supervisory skills: recruiting, hiring, motivation, mentoring, discipline, termination

These will be our priorities for the next few months, as we set up material for training and assistance for our members. Then we will check back with you, to see if these things are meeting your needs; and to see how we can revise and expand what we have for you!

And finally, we want to see how best to connect with you. Everyone has a  different preferred communication format, and we want to be sure we are sharing information in a way that reaches you without too much effort on your part!

  • Most respondents said they read some of most of the blog posts we put up (you guys may not be typical of everyone on that; but blogging is not going away as it gives a stable platform for info, and a way to disperse info to other formats!)
  • Nearly everyone said they already get our weekly newsletter (comes out on Mondays!). If you are reading this and you don’t get it yet, click here.
  • Twitter usage is pretty split between “yes definitely” and “ick, no” (paraphrasing here!). If this is useful to you, follow us:@CMLELibs; if not – no worries, lots of options for getting our info!

  • Same thing with Facebook. If you are into it, here we are: Central Minnesota Libraries Exchange

  • We did not ask about these in the survey, but you can also find us here:
  • Interest in the book groups was mixed from “some” to “not so much” levels. We are going to keep them going for at least six months, just to give people a chance to have some book suggestions. We will reassess after that, to see if we are providing value! Check us out if you want to see what we are reading together!

Overall, there was a  great response, and you have given us some good information to use in figuring out strategies to help support you! There were a lot of open-ended questions, and it will take some more time to go through all that information. But this preliminary report should help to give you some understanding of what your colleagues are saying, and our basis for making decisions on services to offer.

As always, if you want to talk further, I am available to chat any time, or to come to your library to see things and talk about library things!!

Thank you again for your support and your feedback. And we will work to help you to be successful in your service to your community!!