12/24/07 — Library reveals survey results

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Library reveals survey results

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 24, 2007 1:54 PM

As the Wayne County Public Library Board of Directors begins planning for 2008 and beyond, county residents have said they would like to see more books, programs and other resources for patrons of all ages, as well as an increased emphasis on helping students with schoolwork and adults with business- and work-related research.

The results of a week-long survey conducted in August, library director Jane Rustin explained, will be used as the board wraps up its current five-year strategic plan this month and begins putting a new three-year roadmap together in January.

“This (survey) is a planning tool,” she said. “The library is committed to citizen participation. We understand we exist to serve the public, and we understand that the majority of our funding comes from the county and that we need to have a high level of accountability.

“So I’m pleased we’re getting some direct feedback from the community. The nice thing about this is that we now have a baseline and can come back to it.”

The survey, which culled the opinions of nearly 750 people from all five branches — Goldsboro, Pikeville, Fremont, Seven Springs and Steele Memorial in Mount Olive — as well as online, asked about the importance and quality of specific materials, services and programs, the ways those can be improved, the importance of the library’s role in the community, the frequency of usage and the barriers to greater usage.

Overall, Ms. Rustin explained, the results were positive, especially in the area of customer service.

They also were positive in terms of what resources the library offers, though there were calls for more books, magazines, computer software, programs for children and adults, research materials, multimedia resources and foreign language materials, especially at the branches outside of Goldsboro.

Other concerns included the hours of those branches and the size of the one in Mount Olive.

But in Goldsboro, the concern was something entirely different — people not enjoying the library atmosphere.

“It’s a growing problem,” Ms. Rustin admitted. “The consultants told us they’d never seen such an intense issue.”

Most of the comments, she explained, blamed noisy teenagers who often use the computers after school.

She, however, blamed the noise primarily on a lack of room and inability to separate the computers from the quiet stacks of books.

“I really think it’s a matter of too many people in too small a space with too few resources. It’s really a question of how you use your space,” she said. “There’s just no room.

“But it’s an issue we need to deal with very quickly.”

And, finding a solution, whether it be re-arranging the library or implementing some type of program to help keep teens busy after school, will be at the top of Ms. Rustin’s to-do list come Jan. 1 — even before the board and staff begin creating a new long-term plan.

But, she continued, the most important parts of the survey were the questions asking patrons what they think the library’s role should be.

Topping the list was “providing materials for personal enjoyment.”

Coming in second and third, though, were “supporting school students and early education,” and “supporting adult education and life-long learning.”

“Libraries have long argued that we’re educational institutions, and we were really pleased to see the public views us that way,” Ms. Rustin said. “We’ve been doing this to some extent, but now this is imperative.

“The library is an important part of the education system in Wayne County.”

The fourth and fifth roles were “providing a community center,” and “supporting economic development,” the latter of which was another welcome surprise for Ms. Rustin.

“That’s another role people don’t always think about,” she said. “The library is information, and we were pleased the public recognized that.”

Her goal now is to take all of the information provided, combine it with professional knowledge and use that to plan for the future, beginning with the 2008-09 budget.

“There’s so much that we could do, but this way we make sure we’re focused. This is going to be the basis for our new strategic plan and the basis for our budget process,” she told the county commissioners at their meeting Tuesday. “It will be your choice to fund it or not.”