Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Focusing on the Big Picture

Wednesday 4 PM
Focusing on the Big Picture: Using community needs assessments to enhance reference services
Presenters: Heather McCann & Lana Thelen

What is a community needs assessment?
It is a means to assess forms, opinions, needs of a community.

Why do it? To help determine resource allocation (what are they actually going to use? this is even more important with shrinking budgets/staff time), evaluation of program effectiveness, empowers community to play an active role.

When is a good time for a CNA?

Group discussions... The presenters had us break up into groups to discuss community assessment activities that we have engaged in at our libraries. They also asked us to identify communities/groups that our libraries serve and we would like to conduct a CNA to learn more about. I found that the person next to me was also using SurveyMonkey to create surveys and gather information from their community (Zoomerang is another web tool for creating surveys).

Before you begin...describe your community, what do you want to know, and set up a timeline for the CNA.

Strategies for collecting info...What methods will work for you and your community (time, budget, most effective for your community), interviews/focus groups, surveys (paper/electronic), community forums/public meeting. Offering an incentive for taking a survey, coming to a forum, etc... can lead to greater participation (prizes, food, etc...).

Evaluating, Implementing, and Reevaluating...analyze the data, identify themes (what keeps coming up?), assess their validity (is there bias?), write up your findings, develop an action plan, collaborate (what other organizations exist in the community that provide services or complementary programs), release it, reevaluate the results.

CNAs are labor intensive projects but they lead to more efficient budgets, use of our time and resources, and more support from the community. Share your findings with the library world and local community!

Let the community know how the information was used to improve library services (i.e. expanded the spanish language collection by %50).

In regards to public library reference services, a CNA can help determine information needs (subject areas) and types of resources that should be available (pathfinders, ready reference, etc...).

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