“The library makes up for what is missing in the community.”
“Staff is helpful and caring–we know and frequently address them by name.”
“The library is our little gold mine.”
-RESPONDENTS TO 2015 SURVEY
Library Materials and Programming
It is clear from the results of the focus groups and survey that Athens County residents are passionate about their library system. It is also clear that library staff value the supportive, non-competitive and flexible work environment that ACPL encourages. Quite literally in many communities served by ACPL, the library branch has become a thriving community center.
Survey and focus group participants complimented both the abilities and friendliness of library staff members and reported a love of reading in a variety of formats for both pleasure and continued education. Children and young adults reported seeking out the library buildings as safe and amiable places to read, learn, use technology and socialize.
While Athens County residents treasure printed books and materials, the information gathered shows a growing interest in electronic media, making the digital library offerings an exciting ACPL layer to possibly publicize and develop more fully in the future.
Furthermore, library users reported looking to ACPL to further enrich and connect their communities. Patrons stressed that knowing more about specific programs and activities throughout the seven library branches would make their library experiences even more positive.
Access and Availability
Patrons who completed the survey or who attended a focus group reported being interested in a broad array of new services and would enthusiastically support increased hours of operation and updated facilities. Their responses show that they see the libraries as a life-giving source of information and learning. Because of this, they utilize print resources, databases, computers, Wi-Fi and the expertise of librarians on a regular basis.
Evolving technology and its role in our everyday lives continues to have a major impact on the library system and its users. Athens County residents expect the library to stay current, as well as to help them learn how to navigate the latest technology. Patrons stressed that access to computers and high-speed Internet connection has never been more important, and that they utilize computers and the Internet to complete things like schoolwork, to locate and apply to jobs, watch movies, pay bills, and to access healthcare resources and other services.
Major Survey Takeaways
- Operating hours and possible expansion of hours are cited as items of high importance. Patrons noted that hours of operation affect their personal use of library buildings and resources more than any other factor. They also highlighted that expanding hours of operation is something they would support in the future.
- Computer access is the most important library service, closely followed by books and materials, meeting space, being a community center, and hosting events and programs. When asked which aspect of their library is most vital to ongoing personal use, patrons most often selected collections and materials, followed by hours of operation and the staff’s availability to assist. When asked about the most vital library network service, patrons most often selected providing technology for people who might not otherwise have such access. Educational outreach regarding the use of online resources (such as the Zinio and the talking book service) was identified as an area of need and interest for library patrons. Also in regards to computer access and technology training, ACPL has renewed its involvement with the State Library of Ohio/Ohio Guiding Online Americorps program. This means that an Americorps volunteer assigned to ACPL will continue technology training throughout the county.
- Books remain at the heart of ACPL collections. When asked to identify which of the library’s collections was most important to them, nearly 90% of patrons selected books as one of their choices, far more than any of the other options.
- Patrons are interested in a range of programming. Patrons demonstrated relatively strong interest in a broad and diverse array of program types, including author/literary presentations, current events and lectures, and art exhibits.
- ACPL continues to create an overall positive and welcoming environment for its patrons. Appreciation for the helpfulness and availability of staff members was a theme across survey responses, and the majority of library patrons feel as if they are getting the most for their investment. Furthermore, patrons affirmed that their preferred library building is consistently clean, neat and attractive, and that they are satisfied overall with the quality of facilities, outreach to the community, programs for kids, families, teens, and adults and access to materials and collections.
- Patrons utilize different communications platforms for information about ACPL. There were no strong preferences for a particular communication method, although traditional media (radio and newspapers) and email were identified as possible areas for growth since fewer patrons reported learning about library news and programming through these resources. Patrons cited Facebook and YouTube as their preferred social media platforms. ACPL is committed to keeping in tune with what marketing tools and social media platforms are being used most among patron communities and other library systems, and has created the position of Communications Officer to help with this effort.
- Patrons are interested in a broad array of new or expanded services, citing access to Wi-Fi and delivery of materials to the homebound [library home visits] as top priorities. Other responses included an interest in vending boxes to pick up materials after hours; the ability to borrow e-readers, tablets and tools; and more access to maker spaces. One identified area of possible growth pertains to circulation staff knowledge and expertise related to assisting patrons with technology and online research.