From the Director’s Desk: User Needs Study
Lancaster Public Library (LPL) required a new Strategic Plan to guide it through the 2012-2014 period. To assist in this effort, the Library requested and received a Capacity Building Grant from the Lancaster County Community Foundation. The grant allowed the Library to conduct a broad user needs study in the communities we serve and to translate these needs into a strategic services and funding action plan.
We retained Millersville University’s Nonprofit Resource Network (NRN) to conduct the field study aspect of this project which reached out to the residents of the fourteen municipalities served by Lancaster Public Library’s Duke St., Leola, and Mountville branches. This user study sought to:
1. Engage frequent users, infrequent users. and community leaders to determine:
Library needs currently met by LPL;
Additional needs that could be met by LPL; and
Additional funding streams to assure financial stability.
2. Inform the communities about available library services and the need for their financial support.
The NRN field team, under the supervision of NRN Director, Anne Gingerich, collected information via focus groups, surveys, and phone interviews. In addition, we met with the leaders of the five school districts in LPL’s direct service area. In total, 356 individual respondents participated in the study.
Summary of Selected Survey Findings
A majority (62%) of individuals who considered themselves as readers preferred hard-copy books;
DVD/CD borrowing was next most popular (44%);
Online computer access was preferred by 18% of the respondents;
Top reasons for reading were enjoyment (46%) and to learn new things (33%);
75% of the respondents used the Library at least once a month;
93% of respondents were satisfied with current library service citing the best things as: Access to a wide variety of books; Customer service from knowledgeable staff; Convenience of location.
Reasons for not using the Library included:
Prefer to purchase own reading materials (20%);
Have computer access elsewhere (20%);
Parking is a problem (12%);
Inconvenient hours (12%).
Areas for Library improvement included:
More adult and children’s programs;
More conventional and e-books;
More computers and databases;
Better community awareness campaigns;
Upgraded and cleaner facilities;
In exploring alternate funding sources:
64% said they would donate to the Library and attend benefit events;
42% would support a library tax;
42% would pay a membership fee; and
21% would pay fees for services rendered.
Community leader suggestions included:
Convene a working group of staff and volunteers to better focus Library outreach efforts;
Develop partnerships to enhance outreach and share costs.
We thank the LCCF for the grant and the NRN for their conduct of the survey. The findings are integrated into our new strategic plan.