Cuyahoga County - Public Library
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It’s happening all across the nation. The core values of public libraries are evolving; adapting to the changing needs of their customers.
And the fact is our customers need us now more than ever. Demand for public libraries’ materials and services continues to trend upward year after year. At the same time we’re faced with the challenge of reduced funding. We’re doing more with less.
At Cuyahoga County Public Library we are taking these challenges head on. We’re proactively evolving in order to remain relevant to our customer’s needs and to a strong community hub.
In January 2012, Cuyahoga County Public Library initiated a strategic planning process to gather staff and community input into the future direction of our organization. We sought a deeper understanding of the areas where the community most wants to see Cuyahoga County Public Library focus its limited resources.
We extended an invitation to the community to help us answer these and other important questions:
What are we doing well?
How can we improve?
What aren’t we doing that we should be doing?
Are our six priorities relevant to residents in Cuyahoga County?
What else should we focus on?
We held 36 focus group sessions facilitated by external consultants at branches throughout our district. Approximately 200 individuals participated in these sessions over the course of several weeks and provided invaluable feedback on our mission and priorities, and their feelings in general about how we’re doing as an organization.
Concurrent with the focus groups we asked community members to complete an online survey relating to current and future priorities, services and usage. The survey was available on our website as well as in hard copy format in all of our branches. We asked and the community answered – an impressive 8,730 people took the time to respond to our survey and made their voices heard.
Nine key findings emerged from this process:
#1 – The Importance of Reading
All respondents expressed strong feelings that promoting reading should remain the core focus of Cuyahoga County Public Library.
#2 – Library Branches Are Community Hubs
Respondents clearly believe that we’re making a positive difference in the community.
#3 – Technology Access & Training
Respondents generally think our offerings of technology access and training are extremely valuable, but not enough. “The more, the better,” was the general consensus and technology was identified as a top priority among all respondents.
#4 – Materials, Materials, Materials!
Respondents love our collection, but they want more. The overall message we received was that our materials are critical and our customers view them as our core business.
#5 – Skill Building
Helping the workforce build skills through adult learning was cited by many as a top priority for Cuyahoga County Public Library. Our respondents are interested in learning more about the future employment needs of our region, and seek our assistance to develop new skills and knowledge.
#6 – Staff Are the Heart of the Library
We received tons of positive comments regarding the outstanding customer service our staff strive to deliver every day. Many respondents cited the personal relationships they’ve developed with our staff members and the respect they have for the work we do.
#7 – Awareness
Even among frequent users, there was some surprise about the scope of our materials and services. Many respondents simply didn’t realize all we have to offer.
#8 – Clear Focus on what the Library Does Best
Most respondents supported focusing on excellence in core library functions than expanding into new, less traditional functions.
#9 – The Risk of Prioritizing Based on Special Groups
Our challenge moving forward will be to find the right balance between group specific priorities and the need to enable branches to assist with the unique needs of the communities they serve.
We followed all of this up in September with a telephone survey of 400 registered voters throughout the 47 communities we serve. The purpose of the survey was to validate the feedback we’d gathered as well as update data on community attitudes, frequency of Library use and reasons for coming to the Library.
So, what did we find out?
an amazing 97% of survey respondents
rated our overall quality as either “good” or “excellent,” with the majority (65 percent) rating us “excellent.”
82% of respondents said they believed we make good use of the money we receive.
99% of respondents believe a good public library is needed to keep pace with today’s changing world.
97% of respondents believe we’re making a difference in their community.
From this process we learned that community residents overwhelmingly support three primary areas of focus as either “extremely important” or “very important”.
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