The Community Analysis Methods and Evaluative Options (CAMEO) Handbook is the final phase of a community analysis project undertaken in 1992-93 by the Appomattox Regional Library System (ARLS) headquartered in Hopewell, Virginia. Funded by a Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) grant, ARLS was able to contract with the accomplished team of MGT of America, Inc., and The Consulting Librarians Group (CLG) for a thorough community analysis of its service area and to work through the first stages of long-range planning. The ARLS experience can serve as a valuable planning model for other libraries in Virginia, and the CAMEO Handbook is intended to help guide librarians in designing a process that accounts for local differences in planning needs and resources.
The focus of the ARLS project was the "Looking-Around" phase of the planning process outlined in Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries: A Manual of Options and Procedures (McClure et al. 1987). Looking-Around is "the process of collecting information about the library and its community..."
As a regional library, the Appomattox Regional Library System constitutes a separate legal entity, unattached to any local jurisdiction. Therefore, planning falls on the shoulders of the library administration and staff and the governing board. Typically, regional libraries must manage their own affairs, including personnel, accounting, facilities, etc. In a solitary environment such as this, planning becomes critical as the context for good management of scarce resources. If there is a budget shortfall, there is no city or county treasury to dip into in order to balance the bottom line.
ARLS has undergone dramatic changes over the past five years by taking advantage of technological advances and by promoting formal resource sharing arrangements with all types of libraries in the region. In addition, the service area has undergone major demographic and economic changes. It was apparent that it was time for the library to take stock of where it was and where it needed to go.
What follows is a description of the community analysis process used for ARLS, organized in much the same fashion as the handbook itself. The focus of this case study is the Looking-Around process, and no attempt is made to outline the results of the activities. People wishing to know more about the findings should contact the ARLS Regional Director for additional information or copies of the report.
Planning for Looking-Around and Levels of Effort
The actual planning for the Looking-Around process for the Appomattox Regional Library began many months before the actual start-up date of January 1993, when the ARLS Regional Director first prepared the LSCA grant application. Once funded, the library issued a request for proposals that outlined very specific requirements for the activities that were to be undertaken by the successful consultants.
The complex and varied process that was outlined in the RFP and subsequently carried out by the MGT of America/The Consulting Librarians Group team represented an extensive level of effort. The activities, beginning with the initial consultant visit, took approximately six months to result in the final report. The cost of the Looking-Around consulting assistance was approximately $27,944. While this was a relatively costly and time-consuming process, other libraries can explore a variety of options for levels of effort, length of time to complete the project, and cost as noted in the text of this handbook.
In the ARLS process, several activities were used to learn more about the community and its views of the library. They included an analysis of demographic data, user and non-user surveys, interviews with important stakeholders, and focus groups.
Community Characteristics. Consultants from MGT of America gathered demographic data from the Virginia State Data Center, and provided selected data for
The tables and narrative in the final report presented current population counts and future projections, including breakdowns by sex and race; population by age groups for 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2010; 1990 school enrollment; educational attainment for adults 18 years and older; household income; and occupational status.
The community's view of the library. Information on the views of various stakeholder groups was gathered using various methods to help the ARLS Planning Committee understand the overall attitudes, opinions, and perspectives of area residents. Stakeholders groups included in this phase of the project were:
The information was gathered using a variety of data collection techniques appropriately matched to the specific target groups. Those efforts are described below with information about the methodology and general approach for each.
Surveys. Three surveys were conducted: an intercept survey of ARLS patrons; telephone interviews with patrons whose library cards had expired; and telephone interviews with area residents who had not used ARLS in the last six months. The purpose of the three surveys was to find answers to the following questions:
The survey of ARLS users was designed as a "point-of-service" questionnaire. Library patrons were given a questionnaire as they entered either the main library, one of its branch facilities, or the bookmobile. They were informed of the purpose and asked to complete the brief self-administered questionnaire while in the library. A drop-off site was located near the exit for collecting completed survey forms. The survey was carried out for a two-week period from March 1 through March 13, using a schedule based on circulation statistics and the operating hours and days of the week of each ARLS facility. The schedule was designed to assure that a cross-section of patrons was included in the process.
The user survey questionnaire was a four-page, 18-item survey copied on both sides of two letter-sized sheets of paper. A short cover note from the ARLS Director explaining the purpose of the survey was attached to each form, and the survey took approximately two minutes to complete. A total of 824 completed and useable surveys were collected. A telephone survey was used to contact a random sample of 151 people whose ARLS patron cards had expired between 1990 and 1992. That survey was conducted from MGT's Survey Center located in its Tallahassee, Florida office.
The other telephone survey reached people who reported that they had not used any of the ARLS facilities in the past six months. A Random Digit Dialing (RDD) procedure was used to sample households in the library's legal service area and was conducted from MGT's Florida office. Interviews were completed with 153 adults Sunday through Thursday during evening hours and in the daytime on Saturday.
A series of 21 questions was asked in both telephone interviews. Survey items inquired about their reasons for not using the ARLS libraries, their past library use, knowledge and awareness of the ARLS, and the priority service roles they believe to be important for the library. Personal information about the respondents and their households was collected to categorize respondents by similar characteristics for reporting purposes.
Copies of the ARLS survey follow this appendix.
Interviews. An MGT representative interviewed Hopewell's city manager and the two county administrators to learn more about their opinions on the issues that have the potential to influence the future operation of the regional library services. The interview process was an open-ended one but focused primarily on the following issues: their perceptions of the library; ARLS funding; community support for the library; community growth; economic development; and community issues.
Community focus groups. Focus groups with community representatives and library staff were held April 21-24, 1993, in Hopewell. The purpose of the groups was to allow the consulting team to learn more about the responses and issues that surfaced in the survey of library users and non-users during March as well as the initial demographic data. Fifty-nine people were interviewed in seven groups:
The majority of participants were library users. The attendance included a mix of people who live in Hopewell and the two counties; however, residents of Hopewell constituted the largest percentage of participants. All seven groups met at the Community Center in Hopewell. The agenda for each meeting was the same with some minor adjustments in the opening question, depending on the group.
Each session began with the moderators asking the group to tell them: "What should we know about the community?" This question provided additional information about the community and helped explain some of the demographic data.
The early informal discussion was followed by a structured discussion to learn more about the community's perceptions of the library's current services as well as information about what services the library should emphasize in the future. The technique--called "Role Setting"--is based on a process developed by the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, and originally presented in the publication Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries: A Manual of Options (McClure et al. 1987).
During the focus groups, the roles were explained to participants. Then they were asked to divide 100 points among the roles in the way that they felt best reflected the way the library spends it current resources. The group's points were totaled, and then participants were asked to explain what they saw currently in the library that led them to rank the roles as they did.
In the second part of the Role Setting process, participants were asked to divide 100 points to represent the way they believed the library should spend its resources in the next five years to best meet the needs of the community. Following that discussion and a review of the total points assigned by the group, participants were debriefed to determine what the library does well that supports that role and what the library might do better in order to respond to that role in the next five years.
The consulting team worked with the library staff to develop a range of information about the library and its services. Through discussions with staff and site visits, the consultants prepared a summary of the library's structure and history; developed a description of the current library facilities, including a comparison of the existing facilities to the state standards and an evaluation of each facility's ease of vehicle access; an analysis of circulation figures by branch and by residents of each of the three jurisdictions; a description of the management support services provided by the system headquarters staff; budget information; and a description of the library's automation development.
Using data available from FSCS and DITAR©, the consulting team prepared a comparison of selected ARLS statistics to a peer group of eight other libraries in the United States. The criteria used to select the peer libraries were: serve a regional jurisdiction with a population between 60,000 and 85,000; have a central library and branches; and receive an annual income between $650,000 and $1,000,000.
The library director also compiled some statistics on library use and made them available to the Planning Committee.
Reporting the results
Following the information-gathering activities, the consulting team compiled an extensive report of its findings titled "A Community Analysis of the Service Area for the Appomattox Regional Library System" (July 1993). An initial section titled "Planning Issues Summary" was prepared by the consulting team to identify the major issues that they identified during their review of the data; however, the summary encouraged the ARLS Planning Committee to review the report and reach its own conclusions.
The contents of the report were organized in the following fashion:
1.0 The CAMEO Project: Introduction
2.0 ARLS Community Characteristics
1.1 Report Preparation
1.2 The CAMEO Project
1.3 Purpose of the Report
1.4 Organization of the Report
2.1 Current and Future Service Area Population
2.2 Age Distribution
2.3 Educational Characteristics
2.4 Income and Occupation
3.1 The Virginia Library System
3.2 Appomattox Regional Library System
4.1 Objectives of the Community Surveys
4.2 Surveys of Users and Non-Users
4.3 Perceptions of Local Government Officials
4.4 Community Focus Groups
Using the results in planning
Following the community analysis project, the library director and the Library Board appointed a 19-member Planning Committee with representatives of the board, staff, Friends of the Library, the Dinwiddie Library Foundation, and seven community leaders. The committee met in a planning retreat on August 13 and 14, 1993, to learn about the planning process and to make a series of initial planning decisions. The review and discussion of the report used the process described in Chapter 9. The process began with individual committee members' recording their personal views about the strengths and changes needed in the library and its services, followed by full group discussion. The second part of the discussion was held the next day after the consulting team organized the results of the initial discussion.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop a framework for the new long range plan for the Appomattox Regional Library System. The desired outcomes for the retreat were for the Planning Committee to:
Agree on either retaining the current mission statement or develop concepts for a new mission statement;
Decide on priority service roles for the next five years;
Select priority goals for the library for the next five years; and
Develop preliminary outcomes under the goals.
The agenda for the one-and-a-half day session is outlined below:
|1:00 p.m||Get Started|
|Welcome & Introductions - Nelson Worley|
|Review of Purpose of Retreat, Agenda, & Outcomes - N. Bolt & S. Cooper|
|1:45 p.m.||The Planning Process - An Overview|
|2:15 p.m.||Review Methodology for ARLS Community Analysis|
|3:15 p.m.||Individual Work: Review Final Report|
|4:00 p.m.||Full Group Discussion of Planning Committee Response to Final Report|
|9:00 a.m.||Get Started/Review Plans for Day|
|9:15 a.m.||Review Results of Previous Day|
|10:45 a.m.||ARLS Mission Statements|
|1:00 p.m.||Gain Agreement on Goal Areas/Begin Work on Library Response|
|2:45 p.m.||Review Results of Library Response to Goals|
|3:45 p.m.||Wrap-Up and Plan for Next Steps|