Harnessing the Power of Community Data

We are in the midst of a six-city tour of North Dakota, presenting 1-day workshops on long range planning for public libraries. It has been a really great experience to visit with library staff and board members to talk about planning for their libraries’ futures.

One of the main components of any library planning process is gathering data about the community the library serves. In order to plan the library’s future direction and services, it is critical to learn about the demographic characteristics of the community as a whole, as well as the views, opinions, and needs of both library users and non-users alike.

Concrete community data, such as demographic and economic characteristics can be gathered through census and other statistical services. Check out our Community Vision and Assessment Tool to help you with gathering this type of data about the community. Assessing more abstract information about your community such as people’s needs and opinions regarding library services can be accomplished through surveys or focus groups.

Data gathering might seem like a daunting task, but help is available! Check in at our Field Services page next week for all links and resources from our long range planning workshops, including great help for getting started with data gathering. In addition, ALA TechSource has announced its forthcoming workshop “Gathering and Using Community Data: Making the Best Decisions for Your Library.” This 90-minute online workshop will take place at 1:30 PM Central on November 6, 2013, and will be presented by Marie Pyko and Thad Hartman of Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Kansas. The workshop will offer additional tips and advice for harnessing community data and how to use it to help make decisions about the future of your public library. Click here to register.

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