RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2012
Contact: Pamela Kiesner
Bellingham Public Library
LIBRARY BOARD REVIEWS SURVEY RESULTS
Bellingham Public Library trustees brainstormed next steps after reviewing results of the 2012 Strategic Planning Survey at their monthly meeting August 21. The online survey, which was conducted between June 15 and July 9, garnered 3,363 responses. Support for the library is high: 85% rated Bellingham Public Library as an 8 or higher in importance, and 80% rated their satisfaction with the library as an 8 or higher. The public wrote in nearly 4,000 responses to open-ended questions, providing detailed suggestions on how to improve service and eliminate barriers to using the library.
"Now that we've had some time to analyze the numerical data, we're looking for the best way to follow up with qualitative questions and to develop strategic directions," said Library Director Pamela Kiesner. "Nearly 1,000 respondents said they would be willing to speak with us over the phone -- if we limited calls to 10 minutes each, we'd be looking at over 150 hours of phone calls! It's thrilling to realize that people are eager to help us make good decisions about the future direction of the library. But we will have to take a random sample to keep things practical."
According to the survey, 96% of the respondents believe providing a variety of books and materials to be an essential library service. Many people noted they wanted more eBooks and more materials available overall.
Of the people who answered the survey, 67% said they use the Central Library the most often, and 73% said they use the Central Library in addition to another location or the library website. A total of 88% said it is important for Bellingham Public Library to "provide a Central Library located near the downtown or civic core of Bellingham." Providing branch libraries in other areas of the city received 80% approval, although adding a new branch was not as popular: 16% said they would use a north side branch, and a higher percentage (45% ) said they would not use one, while 39% remained neutral.
Many of the write-in comments focused on parking -- frustration with parking meters at the Central Library in particular. "We will bring these concerns to the attention of the City's Transportation Commission," noted Kiesner.
Limited open hours were cited as another barrier to using the Bellingham Public Library. Restoring Sunday hours received the most support, followed by restoring evening hours and adding more hours overall. Ninety-three people suggested restoring hours at Fairhaven, and 38 wanted more hours at the Barkley branch. "With the current budget situation, restoring any of the hours we've lost over the years is going to be a challenge," said Kiesner.
While some respondents cited concerns about safety and about the homeless population's use of the library, 75% said they feel safe at the Central Library. The public's feelings about staff were less ambiguous: 93% said library staff are courteous and friendly, and 92% said "library staff help me find the information I need."
Staff are exploring ways to act on several suggestions right now, such as offering the ability to pay library fines and fees online via credit card, an improvement they hope to implement in the coming months. Similarly, they hope to resume accepting cash and check payments at library branches when the City adopts a new cash receipting system.
Bellingham Public Library staff and trustees will work together to make follow-up calls to a percentage of the people who said they were willing to speak further with the library. "We'll be calling September 25, once people are back from vacations and have settled into a routine," explained Kiesner.
For more information, including an overview of the quantitative survey results, visit www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org and click on Library Strategic Planning.