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Are We Meeting the Needs of Our Users? An Examination of the Collection Management Policy adopted by the Greensboro Public Library

Charity Neave

LIS 615: Collection Management

Spring 2006

 

In partnership with the community, the Greensboro Public Library strives to provide free and equal access to information, foster lifelong learning, and inspire the joys of reading.”
-
The Mission of the Greensboro Public Library

 

Mutual understanding is the first step toward a more just and caring community.

-from the Mission of the Glenwood Branch

A Poem for Glenwood

Glenwood Library is like sweet pineapples
and fresh summer peaches.
It’s like a cool spring breeze,
wise people
and the lucky color Red.
It’s like piano music and orchestras.
It’s like apples—good for your stomach.

Glenwood Library has
Books and Computers
And information that we need.

It’s entertainment and friendly teachers.
Happy people exchanging cultures.

Glenwood Library is the world
Glenwood Library is home.

-Created by the English Conversation Club in honor of the Glenwood Library’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

Initially, I set out to develop a collection management policy for the Glenwood Branch of the Greensboro Public Library (GPL).  In the course of so doing, several things became evident.  Not only is the collection management policy for the system in need of revision, but the branch is lacking completely.  GPL has developed several concentrations for the Glenwood Branch but such collection factors as selection, acquisition, and deselecting have not been formally developed.  My first step was to evaluate the Collection Management Policy.  Second, I set about an informal evaluation of the collection, to determine whether it was meeting the needs of the community.  Next, I discuss these collection factors, and how they may be approved upon in the future.  The final step was to develop a Collection Management Policy for the Glenwood Branch.  For the sake of this paper, I have only included areas pertinent to the Glenwood Branch.  For all other areas, one should refer to the Collection Management Policy prepared by Dr. Beatrice Kovacs for the Greensboro Public Library in 2000.

Much of the Collection Management Policy adopted by the Greensboro Public Library in 2000 is based on a city-wide needs assessment project organized by GPL.  “Looking to the Future” organized members of the community onto committees which each reviewed a “sector” of Greensboro life, culture, education, social, politics and administration, and business and industry.  GPL hoped to gain a better understanding of the directions Greensboro was headed.  Through this, they recognized several needs, integration between technology and communication, increased need for technology to decrease the widening gap “between the haves and the have-nots” and the need for materials and resources for immigrants.

The ethno-cultural population demographic of Greensboro has changed greatly, as with the rest of the United States.  In 1996, Greensboro was home to a community of Montangards, Cambodians, and some various Hispanic groups, but still in relatively small numbers.  Today almost every ethnic group in the world is represented to some degree in Greensboro.  This trend towards many ethnicities, many races, often referred to as the “browning of America,” must be considered when planning for the future.  It has been suggested that by the year 2010, the population of America will be a nation of minorities.  Indications of this are evident in the latest Census figures (see Appendix). Another demographic trend which is becoming increasingly important is the so-called “graying of America.” Between 1990 and 2000, the number of individuals over the age of 55 has increased 119 percent.  Additionally, Greensboro has experienced, and will continue to experience social problems indicated by other demographic factors, such as household size, head of household, poverty, homelessness, and home-ownership rates. “Looking to the Future” addresses the issues of ethnic diversity, aging, and economic factors, but I address them here because they will not only continue to be important to the City of Greensboro at large, but are especially relevant in the Glenwood community.  One related issue not discussed in the GPL needs assessment project, is that of relocation. 

In response to such issues as an influx of immigrants and refugees, decline in funding for services such as education and transition from a manufacturing/industry- based community to an information-based community through banking and service industries, many nonprofit organizations have appeared in North Carolina.  In Greensboro and Guilford County there are 400+ nonprofit organizations (Guilford County Overview, www.guilfordnonprofits.org).  Additionally, there are several organizations that offer resources and assistance to these nonprofit organizations including the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, and the Foundation Center.  North Carolina has the highest concentration of colleges and universities offering programs in Nonprofit Management, from certifications to masters’ degrees (NPO Management Programs, www.tltc.shu.edu) 

GPL has recognized need in these areas, but are we meeting the needs?  More specifically, is our collection meeting these needs?  A proper evaluation of the collection is long overdue.  In order to properly evaluate the collection, one must use several criteria.  The ease of evaluation and criteria differ in each subject specialty.

Recording and comparing the budget and number of volumes in each area against a set of standards is one way to measure the collection.  In order to obtain standards with which to check the collection, one must look to professional organizations, such as the ALA, PLA, or IFLA.  The IFLA suggests that, “the budget for library materials in ethnic minority languages…should be proportionate to the percentage of the community belonging to linguistic and cultural minority groups,” at a rate of about 4/5, such that if 25 percent of the population belong to a particular ethno-linguistic minority, 20 percent of the budget should be allocated for books in that language.  Furthermore, the IFLA guidelines propose that collections for a particular ethno-linguistic minority should be maintained at a “per capita level at least as great as for the population at large.  In the case of small groups, the per capita level of provision should be greater than for larger groups and for the ethnic majority.” (Zielinska, 131)  One downfall to reliance upon Census figures in developing a collection is that they do not reflect ethnic minority groups except those Asian and Hispanic/Latino origin.  However, given the data for these groups in Greensboro, I would estimate that .035 percent of our collection should be devoted to Spanish materials and 0.02 percent should be devoted to the various Asian languages, with Vietnamese receiving the largest percentage of these at 0.008 percent.  Of course, Collection Management is not as exact a science as this, but these figures offer a guideline for future selectors.  From my estimations we hold approximately 1,200 volumes in Spanish, 100 in Arabic, 300 in French, 600 in Chinese (various dialects), 100 in Russian, and 750 in Vietnamese.  Accordingly, we are following well below the guidelines set by the IFLA.  GPL holds approximately 542, 000 volumes system wide (GPL, The Annual Report).  As the Glenwood Branch holds the majority of the books in foreign languages for the entire system, the number of volumes in each language should be almost doubled! 

            Another method is to determine the ratio of the number of users to the total population.  Comparing data from the Census in 2000, to data from the same time in the library’s database for registered learners in the ESOL program, I found that less than 1 percent of the Asian population is utilizing the services and resources, while a little more than 2 percent of the Hispanic/Latino population is utilizing the services and resources.  The Asian population in Greensboro in 2000 was 6,357, while the number of registered learners was 52.  The Hispanic/Latino population was 9,742, while the number of registered learners was 227.  Of the populations not represented in the 2000 Census, there were 52 registered learners from African countries who speak some combination of tribal languages, French, and Arabic, 11learners from Middle Eastern countries, and 18 from European countries.  There are two additional factors that must be considered.  I must acknowledge that the Census data does not consider linguistic skill or nativity, only race. Second there are differences of reasons for being in the United States that explain varying economic and educational backgrounds that may affect the decision to learn English at the library. For example, Asian cultures, specifically Korea and Japan, tend to place a higher emphasis on education than most other nations, and generally require English in their curricula.  Additionally, individuals of these same groups are generally better off financially than those of other Asian cultures, and of Hispanic/Latino origin.  Lastly, the number of registered learners does not reflect the total number of individuals with library cards.

            Looking at the materials directly, the physical condition of many of the materials is deplorable.  Many book and cassette sets are missing items; often the catalog indicates that four out of five copies are “missing,” “lost,” or “mending.”  Many of the ESOL books are donated materials, many are outdated, but these are kept in the collection for lack of funds. 

Although most of the book selection for GPL is done through committees, the Multicultural Resources Coordinator is the sole selector for the Multicultural Resources Center.  The coordinator utilizes publications such as Multicultural Review and reviews put out by publishers such as Thomson Learning.  Care should be taken in selecting to give some consideration to language dialect where necessary and appropriate members of the community should be consulted when selecting books with little knowledge of the language.  Although the GPL System and the Glenwood Branch utilize the Dewey Decimal Classification System, the Multicultural Resources Center does not out the belief that Dewey does not allow for a variety of subjects and interests related to the immigrant experience.  Robert P. Haro states, in Developing Library and Information Services for Americans of Hispanic Origin, “Neither the Dewey or the LC classification has been reviewed, however, for adaptations necessary to effectively identify and describe resources dealing with the Hispanic experience in the United States…neither takes into consideration the development of a unique culture which is the combination of two more cultures.” (Haro, 229)  The Multicultural Resources Coordinator must also possess a unique sensitivity to ethnicity and cultural differences when selecting, organizing, and deselecting books.

The budget for the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is quite small, such that the services are provided by volunteers and partnerships.  The coordinator is given an “ESOL” budget for programming, volunteer compensation, and other miscellaneous costs, and a “book” budget from which to order foreign language, language learning, and multicultural titles for the GPL system.  The traditional resources are supported mostly by GPL, and through a resource sharing program with Cumberland County Public Library, but obviously not to the degree that they should be.  I strongly feel that both areas need increased support for the program to continue to be successful.  GPL has no long term plans for the future of the program in terms of the services and programs we are currently able to offer. The burden falls on the Multicultural Resources Coordinator to supplement the program from year to year. 

            My attempts at measuring the usefulness of the nonprofit area were less successful. In fact, I could not develop a truly reliable test of the center without launching an all out needs assessment survey to the local nonprofit organizations and their consortia, which would still yield only subjective results.  However, the Nonprofit Resources Coordinator felt quite optimistic about the usefulness of the center, estimating that approximately 40-50 percent of local nonprofit organizations use or have used the center in the past two years.  The Nonprofit Resource Center holds traditional resources as well as nontraditional, and it is the nontraditional programs and partnerships that support the Center.

As with the Multicultural Resources Center, the Nonprofit Resources Coordinator is responsible for the selection and acquisition of the nonprofit books, journals, electronic journals, membership costs for the Center.  The selection aids used are journals, publisher reviews, and recommendations.  Again, there is a standard budget for programming, which includes the membership costs, and a separate budge for books.  The journals are primarily purchased through the Branch’s serials/periodicals budget.  However, the program does not rely as heavily on volunteer support and is in a better position to maintain itself in the future.  The Nonprofit Resources Coordinator is also responsible for deselecting of old, worn or inaccurate material.  This is done on a rotating basis, with the entire section being completely no less than annually.  The Nonprofit Resources Coordinator must be aware and knowledgeable of trends in nonprofit organizations, and be able to guide patrons, not only to resources within the library but outside as well.

I had hoped, however, through these exercises to gain a rough understanding of the successfulness of GPL and the Glenwood Branch in meeting the stated needs of the community.  In order to gain a comprehensive understanding our successfulness, we would also need to get feedback from the community, so further research would be necessary.  I do feel quite confident, however, in my assertion that in order to maintain and sustain itself as a benefit to the community, the Multicultural Resource Center needs to be expanded, given a larger budget, and given additional staff to maintain it.

            In addition to these subject specialties, I would argue that the Glenwood Branch requires additional materials to support the immediate community.  Because of the high percentage of African Americans and individuals over 65 in the community, the Glenwood Branch should receive books of interest to each of these groups.  The Branch should have an increased amount of literature by African American authors, in both the classics and contemporary light fiction, as both have a minimal presence. 

The Glenwood Branch needs also to have an increased amount of books of interest to older individuals.  Materials should include but should not be limited to large type texts on various nonfiction subjects as well as fiction.  Subjects of collection might include hobbies (such as stamp and coin collecting, decorating, and gardening), history and biographies, health, and personal finance.  Computers and technology can be a huge source of stress, fear, and embarrassment for older people so it is essential that services as well as books are offered in this subject area.  Finally, I would argue that there is a greater need for technology assistance than is currently being supported. 

While attempting to develop a collection management policy for the Glenwood Branch, (I started and stopped many times), I realized that more important to me is having an understanding of where the collection is, in order to see where it is going.  Through my amateur assessment and evaluation of the collection at the Glenwood Branch of the Greensboro Public Library, I have found several areas of need, some which have been recognized, and others which have not. I hope to present my findings with the coordinators for each area of specialization, and administration in order to increase services in these areas.  However, further study and contemplation is necessary to accomplish this.

 

 

 

 

Appendix of Statistical Information

Race:

  • According to the US Census, in the year 2000, the percentage of people in the Greensboro area who defined themselves as White Alone, was only 55 percent; compare this with 64 percent in the 1990 Census. 
  • The percentage of individuals who defined themselves as white alone in the Glenwood area (defined by the census tract, 116.01) was 54.3.
  • The percentage of minorities in Greensboro increased dramatically; Black or African American-6 percent, and American Indian and Alaskan Native-16 percent.
  • According to the City of Greensboro, “the number of Asians increased tremendously, although it is difficult to calculate either numbers or percentages by way of comparing 1990 with 2000, due to different data collections and reporting methods used by the Census Bureau for each decade.” (www.ci.greensboro.nc.us)
  • The percentages in the Glenwood area were 26.8, 1.1, and 8 percent respectively.
  • 24.6 percent of the population in the Glenwood area speaks a language other than English at home.

 

Age:

  • Between 1990 and 2000, the number of individuals in the 45-55 age range has increased by 59 percent and the number of individuals over 55 increased by 119 percent.
  • The percentage of the population in the Glenwood area was 12.3.

 

Housing:

  • The average household size in Greensboro in 2000 was 2.3, in Glenwood the average household size was 2.5. 
  • The 2000 Census reflects that the percentage of individuals living in the same house as five years ago is less than 50 percent.  In the Glenwood area this percentage is even lower at 42.1 percent. 
  • The percentage of owner occupied homes was 56, renter occupied homes and vacant housing units were 6.3 in the Glenwood area.

 

Income:

  • The Census also reported that 12.3 percent of individuals in Greensboro live below the poverty line, compared to 19.5 percent in the Glenwood area. 
  • Poverty rates increase among minorities with 21.5 percent among those designated Other, 18.4 for Blacks and African Americans, and 20.5 percent for those of Hispanic and Latino origin.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Texts:

Haro, Robert P.  (1981).  Developing Library and Information Services for Americans of

            Hispanic Origin.  Scarecrow Press: Metuchen, NJ and London.

 

Mates, Barbara T. (2003).  Five Star Programming and Services for Your Fifty-Five Plus

            Library Customers; ALA: Chicago.

 

Zielinska, Marie F., ed. Multicultural Librarianship: An International Handbook; 

            IFLA:  Munchen, London, and New York, 1992.

 

Websites:

City of Greensboro www.ci.greensboro.nc.us/planning/neighborhood_planning/

GSOcomparison_profile.htm, retrieved February, 2006.

 

Greensboro Public Library, www.greensborolibrary.org, retrieved April, 2006.

 

Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, www.guilfrordnonprofits.org, retrieved April, 2006.

 

Seton Hall University, www.tltc.shu.edu, retrieved April, 2006.

 

United States Census Bureau, www.americanfactfinder.gov, retrieved February, 2006.

 

 

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Charity Neave Johnson,
Mar 18, 2010, 12:15 PM
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