When we started our building project a few years ago we had an important advantage; we knew what we didn’t know. Librarians tend to be rather good at that. We have to be to help people find information. The first step to asking a good question that leads to what you need is knowing what you don’t know. Until then, you don’t know what to ask about.
Every step in our process has been driven by asking questions and getting the evidence we needed to make informed decisions. We didn’t assume we knew how big a new library needed to be. We did our homework. We compared Marion and its characteristics, its population, and its growth to other communities and then we compared our library to theirs. We followed up on standards, based on nationwide practices. We looked into how libraries and library users were changing in order to make sure we knew not just how much space we needed, but what kind of space we needed. We looked carefully at different ways of doing things and compared costs and benefits, looking out for the taxpayer’s dollar.
But all of that work was about the building. We also knew what we didn’t know about our community, and our users. That led us to think hard about what we needed to know and what we needed ask. This wasn’t just about what a new building needed to do. It was also about what we’re doing now, and given the way Marion is changing as a community, asking hard questions about what to add, what to keep, and what to leave behind.
For that we turned to a professional research firm. Before Vernon Research went to work for us, the last community library survey we did was in 2007. We worked closely with the folks from Vernon to come up with question about why people use the library, how they benefit from that use, what they know about the library and what they can get from it, and what we can do make our service even better.
The complete results of the survey are available for inspection here at the library but we’ve posted this Executive Summary to our webpage to give you access to its main findings. It’s gratifying to know that Marion is happy with the performance of the staff and services of the library. It’s not unexpected to learn that our users have diverse interests and that when it comes to preferences about the library, it’s not one size fits all. That situation presents us with a challenge, but it’s this kind of challenge that we look forward to, one that will test our ability to do our research and find the right answer.