This year, St. Thomas Public Library is working on finishing up the new Strategic Plan, which will take effect January 2018. One of the steps in the strategic planning process is to gather feedback and information from your local community. We wanted to know who our library customers are, and what the library means to them as part of the greater St. Thomas community. To do this, we undertook a public survey, which ran for 5 weeks through March and April 2017.
The survey gathered both quantitative and qualitative data, including questions about personal passions, the importance of the library in the community, barriers to using the Library, frequency of use, and a number of demographic questions.
Data was collected using a variety of methods. The survey was available online for the entirety of the five weeks it was live. Additionally, we had a table set up on the main floor in the Library, and then moved it downstairs to the lower level, to allow for personal engagement with library customers, and to have paper copies available. We wanted to make sure that we gathered feedback from a wide a variety of community members, so not only was the survey made available at the Library itself, but the online version was also shared via email to several community partners.
Once the data was gathered, we assembled a team to analyze it. This team consisted of a mix of management and library staff. The group met twice to discuss data analysis methods and share their findings. Overall, we received 616 responses from the community. While we are pleased with the response, it is important to recognize the limitations of our sample size. The results of this survey should not be seen as an exhaustive sampling of our community. Rather, it simply offers a glimpse of opinions and highlights the need for us to be continually mindful of the changing needs and interests of the entire community.
The following graphs provide an overview of the demographics and responses represented by those who responded to our survey:
Location (by postal code)
Why do you use the Library?
What prevents you from using the Library?
We also asked some open-ended questions about passions and interests in order to get to know our respondents a bit better. The responses gave the picture of a group of people very keen on connecting with their community through people, places, and the outdoors. This word cloud gives just a glimpse of some of the most common keywords included in the responses:
Finally, we asked why the library is important to the community. To this, the response was largely centered around the provision of free access to books, people, and space for research, education, and togetherness.
Now that we have completed the survey, we are looking to our next steps in the strategic planning process. We recognize that the data we collected is not exhaustive, and does not fully represent our entire community. We will be taking into consideration the trends we observed and reported here, but will also be incorporating the 2016 census data, which was made available in May 2017.