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System-wide Community Assessments

Jefferson County Public Library

Innovation Leader: Pam Nissler, Director of Library Programs and Services, pam.nissler@jeffcolibraries.org

Problem Statement

JCPL’s service area is large (733 square miles) and extremely diverse – and one-size-fits-all library programs do not serve our patrons, or our communities well. At JCPL, we believe that libraries must connect with their communities in whole new ways, and take a proactive and collaborative role in community problem solving.

Innovation

For the past two years, we‘ve been working to complete an exhaustive community assessment of our library communities. In 2009, we developed a robust data base on our communities, with detailed information about library service areas, patrons and non-users, including: i) demographic information; ii) ILS usage data; iii) GIS mapping capabilities; and iv) sophisticated market segmentation capabilities. Managers used it to complete a rigorous analysis of their communities, which included a narrative that describes the service area in terms of geography, governmental entities, educational institutions, social services, cultural amenities and more; a detailed description of the characteristics of users and non-users; a summary of other pertinent data and recommendations regarding next steps to address the unmet needs of their service areas.

Progress

Library managers were able to identify new program opportunities, challenge long-standing assumptions, forge new community partnerships and develop innovative programs to address unmet needs. For example, our Arvada library learned that the number of families that are homeless and/or qualify for free school lunch is among the highest in the county. As a result, this summer they will partner with Jefferson County Public Schools, Scholastics, Davis Vision Focus on America and the Arvada Community Food Bank to provide early literacy services and support to low-income families. Program elements include free vision screenings at the library, Storytime kits and early literacy training for Food Bank volunteers and clients, and giveaway books for children who participate in the schools’ free summer lunch program. Other library initiatives were equally as impressive and set new standards for community interaction and service.