3. Self-Assessing Capacity
After completing this section, you will be able to:
- Self-assess your library or department’s capacity in each area
- Create your own list of assets and needs
In order to understand the unique capacity of your library and how you can leverage it when creating programs, you need to get specific about the resources you already have. But where do you start? It might be helpful to take a moment to reflect on a recent library program you presented. What were the strengths? Where were the weaknesses? For each strength and weakness, think about what connections there might be to the specific capacity areas of your library.
For example, let’s say the Midsize Library above put on a program for teens. This program was about creating memes for ages 13 to 16, and used half of the library’s computers to utilize photoshop. The teen librarian was assisted by a library associate, and a group of two adult volunteers and five older teen volunteers from the Teen Board. As teens created their memes, they learned how to use photoshop and collaborated with their peers. However, the library was only able to buy two photoshop licenses, and for the rest of the computers installed a free trial with fewer capabilities. The library also did not have access to tablets, and teens used mice to draw in the program. This greatly restricted what teens were able to do and learn. At the end of the program, the librarian was asked by a few of the teens to run another meme workshop with more full photoshop licenses. They said that they had a lot of fun, and wanted to learn how to do more. The response from the teen community was very positive, but a few patrons complained that computers were not available for them during the time of the program.
How might you map out the strengths and weaknesses of the example library program on meme creating for teens?
In order to assess a library program, it is helpful to start with a simple table that reflects the capacity areas of your library. Then, you can fill in the strengths and weaknesses you saw in those capacity areas during the specific program you ran. Again, we can use the Midsize Library as an example: This allows you to share your capacity map and capacity assessment easily with others. One way to make a clear map is to put the information you have into a table, with each column covering one aspect of your library’s capacity. Let’s see what this looks like using our example library:
Midsize Library: Teen Program on Meme Creation
|Strengths||Enough computers for each teen||Great teen librarian, enough library associate assistance and volunteer help||Compters were able to run photoshop without an issue||Teen board volunteers|
|Weaknesses||Shared space with other patrons||None||Unable to obtain more than 2 licenses, lack of tablets for drawing||No technology partnerships|
|How can it be improved?||Post reminders about teen program in the computer area a few days ahead of time||Add an additional library associate with photoshop knowledge||Obtain more licenses, tablets||Find partner that can help with photoshop and tablet acquisition|
Notice how for each capacity area, the strengths and weaknesses were assessed for ways to improve the program. Each detail is helpful in understanding how the capacity of your library may affect your library programs, and how it contributes to the strengths and weaknesses of those programs. Thinking back to a past program can be very helpful in assessing the unique capacity of your library.
Breaking Things Down
Self-assessing your library’s capacity can also be done by breaking it down further into its parts: partnerships, technology (acquisition and use), space, and staffing. Here’s what something like that could look like visually:
|Partnership||Strengths||Weaknesses||How can it be improved?|
|Neighborhood Association 1||-Many bilingual - English/Farsi Speakers||Distance from library makes it difficult to volunteer||Work with the association to organize a carpool for volunteers|
-Gym and Auditorium spaces
|Busy schedule makes coordination difficult||Work with the teachers and PTA to make a shared calendar that is updated weekly|
|Neighborhood Association 2||-Owns a building with a large meeting space|
|Has few members||Collaborate with the association to help recruit more members in exchange for resources|
|Technology||Strengths||Weaknesses||How can it be improved?|
|Acquisition||Technology partnership with Neighborhood Association 2||-Small budget|
-Not up to date with current technologies
|-Connect with tech industry about current technology|
-Poll library users on what new acquisitions would be most useful
|Use||Knowledgeable staff||Computers next to silent reading area||Rearrange to make computer space more collaborative and less disruptive|
|Space||Strengths||Weaknesses||How can it be improved?|
|Main Floor||Large open spaces||Few long tables for collaboration||Work with volunteers to move large tables from meeting room|
|Meeting Room||50 person capacity||Large tables take up space, heavy to move||Work with volunteers to move large tables to the main floor|
|Study Room||Collaborative work space for 2-5 people||Rarely used||Advertise the study space at the front desk|
|Staffing||Strengths||Weaknesses||How can it be improved?|
|Adult Services||2 Adult Services Staff||Not enough staff for additional adult oriented programs and book groups||Leverage community partnerships and knowledgeagble volunteers to help staff programs|
|Children's Services||-1 Children's Services staff|
-Knowledgeable in early literacy
|Large deaf community unable to access stroytime, no ASL speakers||Work with community to find an ASL speaking volunteer to translate storytime|
|Teen Services||-1 Teen Services Staff||Large afterschool teen population is too big for 1 staff member||Leverage Library Associates, as well as community partnerships and knowledgeable volunteers to help staff programs|
|Library Associates||Collaborative work space for 2-5 people||Rarely used||Advertise the study space at the front desk|
Remember that while you are including the improvements you would like to make to your library’s capacity in different areas, those improvements can and should be relatively modest and easily implemented with the resources you already have. Focus on your library’s strengths. How can you use those strengths to make small improvements to your overall capacity?
Using your reflection from section 2, you can get a broad view of the capacity of your library. As you look at the tools you have in each area, start to assess: where are the strengths of your library? Where might there be easy improvements that could increase your capacity in certain areas? Again, thinking back to past programs can be a helpful way to start mapping these out.