5.1 Using Your Library's Capacity Assessment

So far, we’ve gone over the different aspects of your library’s capacity and how to assess its different capacity areas: partnerships, technology acquisition, technology use, space, and staffing. The next step is to combine this information with your assessment of community strengths and needs. Here are some of the questions we will be helping you answer in this section:

  • Where do your needs and capacity challenges overlap?
  • How is your library already addressing these needs?
  • How can you use the strengths of your community to address the needs your capacity does not already cover?

Your community can provide unique strengths to your library its capacity to implement programs and provide outreach. Just as the many aspects of your library’s capacity are interconnected (partnerships, technology, space…), so too are the strengths and needs of your community with your unique capacity. Now that you know the unique capacity of your library, you can being using the strengths of your community to help your library reach its full potential.

Taking Community Strengths and Needs into Account

The first step in this process is to revisit the needs of your community and compare it to the capacity assessment from section 2. Where do your strengths overlap with your community’s needs? Let’s take a look using our library example. The first step is to revisit this library’s community needs assessment.

Community Needs Assessment

CommunityNameNeeds
Individuals
  • Carmen
  • Alan
  • Elaine
-Better wheelchair access
-Resume and job training
-Sensory friendly lighting
Groups
  • Teens
  • Parents
  • Deaf Community
  • Autistic Community
-Cooperative learning space
-Stroller parking
-ASL speakers
-Staff sensitivity training
Associations
  • Neighborhood Association 1
  • Neighborhood Association 2
  • PTA
-More Farsi language books and materials
-New member recruitment through posters, etc.
-Additional meeting space
Institutions
  • Parkland Elementary School
  • Harbor Middle School
  • Orchard Ridge High School
-Technology programs for elementary students
-Tween library representation and materials
-Additional teen services outreach

Remember, this needs assessment was framed in the context of library related needs. Take a look at the needs identified–what themes are present? Which needs seem to be the most difficult for the midsize library’s capacity? Which seem the easiest to address?

Next, we will use one example from the midsize library’s capacity assessment to illustrate how to map what strengths the library has to cover specific community needs. Your own assessment would cover all of your capacity areas–including partnerships, space, and staffing.

Technology Assessment

TechnologyStrengthsCommunity Needs Addressable
AcquisitionTechnology partnership with Neightborhood Association 2-Additional technology access
Library could use additional technology to help with Teen programming
UseKnowledgeable staff-Technology programs for elementary students
Library staff can work with schools and PTA to develop new technology infused programs

Once you have determined how you can highlight and use your library’s current capacity to meet community needs, the next step is to identify areas that your library capacity might not be able to currently cover. From there, you can use your community assets assessment from section 3 to see where utilizing community strengths could supplement your library’s capacity. Let’s take a look at what something like that might look like.

Community Needs Assessment–Highlighted Needs Outside of Library Capacity

CommunityNameNeeds
Individuals
  • Carmen
  • Alan
  • Elaine
-Better wheelchair access
-Resume and job training
-Sensory friendly lighting
Groups
  • Teens
  • Parents
  • Deaf Community
  • Autistic Community
-Cooperative learning space
-Stroller parking
-ASL speakers
-Staff sensitivity training
Associations
  • Neighborhood Association 1
  • Neighborhood Association 2
  • PTA
  • </li>
-More Farsi language books and materials
-New member recruitment through posters, etc.
-Additional meeting space
Institutions
  • Parkland Elementary School
  • Harbor Middle School
  • Orchard Ridge High School
-Technology programs for elementary students
-Tween library representation and materials
-Additional teen services outreach

As you can see in this example, there are quite a few needs that the current library’s capacity cannot cover. When you are following this process for you own library, you may have more or less community needs highlighted–do not be intimidated by this step! This is simply a tool that will help you identify areas of growth. An important part of this process is brainstorming ways to cover community needs that are not yet being addressed, and seeing how the strengths of your community can help you achieve your goals.

The next step in this assessment process includes comparing the highlighted needs of your community with the strengths you identified in part 4. One way to do this is to take a look at them side by side, and then map them together by pairing community needs with community strengths in a way that your library could help facilitate. Here is an example:

Community NeedsCommunity Strengths
-Resumen and job trainingCommunity contacts: Orchard Ridge Cultural Center and Guaco’s Taco’s both have community contacts who could have professional development resources knowledge
-Sensory friendly lightingOften hosts fundraisers: Red Mark Burgers would be willing to host a fundraiser for the library to install more expensive, non-fluorescent, sensory friendly lighting
-ASL speakersCommunity contacts: Orchard Ridge Cultural Center and Guaco’s Taco’s both have community contacts with ASL knowledge who might be willing to volunteer
-Tween library representation and materialsTween volunteers: Kern Writing & Math Tutoring and Orchard Ridge High School have volunteer contacts who could help form a tween advisory board to help choose new materials

Capacity assessment is about intimately learning about your library and its surrounding community. When you have this knowledge, the strengths in your community can surprise you and help your library grow its capacity in new and creative ways. As you can see from the example above, even the smallest community strength can have a big impact on your library’s capacity.

IDENTIFYING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

Once you have a list of your library’s capacity needs, and have matched those needs with strengths in your community, it is time to use and build partnerships with your community to help to boost your library’s capacity. Luckily, we’ve already covered these next steps for you in the Community Partnerships module!

Now that you have ideas on how to successfully leverage community strengths to help grow your toolbox broadly, let’s take a moment to focus on growing your library’s specific capacities in technology, space, and staffing. Each of these three aspects of your library’s unique capacity have their own considerations for leveraging community assets.