Community Library Committee Report

C. Outreach

Members: Gail Slevin (Coordinator), *Christiane Neuville, Kristen Schiavoni, *Kelly Canavan, Valerie Justin, Gloria Primm Brown and Chris Tice

Introduction

The Outreach Working Group of the CLC was created to identify, seek input and establish lines of communication with all community and library constituencies. Input from the users of the JJML and the residents of the Sag Harbor School District is considered essential to the CLC mission of evaluating the existing facility needs of the JJML, and the investigation of all reasonable expansion possibilities. The CLC believes that the lack of public input to the information gathering and decision making process was one of reasons for the defeat of the referendum of December 2004.

Activities

Our activities have included:

  • Outreach to users of the JJML Website
    One of our first efforts involved the JJML website. We felt that the users of the library were a critical source of information about what works and doesn’t work at the current site.A new section on the JJML’s website http://sagharbor.suffolk.lib.ny.us, was named Library Out↔Reach, and in that section a question was posed “What do you like and dislike about the current John Jermain Memorial Library?”In addition to the website, the question was printed in the Sag Harbor Express and in the JJML’s newsletter. We also placed four outreach boxes around the community – two at the library itself, one at Apple Bank and one at Suffolk County National Bank.

    Responses:
    There have been 126 responses: 103 responses expressed their “likes” and “dislikes”; 23 residents gave insufficient or incomplete answers to the question so their responses could not be tallied. Because the outreach question was intentionally open-ended, only specific comments, e.g., “I want the library to stay,” “I want the library to move,” were counted.

    Needs: The top 3 needs identified were space, parking and accessibility.

    Likes: Most frequent responses were favorable comments about the staff. Other favorable responses concerned the location of the current library and the building itself.

    Dislikes: Responses focused on lack of space, noise levels and the use of the ground level area for stacks.

    In general, the public’s reaction to the question confirmed the opinion that the users of the library need more space, parking and better accessibility. As one patron said: “Any problem in the library must be related to the limited space.”

  • Use of the library newsletter.
    Two articles were included in the newsletter encouraging participation in the CLC process.
  • Outreach to organizations
    A list of all civic/ religious/ business organizations in the Sag Harbor School District has been developed. A letter was sent to 28 organizations introducing the CLC and giving them our email address for any desired feedback.There are 18 organizations with representation on the CLC. These organizations were not contacted. It was assumed [incorrectly] that the representatives on the CLC would be giving feedback to their groups.A spreadsheet of organizations is available for future use (see Appendix I,. “Listing of Community Organizations within Sag Harbor School District”)
  • Outreach e-mail address
    The CLC has an email address which has been used to send or receive messages from the public. It is jjmlclc@suffolk.lib.ny.us.
  • Telephone survey of the district residents
    Our Working Group had several meetings with Bill Wilson, formerly of the Roper Institute. We explored the possibilities of a telephone survey of randomly selected residents to gauge the needs of the voting public. The respondents would be asked a series of questions determining their opinion of an expanded library. The survey would test the assumptions of the CLC recommendation as to the best site for the library, acceptance of the capital outlay and operating expenses, willingness to deal with the necessary changes in the Village of Sag Harbor, and the timelines involved in the construction of such an expansion.The cost of such a survey would be approximately $3,000 – $4,000.The CLC felt that their members represent the general public and therefore its recommendation to the JJML Board would serve the same purpose as a telephone survey of the district’s voters. The JJML Board may decide to use this type of polling in the future.

Next steps

  1. The library’s website has been used successfully as part of our Outreach efforts. Now there is a discussion under way to change the website into a blog. With this type of website design, when the library posts a question or information concerning the upcoming expansion [or any issue], responses from the public would be posted and viewed as a journal. All users of the website would be able to view the responses of previous entries. This more fully opens up a dialogue. We strongly recommend a continuation of outreach to the patrons of the library. Input from the public is essential to this process.
  2. In order to make the information the CLC has gathered available to the public, we recommend a “For Your Information (FYI) section on the library website that outlines available facts and figures concerning the expansion. This FYI section could be updated throughout the time period leading up to the referendum. Those attending could be referred to that information. This would be similar to the Q&A the Library used before the 2004. We urge the JJML Board to approve this type of public access to this information.
  3. After the formal proposal is drafted, the Outreach Working Group recommends that the JJML offer a series of small meetings with a cross-section of area residents, perhaps 10 to 15 people, as a way to answer questions and disseminate the JJML’s vision of the expansion. Discussion topics would be prepared in advance, and the same note takers would be present in order to record objectively the groups’ comments. The best make-up of the groups would be a mix of district voters and non-voters, taxpayers who use the library and those who do not, and preferably people who do not know each other [since there may be a less free exchange of ideas between people who know each other well]. This is another initiative we strongly recommend should be implemented.
  4. A telephone survey of 300 randomly selected school district voters could be done before a referendum is scheduled. If this method is not agreeable, then another type of survey should be considered. In particular, our Working Group strongly believes that reaching out to taxpaying non-users of the library is essential to the success of the expansion plans.
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