Sifting Through the Results
Last week I began reading through the website survey results from library staff members. This can sometimes be a boring task, but fortunately the library staff kept me entertained with their inventive and sometimes comedic responses to the open-ended questions.
A few things became apparent when reading the results: The library staff is worried about how difficult it is for patrons to navigate the website and how poorly the website represents the services provided by the library. Additionally, the staff is in agreement that the website has some serious deterrents and needs to be updated. However, there is no clear idea of how that needs to be done or what the end result is. Does this mean that the library should petition to get control over its website? If it does, does it host the website? How does that work? Will it lose the content currently hosted by the city and have to start from scratch? Is there a current library employee who is comfortable with HTML and website management? Should the library write up a proposal for the addition of a staff member who could manage the website design and content? What are surrounding libraries doing? The survey has lead to more questions than answers.
Now I get to put my MPA skills to work and begin to navigate the touchy realm of local government politics. After talking with the library director, I decided that the best way to bolster the library’s case—that it needs more control to adequately represent library services and meet the needs of the community—is to complete a patron survey of the library website and do a comparative analysis of the current practices of surrounding libraries. Finding out how the patrons feel and determining if they’re on the same page as the staff will give the staffs’ concerns credibility if the library decides to approach the city. Understanding how surrounding libraries are using their websites will also assist the Alameda Free Library in determining the best route to take with its website. My PWE is certainly giving me insight into local government politics and the finesse it requires to push for what’s best for one’s department.