A Bit on Community Needs Analysis

As I read more about needs assessment and analysis, 3 themes started to develop in the articles and book chapters. While I have much more to sift through (about 50 more articles and a bunch of books), here’s what I have so far:

1) Get out from behind that desk – To me, this is a no-brainer. How can one effectively ascertain what the community needs and what types of populations to serve if the librarian stays in the library all day. Get out into the community and take part in meetings, serve on civic boards, and be a community citizen and leader. Waiting for patrons to come into the library and ascertaining their needs is only half the picture. There may be an entire piece of the population that never uses the library. It’s easier to reach patrons that walk in the door, but they already know about the library, right? There’s probably a reason why non-library users are non-library users. Figure out why.

2) Talk to the BMOCs – These are the leaders in your community. The machers, the ones who know everything that goes on within a 20 mile radius of the center of town. These are also the heads of civic organizations, book clubs, knitting clubs, mahjong groups, theatre groups, etc. These leaders are not hard to find. Everyone you ask will lead you to the same people.

3) Community needs analysis is a study in and of itself. Instead of guessing what your community needs, use the methodology already established in the literature. I will be writing more about this in the final chapter. My point is, though, make it point to study the literature on needs analysis.



  1. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 15. July 2006, 10:24

    Margaret E. Monroe (Professor emerita, UW-Madison) was one of the founding mothers of community analyis. When she was honored by ALA last year with a memorial resolution this was included:
    WHEREAS, Margaret was on the forefront of the movement to develop library services for persons and groups with special needs (especially the disadvantaged, institutionalized, and aged) based on community analysis and a collaboration between professionals and representatives of the groups to be served; and…read entire memorial here:

  2. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 15. July 2006, 11:43

    I for got to suggest this.
    Ruth Warncke, Analyzing Your Community: Basis for Building Library Service. ERIC ED 105881. 1974.

  3. John Tropea, 17. July 2006, 22:38


    ALIA 2006 Biennial Conference called Click06 happening in September 2006 has a presentation called:
    Libraries building communities – the next steps, leaps and bounds for a ground breaking project.

    Here is the abstract:

  4. Chrystie, 19. July 2006, 21:13

    Hey John, thanks for the tip! I didn’t know about the “Libraries Building Communities” reports (2005, Victoria Public Libraries) – so this was a fantastic lead! Appreciate it…

    Kathleen, as always, thanks for the reminder that we’re always reinventing…