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.

-Steven