More than 1,300 people have shared with Mid-Columbia Libraries their opinions on current library services and future needs. While participation in the public library district’s on-line survey is well on the way to meeting its goal of 2,700 respondents, ethnic and gender diversity within the survey is lagging.
MCL leaders are asking local media, and especially Latino-serving or Spanish language news agencies, to help spread the word about the survey.
The 18-question survey began at the end of May and is available at midcolumbialibraries.org through June 22. It is also accessible through the library district’s social media channels, and is provided in both English and Spanish.
MCL will use public feedback to improve services, to include possibly adding new services, for residents of Benton, Franklin and parts of Adams counties.
“We’re really satisfied with the number of respondents so far, which includes about 25% who identify as Hispanic or some other ethnicity,” said Sara Schwan, MCL Advocacy and Development Manager. “That doesn’t, however, quite match the more than 30% of our combined counties who identify as Hispanic, and another 10% or so who identify with non-Hispanic minority groups. So we’re looking at about a 15% gap, which we hope to overcome, in minority group representation.”
“On one hand, the latest survey results validate our understanding of our most pressing need, which is to reach unserved or underserved groups with library services,” Schwan said. “On the other hand, we really need to hear from those under-represented groups so we can tailor our strategic planning and resources to best fit their wants and needs.”
More than 75% of survey respondents to date are female.
“The gender gap makes some sense with respect to traditional child care roles within the family, but we’d really like to hear from more men in the community,” said Schwan.
The survey asks respondents to rate the importance of quality-of-life influencers such as cultural diversity, educational opportunities, career programs, social connections and access to resources. It also explores associated demographic characteristics such as income, ethnicity and age.
To date, 95% of respondents are current MCL cardholders.
“It’s great to hear from the fans,” said Schwan, “but we also want to hear from those who don’t use our services. Why don’t they? Is it access, relevance, cultural representation? We’re a public library system. We’re here for everybody. So those without an MCL card will likely have insights with respect to how we can be of greater value to all community members.”
The survey is open to any resident 18 and over living in a city served by MCL, which covers Benton, Franklin and parts of Adams counties. Those living in some select census-designated and unincorporated communities, as well as visitors to any of the 12 branch locations, may also participate. All participants who complete the survey are entered to win an Apple iPad mini and can pick up a free book bag from their local branch, while supplies last.
After accessing the survey site, participants will be asked to enter their ZIP code. Users will be allowed to proceed only if they enter a ZIP code from Benton City, Basin City, Burbank, Connell, Eltopia, Finley, Kahlotus, Kennewick, Mesa, Othello, Pasco, Prosser, Paterson, Plymouth or West Richland.
“We’re laser-focused on inclusiveness,” Schwan said. “Our best planning effort will only come from a balanced representation of the diverse voices in our communities. So please, pause a minute or two to take this survey.”
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