If you are going to ask questions, you cannot avoid the answers. We have had many answers to our questions in the Library Use Survey recently conducted as part of our ongoing discussion of library service in Raynham. In the survey we asked how people use the library, asked them to rate the services they use, and to select the services and programs they would like to see the library offer during the next five years. The results have provided statistics for us to analyze, evaluate and incorporate into the library’s five year plan of service. However, as fascinating as those statistics are, they are not as interesting as the additional comments.
Statistics reveal analytical use of library service. Comments reveal how people regard and value library service. We are pleased to read comments such as “I have been coming to this library for over 30 years. The staff has always been outstanding. The library is one of the strongest assets we have in our community.” And, “It is a pleasure to come here.” And, “I’ve visited several libraries in the southeastern MA area, and this one (Raynham) has the friendliest, most welcoming atmosphere.” Also, “Wonderful resource for the community.” We are concerned to read comments such as “A library needs books. Everything else is not the library’s job.”
Comments such as these cause us to pause and think about just what it is that libraries add to our communities. Is a library just about books? In libraries we are always talking about the value that we add to our communities. But how do we enumerate that value? Is it about the savings we make by providing access to a range of resources and services for free? Is it about providing materials and space? Or is there something else going on here beyond the obvious?
The comments from our library users tell us that libraries meet very human needs– the need to belong, the need to connect with information and people, the need to know and understand, and the need to have time to replenish energy and spirit and simply enjoy reading, viewing or listening something that takes us out of ourselves. Libraries contribute to the social web; they enrich the lives of individuals, and strengthen the bonds of community.
We are grateful for all the comments of our users. As we move forward in the Five Year Plan their voices will be with us.