In March and April 2008 the Library asked its users to participate in both an online and paper survey that focused on library facilities. The Library regularly polls its users about their satisfaction with library services but this survey focused mainly on the priorities it should pursue with its buildings. Over 1400 users responded. Appendix A. provides details about the response to many of the facilities specific questions.
Not surprisingly the borrowing book (90%) and media (74%) top the list of the uses of library cited by users. Internet access (43%) and in-house use of the Library’s collections (39%) were also cited as the most often used services. Program attendance and use of meeting rooms rated fifth (27%) among all uses. Online database access (25%) was also cited among the uses of the library but since this service can be accessed remotely not all of that use represent on site usage.
Respondents were asked about how they felt about current facilities. These questions confirmed what was already known about library facilities as asked in previous surveys. Specifically almost everyone (96%) felt that the one of the strengths of the library system was the convenience of its twenty-one locations.
Demonstrating the convenience of library locations, a large majority of respondents (75%) reach their preferred branch within a travel time of ten minutes or less. Interestingly enough 9% indicated that they travel more than 15 minutes. Previous transportation studies have found that a public library from any location in Montgomery County within a 15 minutes drive time. Library patrons limited to public transportation and those visiting from outside the Dayton Metro Library service area represent this subset of library users. The Library also got good marks for keeping its buildings comfortable and welcoming (88%).
Nearly all survey respondents (89%) were satisfied with the logical arrangement and ease of accessing the library’s collections. All branch collections are available for browsing while 60% of the main library materials inaccessible by the general public and can be accessed only by searching the catalog.
Given the high level of general satisfaction with the ease of access to collections, it is somewhat surprising that respondents also recommended that even more space be made available for library collections. Over two-thirds (68%) felt that adding additional shelving was important or very important and an additional nineteen percent felt that additional space was somewhat important. When responses to this question were examined by branch, users of the smallest branches were even more unified in their desire for additional space for collections.
Some caution should be exercised in interpreting the desire for more space for collections. As discussed elsewhere in this report, the Dayton Metro Library leads all of its peer libraries in the number of volumes per square foot. There is not a lack of materials within the Dayton Metro Library system. While very satisfied (77%) with the selections of books and media those completing this survey were clearly expressing a desire for even greater selections of books and media; respondents were not indicating that a higher percentage of the library space be devoted to collections. Still, those respondents said that collections were the area of library they were most satisfied and space for collections as the top library improvement speaks volumes (pun intended).
Overall respondents felt satisfied with parking. However, urban branch users expressed strong dissatisfaction with parking, most notably, users of the Dayton View, Ft. McKinley, Belmont and Burkhardt branches and users of the Main Library recorded the highest level of dissatisfaction with parking. It is not surprising that users of our urban locations felt that better parking was important or very important in their list of desired improvements: Ft. McKinley (92%), Dayton View (73), Belmont (73%), Main Library (70%), Madden Hills (56%) and E.C. Doren (55%).
Overlapping with their dissatisfaction with parking, many of the same urban branch users expressed safety concerns while at or near the urban branches. Safety at the Main Library was found to be of most concern, much more than at any of the branches.
The levels of dissatisfaction with either parking or safety may not property illustrate the negative impact of such problems or deficiencies due to the nature of an in-house user survey. There may be many who choose to visit other locations or choose not to use the any library at all because of these deficiencies.
The Dayton Metro Library provides over 300 computers for public access yet nearly one third of all the respondents (32%) felt that number was inadequate; the service with the highest level of dissatisfaction as expressed in the survey. Additional computers for Internet access must be a high priority within the facilities plan.
An unusually high number (22%) could not answer this question; thus probably representing a significant number of visitors that don’t use the Library for Internet access. Since a significant number of total survey respondents (43%) come to the library to use Internet computers it is more likely that most of those that expressed dissatisfaction with the number of computers available came from this minority of survey respondents. While exact number cannot be determined as many as 60% of total Internet users may be dissatisfaction.
Taking the above into consideration, the level of dissatisfaction with the availability of Internet access is even more pronounced when urban branch library users are examined. Madden Hills (71%), East (55%) and Burkhardt (50%) lead all branches in demand for additional computers but high levels of dissatisfaction were found at all urban branches. These survey results confirm data drawn from the library’s session management software that logs longest wait times for Internet access.
Among the improvements offered to respondents as a part of this survey is a desire for the Library to offer hands-on computer classes. The success of these informal classes aimed at those with minimal technical skills has been demonstrated at other libraries. Currently the Dayton Metro Library has no dedicated computer classrooms for public instruction. When examined at the branch level, extremely strong support for hands-on training labs was found at the urban locations: Dayton View (81%), Ft. McKinley (71%), E.C. Doren and Madden Hills (67%), Burkhardt and Northtown-Shiloh (56%).
Library users reported that locating a seat and a quiet place to read is almost as rare as finding a free computer. Nearly half of the respondents (49%) recommended that additional seating be added to the library. An even higher number (59%) told us that creating quiet reading rooms should be a high priority for any planned improvements to library facilities.
The amount of satisfaction with availability of seating varies substantially between locations. Overall seventy-four percent felt there were an adequate number of seats, but large numbers of users of smaller and urban branches disagreed. The East Branch (44%), New Lebanon (39%) and Dayton View (33%) had the highest level of dissatisfaction. Trotwood (77%), Madden Hills (76%) and Ft. McKinley (69%) lead those who indicated that a more seating should an important or very important priority.
Many regular library users do not come to stay and read at the library. In fact only a minority of the survey respondents say they come to use the Library to read or do research. To find that nearly three out of every five of all respondents considered creating quiet reading rooms important indicates there exists an even higher percentage that come use the building find seating and quiet spaces. This indication of unmet demand is similar that found with Internet and computer access.
Nearly sixty-percent of the survey respondents were adults with no school age or younger children at home. Surprisingly there was strong support, particularly in the urban areas, for larger spaces for children and dedicated spaces for teens.
Most branches have significant space devoted to Children’s collections, seating and computers. Still, sixty-eight percent of survey participants felt that more space for children services was important. Nearly as many respondents (61%) felt that a dedicated teen space was needed. Currently only a token amount of space is devoted to teens. None of the branches have dedicated teen computers and teen friendly furniture and appointments are lacking.
Urban branches registered the highest demand for both increases children’s spaces and dedicated teen spaces with Madden Hills (74%), Dayton View (68%) and Northtown Shiloh (63%) registering the greatest demand for teen spaces, and Ft. McKinley (85%), Main Library (62%) and E.C. Doren (61%) placing expanded children’s’ space as important priorities in any improvements considered in the Library’s facilities plan.
The Library asked users about other issues as a part of its planning. The survey unveiled: