Student Learning Objective 4
The student designs services to meet the information needs of all users and communities.
The information needs of every individual are unique in their totality, but some groups of individuals possess a significant block of common needs to which services should be designed. Understanding the community and users served by a given library is a key step in meeting their needs. General knowledge of the community such as basic demographic information is a good place to start. However, many libraries serve a specific subset of the community as is the case for a library in a middle school. One cannot ignore the larger community when serving a subset of that community, but services need to target the intended users rather than the community at large. Ensuring all people are served appropriately requires awareness of exceptional situations, for example, people with vision problems or mobility issues. Diversity in cultural background also affects the design of services and structure of the collection. The design of services needs to convey to each user they are welcome in the library and the services reflect the fact each user is valued.
Addressing diversity and the multicultural nature of the community was an aspect of the school library website project in the collection development class. A particular item need not reflect the culture of the patron to be useful, but when possible it can enhance the experience for the patron and make the meaning of the information more clear. Utilizing tools such as census information to help the nature of the collection reflect the community it serves is one way to meet the needs of all users.
Some users have needs unique to specific characteristics. English language learners need books that help them apply English to concepts they already understand. A combination of complexity of ideas expressed with learning language in mind is found in some books, but it takes targeted effort to identify such materials. Other users may struggle with dyslexia or poor vision and audio books and other such resources in the collection are important to meeting their needs. Special needs in the community are not always obvious so actively investigating the needs of the community is important.
In a school setting the collection should focus on the age grouped served by the school. There are obvious information needs related to the curriculum, but students have needs beyond they classroom that should not be overlooked. Identifying and studying authors who write with particular age readers in mind enables a librarian to point students to books they will enjoy. Understanding young adult readers was a particular focus for me in my studies since I work in a school setting. Young adult readers do have particular characteristics in what they like, but they are also as diverse as the communities from which they come.
Students are not the only patrons of the library in a school. Teachers also have information needs for lesson development as well as professional growth. Ensuring access to current materials and research is an important consideration for school library collections. As with every group of humans teachers are also a diverse group and understanding that diversity should not be ignored in meeting their needs any more than when meeting the needs of students or the wider community.
When conducting an assessment of library services one question to always ask, “is anyone not represented in the collection and services?” If the question is not actively considered, undoubtedly some potential patrons will not have their needs met. Knowing the community and its needs does not happen without research and outreach. Communities are not static so regular updating of community knowledge is required. Knowing the patrons and knowing the collection is key to meeting information needs.