15 May 2016

And the survey says...

Thanks to all who participated in the online  Adult Library Programs Survey during April. The sample size was not as large as we had hoped so the results are not statistically significant. However it was not a wasted effort. We learned several things that can inform our adult program offerings as we plan for the rest of 2016 and into 2017.  

Almost 54% of the respondents to the online survey use the Beaufort Branch Library most often. Bluffton Branch users were 22% of the survey sample and Hilton Head Branch users comprised almost 16% of the sample. The least used library location (as expected) was the Beaufort District Collection. (Only 1.27% of the respondents indicated that they use the Beaufort District Collection the most often. We have a limited and unique clientele in comparison to the general public library branches so this answer was not in the least surprising. We also have a large number of non-resident visitors and about half our interactions occur over the Internet or telephone.) Nevertheless, here are some of the findings: 

As regards time of day that adult programs are held, 95% preferred afternoon or evening programs; 34% wanted morning programs. (Respondents could pick more than one option which accounts for the 95% +34 % equaling more than 100%).

The least popular day for programs is Friday (25%); the most popular day for programs is Tuesdays (48%), closely followed by Thursdays (46%)  and Wednesdays (44%). Saturdays came in at 32%.  Sunday was not a choice because none of our libraries are currently open on Sundays. (Respondents could pick more than one option which accounts for the total percentages being more than 100%). Take away: mid-week afternoon programs are the most likely to satisfy Library customers.

The preferences for types of programs survey respondents said that they would attend were varied. Local History came in at #1 with 52% of respondents desirous of "Local History" programs. 40% welcomed adult programs about the Environment/Nature and 27% wanted genealogy related programs. These three categories fall mostly under the BDC's umbrella of programs and services. And overall, the BDC program attendance numbers do tend to be among the highest for Library programs geared towards adults. Average attendance usually clusters between 10 to 12 people per BDC local history program.

Although the Beaufort District Collection is the smallest public service unit of the Library system with a staff of 2, we are the only public service unit that has to do programs in other parts of the Library system. No one working at Hilton Head Branch, for example, has to arrange, coordinate, and host programs at St. Helena Branch Library or vice versa.  The size of our staff, the distance between our physical location and the other branches (Beaufort County is 923 sqm) and our responsibility to keep the Research Room open 22 hours a week makes programming at other locations challenging. Nevertheless the last Strategic Plan stated that the BDC must provide at least one local history, Gullah culture, archaeology, genealogy, natural history and/or preservation program per year at each of the five regular Library branch locations. We have not failed to meet this obligation yet.

We tend to get the highest attendance in the Beaufort Library building whether for a BDC@ BDC program or a BDC@ BEA program. We tend to get good numbers for BDC@ Bluffton and BDC@ St. Helena Branch libraries. We struggle to get average numbers to attend BDC programs at the Hilton Head and Lobeco Branches.

Why? We have lots of competition at those locations.

Hilton Head Island has both the Coastal Discovery Museum and the Heritage Library Foundation which run high quality local history, natural history, Gullah related and genealogy programs on a regular basis. Occasionally we band together to co-sponsor free programs. 

Lobeco Branch is in the most rural part of Northern Beaufort County with many residents still working for their daily bread. Access to transportation is an issue. The meeting space is small. It also has the smallest customer base. On the other hand, for the population size it serves, it is a well used branch library. However, learning about local history, the environment, and genealogy is trumped by more urgent concerns getting access to the internet, putting food on the table, and supporting the educational needs of youth.  

Being open only by advance appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays has certainly made coordinating programs easier for us. Indeed, depending on topics covered, BDC staff schedules and special projects, availability of branch meeting space, and speaker preferences, we may do more than one program a year at some locations. For example, thus far in 2016, the BDC has sponsored 6 programs: 3 have been held in the Gallery outside our Research Room on Saturday afternoons; 2 have been held in the Beaufort Branch, one in the evening, and one from 10 am to 3 pm;  and 1 on a Tuesday afternoon at Bluffton Branch. We're doing "Battle of Sadkeche" at Beaufort Branch on Friday, May 27th at 11:30am in concert with the Beaufort Chapter, ASSC.

Because of the migratory patterns of large segments of our customer base, we have fewer adult programs June - August than in any other 3 months of the year. This summer, the only BDC@ program on the schedule is set for July 19th at Bluffton Branch, a reprise of the Author-Book Talk on A Yankee Scholar with Bob Hester.

We're extending our reach a bit through displays and "Meet-and-Greet"s. The BDC will have a small display at Hilton Head Island Branch in June about Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad, and "contrabands" to supplement the 2016 National Underground Railroad Conference hosted by the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and Friends. Staff will be present at the Humanities Festival during table time to field questions about what we do and have to support deeper study of local history. The South Carolina Historical Society has loaned us a small panel exhibit about the Pollitzer Family. We're adding some of our own materials to it for mid-Summer.

More than a decade ago, Hillary Barnwell (Beaufort Branch Manager/Interim Library Director) led the formation of the Beaufort County Historic Resources Consortium. The BCHRC is made up of people who are responsible for stewardship of historic collections and resources in institutions that are open to the public on a regular and recurrent basis. At present there are almost 20 such organizations here. More than a few offer local history, natural history and/or genealogy programs at their respective locations. Most involve a fee but sometimes a program is offered at no charge to members of the general public. Among those which have regular program schedules are:

When you have a hankering to learn more about local history, natural history, Gullah culture, archaeology, family history and/or preservation of family treasures, check our schedule of free programs first. Then investigate learning opportunities at our sister cultural heritage organizations. 

Believe it or not, some Fall 2016 programs are already on my calendar. If there is some particular local history, family history, nature, archaeology, preservation, local non-fiction author or film  program that you'd like for me to look into, please send your suggestions to me at gracec@bcgov.net
at your earliest convenience. We set the Fall program schedule by mid-July.

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