“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.”
– Lady Bird Johnson
Public libraries are important community places. Their contemporary social impact is reflected in growing patronage, updated visions, and an extended list of services that they provide.
“Their essential purpose of helping to realize the value of preserving and organizing the record of human existence has remained relatively constant,” says Bharat Mehra, Associate Professor of Information Sciences. “The form and uses of that record, however, are subject to the contradictory nature of human needs and desires, as well as to the changing sociocultural, sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and technological developments.”
Such dynamic conditions require extreme adaptability from those who manage and work in public libraries. In the face of modern challenges, some public libraries have begun to apply more business-like strategies, adopting a user-centric philosophy and incorporating new outcome and impact measures in their assessment and evaluation practices.
User-centered assessment and evaluation of services is extremely important to public libraries, which often have to articulate their value to the public, whose taxes support them.
To assist public libraries in their mission to stay current and relevant, graduate students in UT’s public library service-learning course focus on systematically collecting service evaluation feedback from a broad variety of public library users.
“To me as an educator,” concludes Mehra, “‘making a difference’ means helping students apply their knowledge, skills, and experiences towards making the world a better place for themselves and for others. Providing learning opportunities to students while exploring community ties is one effort in this regard towards making a difference in ways that are meaningful to the student and to the broader society and community.”
Bharat Mehra (865-974-5917, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Elizabeth Burman (865-974-8363, email@example.com)