Needs Assessment

Information on Needs Assessment is part of the Plan of Service required by the Public Library Services Branch of Municipal Affairs.

What is a Needs Assessment?
A needs assessment is a way to measure the gap between what exists now and what is needed. For a public library board, three things are required:

  • A profile of the library including what collections and services the library currently provides
  • A profile of the community that the library serves
  • A careful comparison of these two profiles

If the two profiles match, there is little or no gap between what is and what should be. If the profiles only match in certain spots, the gaps show unmet needs in your community for library services. Any overlaps on the profiles point out possible duplication of activities and the library board may consider phasing out unneeded library services.

How can I assess my community's library needs?
There are four methods your board can use to assess the community's library needs. These are:

  • Records and data: examine available information to gain facts about the library and the community using Statistics Canada census statistics, Alberta Municipal Affairs, local area studies and plans, library records and Polaris statistics.
  • Questionnaires and surveys tailored to what you want to learn about your community.
  • Focused small group discussions or focus groups asking people for information and ideas about the library.
  • Interviews talking to key individuals and/or groups in the community to get their opinions.

What do I do with the information I've gathered?
Now it's time to decide what action should take place as a result of the information you've gathered. To do this, the information must be analyzed and interpreted.

1. Compare your library and community profiles

  • Assemble the data about the community and library in an easy-to-understand format.
  • Determine relationships between library and community i.e. If you have the population figures broken down by age and the library circulation broken down into adult, YA and children's circulation, you can calculate the circulation for the different age groups.
  • You might also want to look at other libraries and library / community growth statistics of a similar-sized community.

Do any themes emerge? A more complete picture of how the library is meeting / not meeting community needs will begin to emerge.

2. Set goals and objectives

  • Set for the future, both immediate (up to one year) and for a longer time frame (up to five years).
  • A goal is a general statement of what your library intends to accomplish; a general direction in which to proceed. Goals are general but achievable statements of intent.
  • Objectives are activities which are measurable and have a time limit. An objective states what will happen, within what time frame, and includes how we will know when it is achieved in order to achieve a goal.

3. Prepare an Action Plan

  • An Action Plan tells how you are going to make your objectives happen. For each objective, prepare an action plan. This plan will state:
    • What will happen
    • By when
    • What money, materials and human resources are required
    • What specific person or group will be responsible for carrying out the plan

If you need further information and/or assistance, please contact the Client Service Librarians.