In order to ensure that community thoughts and preferences were clearly heard, a survey of Buda area residents concerning library needs and desires was conducted for 6 weeks during the months of May and early June, 2016. The survey was heavily promoted by the Buda Library and the City of Buda through a wide variety of communications channels and organizations. This resulted in feedback from 1,515 individuals, a gratifyingly large percentage of area residents.
The demographics of these adult respondents are consistent and closely aligned with Census profiles of the area. Almost two-thirds, 62%, live within the city limits of Buda, while the other third live in surrounding areas also served by the Buda Library.
Survey Results - Highlights
- Survey respondents - Demographically, the survey participants mirror the adult Buda population fairly closely. Those living in the city limits, as well as commuters, are well represented. Two thirds of respondents live within the Buda city limits. There are no significant differences between Buda city residents and those living in the general area.
- Library visits - 84% of respondents have a library card and 60% visit the library at least once a month; however commuters and men visit less frequently. Adults 65 and over have the highest frequency of library usage. 60% come into the library to look around and browse, 40% come for something specific.
- Anticipated demand - All respondents are eagerly anticipating using the new library more than the current one, both online and in person. This is true even for 45-54 year olds who otherwise indicate their on-site library use has diminished over the last 3 years. A substantial number of write-in comments indicate respondents don’t use the current Buda Library because they are “new in town.”
- Which library card - 84% of respondents have a Buda Public Library card or Buda’s plus another. The most prevalent other library cards held are from Austin and Kyle.
- Favorite Elements of Buda Public Library - Location, friendly employees, kid friendly/activities
- Elements of Buda Public Library that need improvement - Size of facility, selection, comfort
- Favorite elements of other libraries - Programs/selection, size
Hopes for the New Library
- A perfect library - By far, participants describe the perfect library as having a good variety/selection of materials and being welcoming.
- When to visit - Not surprisingly, in a community where eight in ten children live in households where all parents work, the most popular weekday times to visit the library are late afternoons and evenings. A large percentage of respondents, particularly women with children, prefer Saturday or Sunday hours. There is as much, or more, demand for early Sunday afternoons as any other time slot in the week.
- Tech at the library - 82% of respondents indicate that they will use their own e-devices at the new library. With regard to library tech, people want to find something to read/watch/listen to, print from websites, read e-books, and learn new tech tools.
- Website/Catalog - Many respondents want to pay fines and update their library accounts online.
A large and varied selection of library materials is one of the most desired benefits of the new library. This especially includes books, e-books, movies, and audiobooks with downloadables becoming more popular. In spite of a large Hispanic population, Spanish materials, with the exception of children’s books, are not in demand.
- Skills - Though preferences vary widely by gender and age, research, reading, gardening and visual arts are the overall picks.
- Youth programs - Among women with children under 18, the most popular programs are art clubs, hobby clubs and STEM programs, though there is healthy demand for many more.
- Adult programs - There is significant interest in many library program offerings, varying greatly by demographics, but hobby clubs, book clubs, art classes and health/wellness programs top the list overall.
- We have high confidence in applying these findings to the plans. The data is consistent and respondents across the board align closely with Buda city demographics.
- The current BPL has loyal and loving fans!The vast majority of respondents hold library cards and 60% visit the Buda Library monthly or more. Open-ended feedback was very positive, particularly about library staff. Expanding the collection and strategically increasing the number of programs will be key. It will also be critical to train new staff to the standards of current customer-service driven operations.
- Communication = connection - A small but very insistent group is asking for more communication from the library. They see the library as a place that can tell them what’s new, what’s going on in their community, how to find what they want, and how to practice new skills. Those who haven’t visited the library yet are often brand new to Buda.
- Both onsite and online experience are even more important for the new library. Respondents are very much looking forward to more space, comfier chairs, and a bigger selection of materials of all kinds in the new library. Books, e-books and downloadable movies and audiobooks will be in particular demand. They also want to take advantage of all the technologies available on the website and catalog including paying fines and updating library accounts.
- Searching vs. browsing - While technology makes it easy to get items in demand into the hands of searchers - those who know exactly what they want & reserve it ahead of time - it is worth ensuring that library policies leave items on the shelves for the 60% of respondents who come into the library to browse.
- Expanding hours of operation must be seriously considered. Weekday evenings and Sunday late afternoons are two of the most preferred times/days for using the new library. Almost 80% of Buda residents with children under 18 work outside of the home and yet three-quarters of survey respondents with children under 13 and half with teens from 13-18 make the effort to visit the library at least monthly.
- Healthy tension between “quiet” and “interesting” as it relates to “welcoming.” The atmosphere desired is clearly “welcoming”, a factor that is already a favorite aspect of the current library. This speaks strongly to a friendly face at the information/return desk at the front of the library. However, when dealing with patrons of all ages, the new library will have to find the right balance between serenity for quiet reading with more dynamic elements.
- Technology marches on. While some respondents will continue to use library computers, the majority will bring their own devices with them. The library may not need many more public computers but all those cell phones, tablets, laptops will require strong wi-fi connections and lots of power outlets.
- Expand programs to focus on arts, hobbies, books and health and wellness. These program areas have strong appeal across all age groups, including women with children under 18. Even respondents between the ages of 45 and 64, a group often busy with jobs and grown children, would like to participate in evening book clubs, hobby groups, or wellness classes.
- Spanish classes, not materials - There is not a strong demand for Spanish materials, with the exception of children’s books. However, classes to learn Spanish were called out open-ended across many age groups.