Sparking Interest in Community Assessment

Trying to convince others that conducting a community assessment is a good idea? Sometimes just giving them a "taste" of the process can whet their appetite for more.

What is community assessment?

Community assessment helps identify the assets and the needs within a community. By conducting a community assessment, libraries can identify the needs and interests of their communities and use those to determine program, service, and resource priorities. The community assessment process involves collecting data, defining needs based on that data, and then making a plan to address the priority needs.

The Group Exercise

Like almost anything worth doing, community assessment requires time and effort. Conducting an assessment as a team is a good idea, but sometimes it can be hard to convince others of the value of the process. If you are part of a group or team that you feel could benefit from a community assessment and you would like to help others see the potential, try this brief exercise with your group.

  1. Find data about your community. There are many, many places to find data, but American Fact Finder on the Census website is a good place to start. Look up your community there.
  2. After each group member has quickly reviewed the data, first ask people to discuss the following questions. What did you find interesting? What surprised you? And then ask, What are the implications for library services?

This activity will almost certainly spark interesting conversations. It will also most likely lead to questions... questions about the data and curiosity to know more about what it means and how it might impact library programs, services, and resources. And thus, the desire for deeper community assessment is born!

Edge Resources

As we have previously mentioned on our blog, the Edge Initiative will launch nationally in January 2014. Right now, seven state library agencies have been selected to participate in a "soft launch". Select libraries in those seven states are currently testing the Edge assessment tool and resources. To support their process, the selected libraries can also enroll in training that will guide them in using their results for planning, advocacy, and outreach activities to enhance as well as build technology services. One of the training module topics is Community Assessment and Planning and this post is based upon an exercise from that course. At this time, the training modules are only available to libraries participating in the soft launch, however, resources for that course are accessible now and may be useful to you as you consider conducting a community assessment for your community.