(as described in the Proposal to Conduct a Study of Public Library Development in Texas by Himmel & Wilson)
Phase I – Discovery
Phase I will provide the entire consulting team with the opportunity to gain a basic understanding of the Texas library landscape. While our team includes individuals with a good knowledge of Texas library history, we understand that we must have a thorough knowledge of the current situation and of initiatives, plans, and programs that are already in progress. During this phase, the consultants will review background information provided by the TSLAC staff and will generate a series of questions intended to clarify our understanding of what is and what is in the process of unfolding in Texas libraries. This study comes at an excellent time in that there has been a recent evaluation of the implementation of the Federal Library Services and Technology Act program in Texas and that a new five-year plan has recently been developed. While the consultants will go well beyond an examination of these documents and will be reviewing information at the individual program level, the LSTA documents will prove invaluable to the consultants in gaining a basic understanding of existing conditions.
After the consultants review background documentation (written documents, websites, etc.), the set of questions mentioned above will be generated and presented to the TSLAC Director. All seven consultants will contribute to the list of questions; however, the co-principal consultants will eliminate duplicate questions and will refine the document. We would ask that these questions be reviewed by TSLAC staff and that they respond with a list of individuals who might offer additional information and clarification on the questions/issues raised. This list will be reviewed and refined in consultation with the TSLAC Director to eliminate needless duplication and to enhance the consultants’ opportunity to gain a thorough knowledge of the current and emerging environment in which library services are offered. The co-principal consultants will then conduct a series of personal interviews with the individuals who are identified. Some of these interviews will be conducted in person and others will take place over the telephone.
Following this series of interviews, the consultants will use demographic data and library statistics provided by TSLAC to generate a series of chart, graphs, and geographic information system maps that illustrate existing conditions. We have found that new insights often emerge when demographic and library input and output measures are overlaid. We will also make use of Federal State Cooperative System data to generate peer comparisons, which will be presented in both graphic and tabular formats. Based on a draft report showing these comparisons, the consultants will work with TSLAC staff to identify four states for follow-up interviews with state librarians and/or senior library development staff to garner more information about factors that influence their relative placement in relation to Texas. We typically encourage state library agencies to include the two top performing states on specific measures of interest in addition to regional and/or demographic peers. This is because we believe that the primary purpose of the peer analysis process is to identify factors that allow certain states to excel.
The final element of the discovery phase of the project will be the consultants’ first meeting with the Library Development Study Steering Committee. We envision this meeting to be a full-day meeting with the majority of the consulting team, key TSLAC staff, and the entire Steering Committee in attendance. The consultants will start the session by presenting what we think we know at this early stage of the process. We will draw on the background review, the individual interviews, and on the demographic/library statistics analysis to develop this presentation. The primary purpose of the day will be to further clarify and enhance the consultants’ understanding of the library landscape before proceeding to the field.
The meeting will also be used to discuss and refine the specific data collection efforts that are envisioned as Phase II activities.
Phase II – Data Gathering
The data-gathering phase will involve all seven consultants and will utilize several different information-gathering techniques. We propose to hold a total of approximately forty focus groups in twenty different locations throughout the State. The purpose of presenting the list below is simply to demonstrate the fact that we intend to talk to members of the library community in every corner of the State. We propose the following list of locations as tentative sites; however, we are more than willing to consider alternatives.
- Corpus Christi
- El Paso
- Ft. Worth/Denton
- Mt. Pleasant/Paris
- San Antonio
- Wichita Falls
Approximately half of the focus groups will involve public library directors. The balance of the sessions will target other library stakeholders including library trustees, members of library “Friends” organizations, and a few targeted public groups. The consultants will determine the exact distribution of focus groups in consultation with the project Steering Committee. Noticeably absent from the list above are public officials and staff members of individual libraries and regional public library systems. We intend to gather information from these individuals using alternative methods. We propose to make a site visit to each of the ten regional library system headquarters locations. Appropriate system staff will be interviewed individually or in small groups at this time. A sample of local officials such as city managers and elected representatives of library funding entities will be interviewed during these site visits as well.
We will ask TSLAC to assist us in finding suitable locations for focus group sessions. We expect that most will be held in public libraries and we will make the final arrangements for the sessions. Our expectation of TSLAC will be to help us identify good potential sites (locations with meeting rooms and adequate parking) and to make an initial contact with the library to lend credibility to our request when we follow-up to make meeting arrangements.
Each of the seven consultants will be assigned to visit between four and six public libraries in the area of the State in which they are conducting focus group sessions. A total of approximately 35 libraries will be visited. Libraries of all different sizes will be identified for these site visits. The purpose of the visits is to provide the consultants with a reasonable sample of the range of facilities, services, technology and overall conditions that exist in the Texas library community. The consultants will work with TSLAC and with the Steering Committee members to identify libraries for site visits. We intend to make it clear to the library community that these visits are not for the purpose of evaluating individual libraries. Rather, the purpose is to better understand the challenges faced by Texas libraries.
Mr. Waters will develop a simple checklist assessment tool to be used by the consultants in assessing facilities. Mr. Wilson will develop a similar brief survey regarding technology. Dr. Himmel will do the same in regard to library services. Each of the seven consultants will complete all three of these assessment sheets during their library site visits. Consultants will also shoot approximately six digital photos at each of the libraries that illustrate specific findings. The photographs of the libraries (a total of approximately 200) will be burned on CDs. The consultants will provide copies of the CD to TSLAC and to each of the Steering Committee members.
Public library staff members will also have an opportunity to share their thoughts on how library services might be improved as part of the data-gathering process. The primary method that will be used to gather this information will be a series of web-based surveys; each targeting specific groups. For example, separate surveys will be developed for children’s/youth services staff and for reference/information staff. Two somewhat more “generic” staff surveys will also be developed to provide a vehicle for gathering the ideas and opinions of “all-purpose” library staff members (often from smaller libraries) and from support staff. A total of approximately six web surveys are envisioned. Himmel & Wilson will host the surveys on our web site so the results can be fed directly into a database in our offices; however, we will require the cooperation of TSLAC and of the regional library systems in advertising the availability of the surveys through listservs, newsletter announcements, etc. Himmel & Wilson has conducted well over 100 web-based surveys in the past. Print-on-paper versions of the surveys will be available for those who prefer not to use the electronic means of submitting their responses, although our experience shows that the vast majority of responses will be submitted on the web.
Phase III – Data Analysis
The co-principal consultants, Bill Wilson and Ethel Himmel, will be responsible for most of the data analysis. While the individual consultants will submit notes of focus groups meetings and reports on site visits, Mr. Wilson and Dr. Himmel will compile this information into a summary report that will be shared with the TSLAC and the project steering committee electronically. Each of the consultants will also receive copies of these materials for their review and comments.
Dr. Himmel and Mr. Wilson will also compile summary reports of individual interviews and will analyze and generate statistical and narrative summaries of the survey findings. These reports will also be shared with TSLAC and with Steering Committee members. Again, each of the consultants will review and provide comments on the summary reports.
Phase IV – Synthesis
We recognize that data gathering is only a small portion of this project. The “meat” of the study is the development of a plan for improving and enhancing library and information services in the State. We propose to involve the Texas library community in a significant way during the synthesis phase of the project.
The synthesis phase will begin with a second meeting between with the project steering committee. The meeting will be used to review the results of the data-gathering phase and to begin the development of a plan of action. The consultants will use a variety of techniques ranging from scenario building to “forced choice” exercises to identify both directions and to prioritize goals. The scenario building process creates exaggerated frameworks within which to consider decisions and actions. Creating these alternate scenarios often provides insights into appropriate courses of action in spite of an uncertain future. The goal of scenario building is the identification directions that will perform well under a variety of different circumstances.
The results of this important meeting with the Steering Committee will form the basis of a series of meetings with members of the library community to be held in four locations in the State.
Four of the meetings will be regional replicas of the meeting with the Steering Committee. The consultants will use the scenario building technique as well as other methods to determine whether members of the library community in all regions of the State reach the same kind of conclusions that were reached by the Steering Committee, which represents a statewide point of view. In addition to involving stakeholders in the process, the purpose of these sessions is to determine whether there are important regionally based needs and concerns that have not been addressed.
Reports of these sessions will be shared with TSLAC, the Steering Committee and the full consulting team for comments.
Based on the comments received, the entire consultant team will collaborate in preparing the first set of draft recommendations. These recommendations will be shared electronically with TSLAC and with the Steering Committee.
After receiving input from TSLAC and the Steering Committee on the first draft, the consultants will facilitate a series of “town-hall” meetings. These sessions, like the scenario building sessions will be held in four different sections of the State. One of the sites for the “town-hall” meetings will be at the Texas Library Association meeting in Houston in April, 2003. The consultants will present a set of draft recommendations based on all of the work conducted to date at these sessions. Anyone with interest in the future of public libraries in Texas will be invited to attend these sessions and to offer their opinions and ideas regarding the draft recommendations.
Phase V – Refinement
A second draft of the findings and recommendations document will be developed and shared with the TSLAC and the Steering Committee after the completion of the “town-hall” meetings. Comments, opinions, and ideas shared in the “town-hall” sessions will be reflected in this draft. After review and comment by the Steering Committee, the consultants will begin the development of the draft of the final report.
Mr. Waters will work closely with Dr. Himmel and Mr. Wilson during this phase of the project. Mr. Waters will be developing the cost estimates that will be included in the draft final version of the report. A draft of these cost estimates will be shared with TSLAC and with the Steering Committee before the final version of the report is prepared. Some modifications may be made to the recommendations at this point if costs are deemed excessive. Mr. Morrison will review the draft and the cost estimates and will offer ideas for partnerships that might allow TSLAC to accomplish its goals more effectively and/or at a lower cost. Mr. Gomez will review the draft and cost documents to identify goals/recommendations that might be of interest to alternative funding sources such as granting entities and foundations.
The draft final report including costing data will then be generated and will be presented at the July TSLAC meeting. The final version of the report will be prepared following the presentation and will incorporate any changes or editing requested by the Commission.