A Seven Branch Library System that uses Customer Feedback to determine Future Growth

By Pepper Parr

April 6th, 2023



Seldom is there an opportunity to run a report that has no quibbles, complaints or observations on what could be better.

Lita Barrie. Chief Librarian for a system that has seven branches.

Lita Barrie has made a good library system a better library system.

She followed on the heals of Maureen Barry who saw the system go through very significant growth.

The list of improvements and changes is impressive: Doing a poetry pop up in Civic Square;  the creation of the Makers Space where people get a chance to use some high tech equipment and experiment with 3d printing and using a laser to cut a pattern.

The Library Speakers Consortium brings in, virtually a range of talks from bestselling authors and thought leaders.

In her report to the community she said: “Each and every day the team strives to meet the needs and interests of our customers and our community.

It would be wonderful if there were someone leading what is offered to the Seniors in the city.

The activity level and the innovations were enough to get the the Library on the list of Chamber of Commerce finalists for the 2023 Business Excellence Awards.

“It’s wonderful to have that work recognized by the Burlington business community with this nomination”, she said.

Barrie bases the decisions she makes on the feedback she got from the 2022 Customer Satisfaction Surveys.

She said “it was clear that BPL’s collections and borrowing remain the most important service we provide. While you love the opportunity to take home a wide variety of materials—from books to birding kits—you identified frustrating gaps with wait times, missing items, and lack of selection in some categories.

At the end of 2022, we began a collections project to:

A library is still all about books. Gaps in the collection are being improved.

create ‘missing lists’ of items that were listed in our catalogue but not on our shelves

purchase new copies of items that had gone missing

and fill gaps in series we carry.

“We want to make sure our collection is accurately reflected in our catalogue and we are getting closer to that goal.

“We are also looking for creative solutions to increase your access to material. Last month, we were delighted to add Kingston Frontenac Public Library to our growing “More to Borrow” partnership, which gives you access to e-Books from our five partner libraries. We also recently posted a how-to article about searching for books that are available to borrow immediately.

Ryan works with a woman using some of the equipment available to the public in the Makers Space on the top floor of the Library

“Several other themes emerged from our survey. Many of you are looking for more space for meetings, gatherings and private study and more availability in our popular programs that fill up quickly.

“We hear you. We are exploring solutions to improve in each of these areas, while acknowledging that our customers sometimes have competing needs and preferences.

“Another clear theme from your feedback is that we need your help to spread the word. You mentioned low awareness of some of our services and resources. We recently updated our RESOURCES webpage to better highlight what we offer and are working on a similar upgrade to other parts of our website. We are also highlighting a featured resource in our branches and online each month. With so much information competing for public attention, we’d love your help to get our message out there.

Lita Barrie managed to continue to serve the reading needs and interests of the public during a pandemic that called for that extra effort.

“Word of mouth is a powerful tool. Thank you for continuing to talk about BPL and highlighting the ways you use your library with your friends, family, and social circle.

“Make sure you aren’t missing our emails! With recent changes to spam filters on popular email platforms (particularly Gmail), some customers are missing our holds ready notices and newsletters. If you want to ensure our communication makes it into your inbox, consider adding BPL as a contact, or moving our emails to your “Primary” folder.

The changes in technology has changed the way information is made public.  It’s all there – on line.  What will libraries look like in a decade;  what will Lita Barrie do with the library branch that is expected to be part of the Bateman High school site redevelopment ?

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