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Library survey released: Patrons comment on what is most needed to improve local facility

More new reading materials. More new DVDs, CDs and audio books. More hours of service.

These were the top three items that Bemidji Public Library patrons marked as the most needed improvements to their local library.

A handful of people attended Thursday's follow-up meeting on the Kitchigami Regional Library System's strategic planning process. Consultants released the results of the recent opinion survey and led those in attendance through a planning process to identify key library goals.

Consultants Mark Reidell and Lynne Bertalmio led the session as they filled in for Mark Ranum, who was hired by the KRLS to lead the process. Ranum was recently seriously injured in a car accident and will be unavailable for six to eight weeks, they said.

Reidell presented the results of the survey. While focusing on the local recipients, he also offered the responses for the KRLS. Between the public meetings and the surveys, KRLS had about 1,000 participants, he said. There were 208 respondents from Bemidji, tied for the highest with Brainerd.

"We think we have a very good sample base," he said.

Highlights of the survey include the following (the results of the survey are available at krls.org):

E 60 percent of Bemidji patrons who answered the survey visit the library weekly.

E Almost 70 percent of Bemidji patrons are 18-64 years old.

E A large majority are female.

E Almost 80 percent said they were willing to pay more ($5 annually and up) for improved library service.

Bemidji's responses mirrored the responses systemwide; however, there were some differences.

For instance, more than 52 percent of KRLS respondents said they were "very satisfied" with their library service and one-half of 1 percent said they were "not satisfied." In Bemidji, 46 percent were "satisfied," 40 percent were "very satisfied," 13 percent were "somewhat satisfied" and 1 percent were "not satisfied."

"The satisfaction rate at Bemidji seems to be a little less than the norm," Reidell said, stressing that the survey was taken by those who wished to have their opinions known. Some of the results could be somewhat skewed because of this, he explained. Other factors, such as county demographics, will be taken into consideration.

The majority of specific requests for improvement fell into one of three categories: seniors, marketing and audiovisual. Additionally, there were requests for improvements to what is already offered, Bemidji Librarian Paul Ericcson noted.

"A lot of it is more, more, more," he said, explaining that the KRLS asked its respondents to rank its priorities.

When Bertalmio took over the meeting, she led the group through a planning process that helped identify some goals and assign those to either the KRLS system or the local library.

"What can Kitchi do that it makes sense for Kitchi to do?" she said. "What can Bemidji do that it makes sense for Bemidji to do?"

To accomplish this, she had the group tackle the three subject areas one at a time.

However, what was considered on Thursday was not necessarily a finalized plan. Reidell said it was more of a "template" or a starting point for consideration.

For seniors, participants stressed the importance of staying in contact with those in care centers and nursing homes. The KRLS was asked to develop a large inventory of large-print materials, stimulate seniors' minds and interest in reading perhaps by offering book lists, and utilize software that would offer information on what a particular patron has already read. This software is already available through KRL and needs to be distributed to its branch libraries, it was explained.

The Bemidji library was asked to provide enlarging machines, use its seniors as resources, set up deposits with area senior housing complexes and at the Bemidji Senior Center, organize senior volunteers and offer a listing of similar volunteer groups and their contact information, read to groups at senior housing complexes and host field trips.

For marketing, it was suggested that the KRLS handle communication for large events such as Minnesota's birthday, host regional speakers and events that would be presented at branch libraries, market itself and what it offers and enhance its branding and theme through all of its public relations campaigns.

Locally, the Bemidji library should publicize all local events - and have the information come from a local contact person. Ericcson said the local marketing for the 100th anniversary celebration worked out well.

It was explained that once a new feature is available throughout the KRLS, the Bemidji library could set up a photo opportunity to raise awareness about the impact the new feature could have locally.

Regarding audiovisual items, the group stressed that it wanted help learning about emerging and existing technology. KRLS was asked to develop seminars on educating the public on how to use new technology such as MP3 players, and what the difference is between Blu-Ray and HD DVD disc formats, and offer those seminars locally. Equipment concerns were also listed for the Bemidji library, including the need for a television, an LED projector and headphones.

KRLS already is on the verge of offering downloadable audio books - and once those are available, it was noted that the local branches should offer local classes on how to actually download a book.

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