AT JCPL, we benchmark our performance against libraries like ours in communities like ours. It's an important part of putting our performance into perspective.
When folks enter our libraries, they generally have a positive experience. Our staff are trained and dedicated to providing excellent customer service, regardless of the challenges we may be facing behind the scenes.
Last week I talked about our ongoing budget challenges. The worst part of our financial challenge is the fact that years of operating on a shoestring have had a major impact on our performance -- especially when you compare us to our library peers.
Most people don't see this. When we polled Jeffco residents, we learned that:
• a majority of those polled believe we're doing a good job;
• they believe our customer service is great; and
• a majority have no awareness of our budget challenges.
The benchmarking data tells a different story.
We've been operating in survival mode for so long, our service has declined to dangerously low levels. Other metro area public libraries are able to offer access to better technology, including better software programs, laptops for check-out, mobile applications and more. Here, we struggle to provide basic services. We're providing access to Microsoft Office 7, while others have moved on to Microsoft Office 13; our public access computers are running on Windows 7, while others are running on Windows 10 or 12; and the number of public access computers we provide to Jeffco residents places us in the bottom quartile of performance.
Sadly, JCPL is performing at or below the 25th percentile in other key performance measures as well, including:
• hours open;
• materials per capita;
• eBooks per 1,000 people served;
• square footage per capita; and
• full time equivalents (FTEs) per 1,000 people served.
Because we're open so few hours, we also rank in the bottom quartile for the number of early literacy storytimes we're able to offer, the number of reference transactions (per capita) we're able to process, and the number of Jeffco residents who participate in Summer Reading.
When we shared this data with community leaders, we heard the words "troubling", "appalling" and "embarrassing".
I have my own word for it: tragic.
Going forward, we need sufficient financial resources to be able to deliver a more responsible level of service, and we look forward to the day when we can give Jeffco residents the level of services they need and deserve.