North Suffolk Public Library Observations

The Space and Physical Access

July 7th, 2022 In this photo you can see the book drop off boxes under the left arch, and the free library in front of the center right column of the arches which lead to the front entrance of the building. Also visible are the sidewalks, outdoor benches, & bike rack.

The North Suffolk Library is a large single story brick building located in a residential community. It also houses some local government offices: Treasurer’s Office and Commissioner of the Revenue. Outside there are two reserved parking spaces for library curbside pickup, two book collection boxes for returns, and a newspaper dispenser that has been converted into a little free library. There are outdoor benches, sidewalks, a small bike rack, and city buses frequently are stopped at the doors or parked in the back of the parking lot. Wi-Fi is accessible in the parking lot and lobby before entering the technical library space.

Inside there are a number of public computers. Automatic sliding doorways are wide enough to be accessed by patrons of diverse abilities. The children’s room is also accommodating to younger patrons by having lower bookshelves. The dedicated “quiet study space” has five individual desks with chairs, a four person table, and two additional padded chairs with armrests. That space is helpful, but there is not an actual room available for reservation. What is available to reserve is a temporary partition wall to section off part of the public lobby that is shared with the Treasurer’s and Commissioner’s offices. It can still be very loud there, which is not conducive to productivity. This is unfortunate for those attempting to use the library to conduct interviews or meetings (virtually or in person).

Services and Intellectual Access

Suffolk Public Library’s YouTube page has a variety of content for users of various ages. Some videos include: “storytimes” targeted at children, art projects for teens, adult job seeker supports, and related to family events like iconicon or food-fun. The library is organized by the Dewey Decimal System, and the library catalog is accessible online and on many self-serve computers throughout the building. Children are clearly welcome in the space, as there is a whole dedicated children’s room with a large portion dedicated to toys and space for play. Surprisingly, the teen space is rather limited, with only a few rows of literature as a subsection within the adult room. These rows are right next to the bank of public computers, and there are no comfy lounge or reading areas. This is surprising, because, “[i]ndividuals between ages 14 and 24 make up 25% of all public library users” (Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 143). Suffolk Public Library has great programming for teens so it seems incongruent to not have a space for them in the actual library.

July 5th, 2022. This image depicts the lack of dedicated teen space in the YA section of the library. The space behind the rows of Young Adult materials is open and sectioned off for library program use, for instance a children’s lap sit program was occurring there during my visit.

People (Patrons and Staff)

The library caters to the public, children, and English Language Learners as is evident by the flyers advertising events and classes available for patrons. These resources indicate this library is, “a community hub and center for lifelong learning as well as a place for … language building” (Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 111). I saw young children attending programming, an elderly couple reading, young adults working on computers, and a caregiver instructing a child working on homework (Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 133). The staff composition also reflects a diversity: there are men and women, young and old, as well as a variety of ethnic groups represented. I saw staff help patrons find materials, check out, and casually conversing.

July 5th, 2022. This image shows part of the dedicated study space. I saw a child & caregiver working on homework together at the four person table.

Digital Access

The Suffolk Public Library website (https://www.suffolkpubliclibrary.com/) is fairly easy to navigate, though could use some refinement for improved user experience. For instance, if you want to request and interlibrary loan or suggest a title be added to the collection, you cannot do so within your account where you search and reserve holdings within the collection, you have to access a form on their contact us page. On that page you may also submit a form leaving a comment or asking a general question, ask about Suffolk local history, request genealogy help, request outreach services, or schedule a meeting with a librarian (discovery appointment). Under the “Library Location & Hours” tab their phone contact is listed (757)514-7150. They also have active social media accounts on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, all of which are linked on the righthand side within the website’s footer. Online services include access to eBooks, audiobooks, eMagazines, music, and movies/TV via Hoopla and Libby. Regarding accessibility design they specify that they, “work to comply with Section 508 as well as WCAG 2.0 A and AA referring to website accessibility standards” (Suffolk Public Library, 2022, para. 2).

Collections

Book displays, “support[ing] social justice and protect[ing] human rights”, also suggest Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is present (Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 115). The children’s display section depicted characters representative of a broad variety of ethnicities and ability. In the adult displays there were both a pride display and a military appreciation curation.

As far as technology, there are lots of computers available for use within the library and some wi-fi to go kits. Some additional special collections they advertise on the website include: Adventure2Go Kits, BookClub2Go Kits, Cake Pan Collection, Crocheting Kit, Knitting Kit, Letter Kits, Litter Cleanup Kits, and World Languages Collections.

Other

There are some things I am left wondering about after this visit. I wish I knew more about the staff, because the website doesn’t have any staff information, nor do staff wear name tags. For instance, I wonder what their specific titles are or wish that some duties related to their positions were available online. I am also curious, given the success they seem to have engaging patrons, if they are doing anything to promote, “unity by constructively involving people in democratic discourse” (Kranich, 2017, as cited in Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 120)? That is, are they facilitating strong democracy, or merely providing information (Kranich, 2017, as cited in Rubin & Rubin, 2020, p. 121)?

References

Rubin, R. E., & Rubin, R. G. (2020). Foundations of library and information science (5th ed.). ALA Neal-Schuman

Suffolk Public Library, (2022). Website Accessibility. Retrieved on July 5, 2022 from https://www.suffolkpubliclibrary.com/accessibility

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Theresa O'Byrne says:

    I personally dislike the Suffolk library website. It’s been a point of frustration for me since we moved here in 2016! Your analysis was great. You pointing out the lack of teen space was insightful. I have been going to this library for years and never once thought about space for teens.

    1. kmill069 says:

      Theresa,
      I’m curious as to what you dislike about the website? I personally really dislike the calendar feature, especially when I am on a mobile device like my phone. I feel like it’s essentially non-functional. However, the website overall compared to say Hampton public libraries website is a dream in my opinion. I too have been going to this location for years, and hadn’t considered the lack of teen space before this assignment.

      1. Jordan Fowler says:

        I feel like teen spaces are still something libraries are struggling with. We have a nice dedicated space in my library now, but part of that is because a former teen who loved hanging out in our old teen space sadly passed away and their family donated to us to create a space for teens in her honor. It used to be a few booths in a corner upstairs. I think a lot of libraries still struggle to figure out exactly how best to engage their teen customers and the ones that are still trying to figure it out usually seem to be a bit lacking in the teen areas. I would like to see their attendance or circulation data for teens as well, maybe it’s small because they don’t happen to get a lot of teens here?

        1. kmill069 says:

          Yeah I don’t know what those attendance/circulation numbers are, but it would be interesting to see. I feel like they have a decent amount of programming for teens though, but maybe virtual attendance is higher for those?

  2. Tina Richard says:

    I’m surprised there are no rooms that can be reserved or a real dedicated quiet area. Using a temporary partition to wall off part of the lobby doesn’t sound very private or quiet.

  3. Liz Weidner says:

    It is unfortunate that the teen space is so limiting. As Jordan mentioned in her comments too, why is this such a struggle for public libraries to provide spaces for teens? I also find it curious why public libraries generally don’t have staff wearing name tags, or have desk plates with their titles at their locations, or why they are not listed on the website. Public schools have staff names, titles, and email addresses on websites, why don’t public libraries have this information public?

  4. sedwa032 says:

    That’s weird that no one wears name tags. Is there a way you know the staff actually work there? I do like the fact that they have a YouTube page with lots of informational and story time videos.

    1. kmill069 says:

      They are usually at desks or stations of some sort, and I’ve been going long enough that I recognize most all of them now honestly.

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