Needs Assessment

A needs assessment process reveals the influences acting on the library. Information collected shapes the services and programs that best fit the library’s strengths and budget. Ultimately, it informs a vision for future development.

Results of a needs assessment can be used in a variety of situations:

  • Commencing a strategic planning process
  • Determining change in a user community
  • Making changes in a library’s collection, services, etc.
  • Determining adequacy of facilities, technology, etc.
  • Establishing satisfactory staffing patterns and library hours

Essential Data:

  • Local information and demographics cited from Census/ vital statistic records, library statistics, community development plans, and/or other existing data sources. Collect census figures about:
    • economic levels
    • family size
    • ethnic backgrounds
    • ages
    • education
    • occupations
  • Internal (library) & external (community) scanning results
  • Community input
  • Analysis of data (ex: identification of common threads or issues)
  • Library vision statement linking data to the library’s direction

Data Collection Options:

Careful consideration should be given to which data collection techniques are employed. Using only one technique may provide limited information while using too many can be expensive and time consuming. The online resources below provide several articles with pros and cons of the various techniques.

  • Surveys: mail, telephone, e-mail
  • SWOT exercise
  • Key informants
  • Community forum/Focus group
  • Census and/or public records
  • Citizen advisory groups
  • Town meeting
  • Being out in the community and listening



ICFL Library Consultant

New Pathways to Planning

Needs Assessment Strategies

Montana Department of Commerce Needs Assessment Tools

Library Research Service
Resources for Community Analysis – Colorado and National

Community Survey Form

WebJunction article – Community Analysis and Knowledge Management -

Statistics: library services, circulation, collection, general output measures

Data: census figures, community analysis, results of surveys or studies made by the library and/ or other community agencies and institutions

People: staff, community leaders, Friends, Idaho Commission for Libraries

Groups: counties, municipalities, schools, regional planning agencies, colleges and universities with information to share
Community Cooperation: attend public meetings and listen to the needs; make presentations to organized groups; prepare exhibits and displays in the library and other locations

Staff Meetings: input from the "front line"

Professional Consultants (especially moving toward a building program): professional methods and the benefits of experience

Media: press, radio, and television

Other Libraries: find out what has worked for others, best practices

Library Literature: newsletters, professional journals, etc.
Idaho Library Association