Update resource guide of local neighborhood services for homeless and low-income community.
Via the SPL intranet, Ballard Branch (and other SPL branches) maintains a resource guide detailing neighborhood and nearby services for the homeless and low-income community the library serves. Ballard Branch staff use this guide to help library patrons find resources for health care, food/hot meals, shower and laundry facilities. My project was to familiarize myself with Ballard's homeless population needs and available services, assess how the resource guide was used and could be improved, and update the resource guide with this knowledge.
To learn more about the homeless and low-income population at Ballard, I did some research. This included talking to my DFW mentor and other Ballard Branch staff about the community and library users. I also read news articles from local newspapers and found MyBallard.com, the neighborhood blog, to be particularly useful in covering the history, events, and topics related to homelessness in Ballard.
For the content aspect of the resource guide, I compared the current listings with those of other SPL branch resource guides for their homeless communities and King County's CrisisClinic.org, an online database of community services. Based on my findings and comparisons, I added a few more sections in the Ballard Branch resource guide to include information on transportation; phone, mail, & communication; and computer and internet/Wi-Fi access.
I also assessed the layout of the resource guide. Since the guide is accessed via the SPL intranet, usually by those working at the Information Desk, it was a goal to make the resource guide as user-friendly as possible--to make helping patrons in crisis more efficiently. With staff feedback in mind, I tried adding some features that would be helpful to those accessing the document via the SPL intranet. Some changes included:
- Adding a table of contents at the beginning of the document that could incorporate HTML jumps to corresponding sections (eliminating need to scroll through whole document.
- Maintaining a uniform style of typing up open hours, street addresses, etc. for ease of reading comprehension.
- Putting the Ballard resources in red-colored font in order to highlight local neighborhood services over those in other Seattle areas which might require a bus ride or other transportation.
This project was completed over the course of my 10-week DFW, with a few drafts and meetings to go over progress.
The updated resource guide was posted to SPL Ballard's intranet.
For purposes of comparison, here's the older version of the resource guide.
Though my learning objective seemed straightforward and simple to me when we first created it, I found updating the resource list to be one of my more challenging tasks and felt stuck numerous times. I hadn't observed anyone, during my time at the Information Desk, access and use the resource guide, so I was having difficulty in my critical analysis of the document and in assessing how to make it more useful. To get past this obstacle, I just started creating drafts and asking for feedback. I kept notes of my questions and suggestions and it was most helpful to schedule dedicated time with my mentor to go over each point. Getting direct answers from her was better than guessing at things myself.
If I had more time, I would have included a more proactive outreach component to this project, including contacting the service-providers included on the resource guide, meeting with interested community members, and seeking potential partnerships in which the library could collaborate.
This learning objective strengthened my skills in community study. In the future when I am developing a similar resource guide or designing a program, I'll be better prepared to learn about my target audience. This was also a lesson for me to not over-think; I was reminded to ask for help when needed but to also have confidence in my work.