Subject:                       The Greenboro District Library: An Evaluation of Ottawa Public Library’s ‘Library of the Future’


Prepared by:               Dave Thomas, Manager, Greenboro District Library


Prepared for:              Ottawa Public Library Board


Meeting of:                  October 27, 2008


Date of preparation:   September 3, 2008





The Greenboro District Library opened its doors on June 7, 2006. Responding to public pressure for a library that had been growing in south Ottawa since the 1980s, it was Ottawa Public Library’s first new library since municipal amalgamation in 2001. The Greenboro District Library is groundbreaking in a number of ways and is a pilot project for the evolution of public service at Ottawa Public Library.


In recognition of the trends in public libraries, Greenboro was designed as a ‘library of the future’, a concept pioneered in Canada by Richmond (B.C.) Public Library. Their Deputy Chief Librarian, Cate McNeely, served as a consultant in the planning of Greenboro.


The essence of the ‘library of the future’ concept is one of efficiency in terms of high outputs (use, customer satisfaction) and low inputs (low costs, value for taxpayers’ money). In more concrete terms, this means providing library service that meets users’ needs (popular collections, convenience, and an attractive and welcoming environment) and taking advantage of technology to enhance service and focus staff efforts on value added service.


The accompanying report evaluates the success of the Greenboro District Library to the end of 2007. Both quantitative and qualitative criteria are used. Each criterion is explained and an evaluation made of each.




§         A splendid building, which works well, despite some failings (for example, the need for a staff presence for customer service nearer the entrance)

§         A well-used facility with a number of key features of convenience for users ( for example, the ‘powerwall’ merchandising displays)

§         A popular collection with a high turnover rate

§         Staff who are highly rated by the public

§         Good ratings from users, both formal and informal







Greenboro’s experience suggests that we would do well as a system to pursue the following to at least the same extent as has been done at Greenboro:




Areas of focus for new and/or existing facilities on based on Greenboro’s experience:






§         Working on plans to add a staff presence in the entrance area for improved customer service in 2009

§         Installing a ceiling-mounted wide-screen display to welcome people and provide directional and program information in 2008

§         Trying to maximize the draw of face-out displays and the ‘powerwall’ by frequent changes of thematic displays to highlight under-circulating material

§         Increasing the amount of sloping shelving for ‘face-out’ display throughout the collection in 2008

§         Working on plans to move the ‘powerwall’ to a more prominent location in 2009

§         Adding lighting to areas where lighting is lacking

§         Formalizing the ‘roving’ reference concept to ensure that staff ‘rove’ for improved customer service


























Prepared by Dave Thomas
Manager, Greenboro District Library


JUNE 2008





Greenboro District Library


INDEX                                                                                                                           Page


Executive Summary …………………………………………………………………………………………………..



Background ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………



Evaluation Criteria Defined …………………………………………………………………………………………



Evaluation …………………………….………………………………………………………………………………….



Summary of Conclusions and Ratings ………………………………………………………………………….


Further conclusions and recommendations ………………………………………………………………….





District Libraries: Greenboro and Nepean Centrepointe …………………………………………………


Appendix: Greenboro District Library: Model for Operations  ………….……………………………..      
















Second floor, Greenboro District Library



Greenboro District Library opened in June 2006. It is a 2-story, 29,000 square foot library attached to the Greenboro Community Centre in south suburban Ottawa. It is intended to serve as a community library for approximately 50,000 people and as a district library for a further 100,000 people.


The designing architect was Gerry Shoalts of Shoalts Zaback Architects Ltd. and the whole project was a huge collaborative effort with the City of Ottawa, whose participation was led by Philip Piazza of the Design & Construction Division of the Real Property & Asset Management branch.


This report details its progress to the end of 2007.



A Library of the Future


The library was designed as a ‘library of the future’. The essence of this concept is one of efficiency in terms of high outputs (use, customer satisfaction) and low inputs (low costs, value for taxpayers’ money). In more concrete terms, this means providing library service that meets users’ needs (popular collections, convenience and an attractive and welcoming environment) and taking advantage of technology to enhance service and focus staff efforts on value added service.


The report outlines the ways in which Greenboro has tried to meet these goals and attempts to evaluate its success in doing so. The evaluation is important not only for Greenboro, but for Ottawa Public Library as a whole, as Greenboro has been viewed as a pilot project for the evolution of public library service in Ottawa.



Evaluation Criteria


The evaluation criteria used in the report have been divided into qualitative and quantitative measures.


Quantitative measures:

1.       Circulation of materials, including turnover rates

2.       Number of people entering the library

3.       Self-checkout

4.       Programs and Program Attendance

5.       Number of library cards issued

6.       Seating and computer workstations

7.       Wireless Internet use

8.       Use of the Drive-Thru book return



Qualitative measures:

A.   Written and verbal feedback from the public

B.       Functionality of the building

C.      Popular materials, powerwalls, and merchandising displays

D.      Information service and roving reference

E.       Teen services

F.       Meeting rooms

G.      Co-location with the Greenboro Community Centre

H.      ‘By The Book’ – the Greenboro Friends’ used bookstore and café



Findings and Conclusions: Quantitative Measures


1.   Circulation

As the number one measure of a library’s success, Greenboro’s circulation got off to a good start, but went into decline when the exemptions from requests and shared collections were removed in April 2007. This poses a number of challenges: maintaining attractive browsing collections on the shelves, examining the effects of requestability and shared collections, as well as the type of material in the collection and the effects on the collection as a whole of buying more highly popular material.


On the other hand, Greenboro’s turnover rates, even after the decline in circulation in the spring of 2007, are very encouraging. These rates are generally well above OPL averages, which indicate that Greenboro is successful in a way that is not evident from the circulation numbers.


Greenboro’s circulation as a share of total OPL circulation also suggests that it is pulling its weight within OPL.


Grade         Circulation statistics:       B          (Fair)

                  Circulation turnover:       A+        (Excellent)

                  Circulation in relation

                  Total OPL circulation:      A          (Very good)



2.   Number of people visiting the library

With a typical daily headcount of between 950 and 1,000, Greenboro continues to attract a respectable number of users. There was a decline of approximately 5% from fall 2006 to fall 2007, but this was less than the decline in circulation.


Grade         B+        (Good, with qualifications)



3.   Self-Checkout

Self-checkout is definitely a success story with a rate of approximately 85% -- the highest rate within OPL.


Grade         A+        (Excellent)



4.   Programs & Program Attendance

Comparisons are made with Nepean Centrepointe, the district library most comparable to Greenboro, although Centrepointe is a much more established library and does not have a community centre next door offering a wide range of programs.

Preschool program attendance at Greenboro is quite good and Greenboro is surely one of the most successful libraries within OPL for teen programs.


Grade         A         (Very good)



5.   Number of Library Cards Issued

After very high numbers in 2006, by the beginning of 2007, the number of cards issued monthly at Greenboro had declined to an average of 224 per month – approximately 7% fewer than issued at Centrepointe. This suggests sustained interest in Greenboro despite the decline in circulation.


Grade         B+        (Good, with qualifications)



6.   Seating and Computer Workstations

With non-computer seating for 111 people, Greenboro is well provided with seating overall, but its distribution could be improved, particularly more study seating in the Kids Zone. The 51 public Internet computers are sufficient for all but the busiest times, when they are sometimes all in use. The growing use of the wireless Internet service may be resulting in fewer sessions on the library’s own computers.


Grade         B+        (Good, with qualifications)



7.   Wireless Internet

With an average of 360 successful wireless sessions a month in 2007, the service must be considered a success. Most of the more frequent problems were overcome in the fall of 2007 and it would appear that its use is increasing – there were 603 successful sessions in October.


Grade         A          (Very good)



8.   Use of Drive-Thru book return

Use was relatively low until the final installation of external signage in October 2007. By late November, daily average use was 115 items, or approximately 7.5% of total returns. As it is most convenient in inclement weather, the winter of 2008 should show how useful the public finds it.


Grade         B          (Fair)



Findings and Conclusions: Qualitative Measures



A.   Feedback from the public

Feedback has been overwhelming favorable. People love the building – the space, the light, and the colorful décor, but some people find it too noisy. We get complaints when checkin backlogs occur, although by late 2007 these were less serious and much less frequent than in the first year. Initially, a few people expressed their dislike of self-checkout and missed the lack of contact with borrower services staff for routine transactions. Some people also feel a bit lost as they enter the library – clearly more staff presence or directional aids would help here.


Grade         A-         (Very good)      



B.      Functionality of the building

The building generally works as it is supposed to. The planned adjacencies of the design work well, as do the environmentally friendly features, such as the widespread use of wheatboard and the waterless urinals. The raised floors and underfloor heating and cooling have worked well, though there have been serious problems with the mechanics of the heating and cooling system. And while the lighting has been generally good, some areas need more lighting.


Grade         B+        (Good with qualifications)



C.      Popular materials, powerwalls, and merchandising displays

A fundamental principle of a ‘library of the future’ is an emphasis on popular material. This is certainly true at Greenboro, and has necessitated a change in approach by Collection Development. Not only is there an emphasis on popular material, but on its presentation and promotion.


To this end, Greenboro has one main powerwall with 26 bays of mostly face-out display of books, as well as six smaller display units. These displays attempt to bring to people’s attention a selection of attractive books on popular themes, thus providing enhanced customer service and generating high circulation.


The main powerwall and smaller displays have worked quite well, but it has been an increasing challenge to find enough suitable material to keep the main powerwall stocked, especially since the exemptions from requests and shared collections ended in April 2007. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing exactly how much circulation the powerwall generates. Efforts to maximize its potential are ongoing and we hope to be able to extend face-out display to wider areas of the library – particularly to the adult fiction and nonfiction collections.


Grade         B+        (Good with qualifications)



D.      Information Service and Roving Reference

Reference questions in the traditional sense may be declining for obvious reasons, though we cannot confirm any such trend at Greenboro in its first 18 months. However, the need for help using the library is ever-present and ongoing.


Greenboro information service staff were to spend a considerable amount of time roving – seeking customers who need help, while maintaining an awareness of what is happening in the library.


There is less roving than had been envisaged, but roving is not always necessary or appropriate. The principle remains a good one and worth pursuing in the interest of customer service and staff control of the library, and we have done well to largely remove desk work from information staff while on duty to leave them free to focus on the public.


The issue of portable phones or headsets – much discussed before opening – has proved to be moot, as few people call the library with information questions. The second floor information service point typically takes only one or two phone calls an hour. On the ground floor, it is generally similar, though with concentrations of calls at times relating to children’s programs.


Grade         B+        (Good with qualifications)



E.       Teen Services

Greenboro is the first OPL library to have a separate Teen Zone. Planning of the space was done with the assistance of a group of 9 local teens, which formed the nucleus of what has become the Greenboro Teen Advisory Group (TAG).


The teen room itself is a qualified success. It tends to be heavily used by pre-teens and it would function better if it were an enclosed room with a glass wall.


The TAG has to be considered a success by OPL standards. It is composed of boys and girls from a mix of ethnic backgrounds aged from 12 to 17. They meet once a month for 2 hours on a drop-in basis. In 2007, they have volunteered over 350 hours in constructive activities, including collection development and assistance with children’s programs. 


Grade         A          (Very good)





F.       Meeting Rooms

Greenboro District Library and the Greenboro Community Centre jointly own two 750-square foot meeting rooms, which constitute an important element of the facility. Despite occasional logistical issues over bookings with the community centre, and problems with heating and cooling, they have proved very successful as a venue for all kinds of activities, including library meetings and training sessions.


Grade         A          (Very good)



G.      Co-Location with the Greenboro Community Centre

The relationship between the library and the community centre has been cooperative and harmonious despite minor issues of miscommunication. Certainly, both institutions have benefited from the proximity of the other and the public enjoys the convenience of the joint facility.


Grade         A          (Very good)



H.      By-The-Book – The Used Bookstore of the Friends of the Library at Greenboro

The Friends of the Ottawa Public Library at Greenboro did a wonderful job of setting up their bookstore and, with the café, of creating that essential element of a library of the future – a place for customers to obtain coffee and refreshments.


Grade         A+        (Excellent)






§         A splendid building, which works well, despite some failings

§         A well-used facility with a number of key features of convenience for users

§         A popular collection with a high turnover rate, but with some challenges maintaining effective merchandising displays

§         Staff highly rated by the public

§         Good ratings from users, both formal and informal

§         Need for customer service nearer the entrance


Overall Grade              A-        (Good)







Greenboro’s experience suggests that we would do well as a system to pursue the following to at least the same extent as has been done at Greenboro:




Areas of focus for new and/or existing facilities on based on Greenboro’s experience:






Greenboro meets most of the criteria of a district library within OPL and functions to a degree as a resource for OPL itself. However, it does not function as a district library with respect to the size or depth of its collection. Greenboro’s closest comparator within OPL, Nepean Centrepointe, has a collection that is approximately 80% bigger and is not as focused on popular material as Greenboro’s. It also has a lower turnover rate. However, comparisons may be misleading; Centrepointe is a large, established library that was built as Nepean’s central library. Greenboro is smaller and has been designed differently in many respects, including the collection.


The demographics are quite different between the two libraries too, though further study will be needed to show what each branch’s true catchment area is. Based on the present assumed catchment areas:

§         Greenboro’s population is 44% larger

§         Greenboro’s population is significantly younger

§         Greenboro has approximately 30% more speakers of languages other than English and French, in proportionally terms

§         Greenboro has over twice the proportion of French speakers

§         Greenboro has a much higher proportion of Arabic speakers

§         Centrepointe has a higher proportion of Chinese speakers

§         After Chinese and Arabic, the next most significant language groups are Spanish speakers (Greenboro) and Russian speakers (Centrepointe)








End of Executive Summary




















The Greenboro District Library opened on June 7, 2006, following years of community pressure for a library to serve the South Keys-Greenboro-Hunt Club area. The library is a 2-story, 29,000 square foot library attached to the busy Greenboro Community Centre.


The designing architect was Gerry Shoalts of Shoalts Zaback Architects Ltd. and the whole project was a huge collaborative effort with the City of Ottawa, whose participation was led by Philip Piazza of the Design & Construction Division of the Real Property & Asset Management branch.


This report outlines its progress to the end of 2007.


The library sits in the heart of a residential suburban community that is economically and ethnically diverse. It was planned as a community library for the approximately 50,000 people living in an area bounded by the green belt to the south, the CP tracks to the north, Hawthorn Road to the east, and the Rideau River to the west. As a district library, it serves approximately 150,000 people over a wider area, which includes the catchment areas of Alta Vista and Elmvale branches to the north, and Osgoode ward to the south.


The Greenboro District Library was planned as more than just a district branch to serve south suburban Ottawa. It was designed to be a ‘library of the future’, which would lead the way for, and demonstrate, the evolution of library service at the Ottawa Public Library (OPL).


The Greenboro District Library shares the facility with the Greenboro Community Centre. This joint facility is an important feature, offering convenience for residents and mutual benefits for both operations.


In this report the Greenboro District Library is often compared to OPL’s Nepean Centrepointe branch, because this is the most similar library to Greenboro within OPL. Like Greenboro, it is, by size and definition, a ‘district’ library, though it has three floors compared to Greenboro’s two, and it is a long-established library. There are other significant differences, such as the demographics of the respective catchment areas and the fact that the Greenboro District Library shares a roof with the Greenboro Community Centre.


Comparisons between the two libraries also raise the issue of the role of a ‘district library’ within OPL. A section at the end of this report addresses these issues in more detail.



‘Library of the Future’ Concept


Although a ‘library of the future’ might seem by definition to be somewhat elusive, it is, at a business case level, one which achieves a high output with relatively low input (i.e. high efficiency) and takes advantage of available technology. The high output reflects a desire to be more successful in meeting public demand for library services than libraries have traditionally been. The low input recognizes the reality of limited budgets and increasing pressure to give taxpayers value for money. To an increasing degree, technology provides the tools to do this by automating traditional processes (e.g. self-checkout) or offering levels of service not previously available (e.g. wireless Internet).


In more concrete terms, this translates into a focus on customer service: giving people what they want rather than what they are believed to need, thus further democratizing an already fundamentally democratic institution. The public library shifts its emphasis from being a quasi-academic institution to behaving more like a retail institution focusing on customer service in terms of popular materials, convenience, and an attractive and welcoming environment. Staff efforts are concentrated on helping people do what they cannot do themselves, so that staff, the most costly element of library service, is focused on adding value to the public’s use of the library. 

Greenboro District Library as ‘Library of the Future’


Greenboro District Library was planned at Ottawa’s first ‘library of the future’. In this respect it is a pilot project for new branches yet to be built, as well as a model for change for OPL’s existing branches.


Principal features of the ‘library of the future’ are:


Popular Collections

Collections in a ‘library of the future’ consist primarily of highly popular materials. During the two-year period before Greenboro opened, $812,000 was spent on new, popular material, including many multiple copies, to add to Blossom Park’s approximately 55,000 items. Approximately 45,000 items were acquired and stored over a period of approximately 18 months to bring Greenboro’s opening day collection to approximately 100,000 items. This was expected to grow to approximately 150,000 over the next few years.


Merchandising of the Collections

Furniture designed to display popular material face-out in a thematic arrangement effectively merchandises the collection and generates a higher than normal level of borrowing. This is done principally through the library’s ‘powerwall’, which has a total of 26 bays of face-out display by subject or theme. Books are displayed spine-out on the lower shelf to constantly replenish the face-out displays as the books on face-out display are borrowed. There are also a number of other smaller areas with furniture designed for face-out display.


Value-Added Customer Service

The emphasis is on customer service, so information service staff ‘roam’ or ‘rove’, looking for people who need help, rather than waiting for people to come to them. To this end, we try not to assign tasks, which will distract staff from public service when they are on duty. Instead, they are expected to roam the library looking for people to help, watching the powerwalls and the general collection so that the displays can be constantly refreshed, and also maintaining an awareness of what is happening on the floor. Cordless phones or headsets had been discussed as a tool to facilitate customer service while roaming, but this was not implemented (see page 46-47).


Another aspect of value-added customer service involves staff being ready and available to greet people in the entrance area by responding to general and directional questions. We knew that the design of the entrance area left something be desired in this respect, and experience has shown this to be an issue that still needs to be addressed.


A Gathering Place

The library was designed to provide an attractive environment that would encourage people to treat it as a gathering place within the community: high ceilings, big windows and skylights letting in lots of light, brightly-colored carpeting, the use of light-colored wood furniture, an absence of clutter, and lots of space. Further to this are the different parts of the library designed for different uses, such as:

§         The Kids Zone with its semi-circular program area, multicolored LED lights playing on a stylized roof, the Flintstone-inspired car, and the puzzles on the wall

§         The Teen Zone, designed with input from a fledgling teen advisory group

§         The Quiet Room for those who want a quiet space

§         The Living Room, with its comfortable seating and fireplace

§         The dividable meeting room that the library shares with the community centre


An Adaptable Space

The library was designed as an adaptable space to meet changing needs. Although the Quiet Room and the computer training room are self-contained rooms, and the Teen Zone is somewhat separate, most of the public space is open and the floors are raised by approximately 20”. The openness of the design will make it easier to add, remove, or reconfigure shelving and furniture, and the raised floors will greatly facilitate future cabling.


Efficient, Cost-Effective Operations

The library aims to provide value for taxpayers’ money through efficient and cost-effective operations.

§         Self-checkout was the most important tool for efficient and cost-effective operations, with three self-checkout units at the exit and another in the Kids Zone. Based on the expectation that a large proportion of checkouts would be done by self-checkout, we planned not to increase the 4.6 FTE complement of Circulation Assistants that came from Blossom Park, even though we anticipated a much higher level of circulation, though there was a considerable increase in the number of Pages and a Senior Circulation Supervisor was added.

§         Another important feature of planned efficiency were the internal and external pedestrian bookdrops, which were designed for customers to sort returned material into three broad categories, thus saving staff time.


Use of Technology

§         Greenboro was equipped with 4 self-checkout units and the hope was that a higher percentage of circulation would be handled this way than at other branches that have self-checkout.

§         Greenboro was the first OPL branch to offer wireless Internet.

§         There are more computers than can typically be found in an OPL branch of comparable size.

§         Users use Vendcard to pay for printing and copying (as at other large branches).


Energy Efficiency

The library building was designed to meet LEED certification standards (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), though no application for certification was made for budgetary reasons. As a result, the library incorporates a number of energy-efficient features, such as:

§         The raised floors in the public areas, which constitute giant plenums for the heating and cooling system, moving air gently and quietly with more even distribution than a conventional system and without the expense and visual clutter of ductwork.

§         The widespread use of wheatboard for walls, baseboards, cupboards, and doors means no off-gassing of formaldehyde and, when discarded, wheatboard will safely decompose in a landfill.

§         Motion sensors control the lighting in the washrooms.

§         The urinals in the men’s public washrooms are waterless.

§         Certain windows throughout the library can be opened, allowing fresh air to compensate for any difficulty the ventilation system might have in maintaining stable temperatures when there are large fluctuations in the outside temperature.

























This report will attempt to measure the success of the Greenboro District Library to the end of 2007. It is not possible to measure exactly the success of each of the aspects of the ‘library of the future’, but certain obvious statistical measures are available. Those elements for which quantifiable measures are available will be considered first, followed by analysis based on observation and experience for those elements less easily quantified.



Quantitative Measures


1.      Circulation


1A Circulation Statistics

This is probably the most used measure of the success of a library. It is a general measure of the popularity of the material offered to the public, but it is difficult to estimate to what degree high circulation reflects the success of merchandising or the degree to which staff effectively connect people with books and other material. The circulation level may also be affected by other variables, such as the size of the collection, policies relating to reserving material, and the distribution of collections between branches.


In this respect, it is important to understand that, during its first year, there was a planned exemption for Greenboro from requests placed by borrowers on its material in order to try to ensure that Greenboro’s shelves contained a rich selection of material for browsers. This followed the example of many other public libraries in North America with respect to new branches.


For the same reason, Greenboro was to be exempt from ‘shared collections’ for its first year. A ‘shared collection’ (also known as ‘floating collection’ in some library systems) is a category of material (e.g. mysteries) where material returned to a branch is shelved at that branch as opposed to its being returned to an ‘owning’ branch.


Greenboro’s exemption from requests and ‘shared collections’ ended in April 2007 and appear to have had a significant effect on Greenboro’s circulation.


1B Turnover Rates

Circulation can be measured by more than absolute numbers. The turnover rate of the collection, and particular collections within the total collection, is probably a better measure of the collection’s appeal. Turnover is usually expressed as an annual rate, which is calculated by dividing annual circulation by a library’s holdings. A turnover rate of 4 is considered good.


1C Greenboro Circulation as Ratio of OPL Circulation

Circulation can also be measured in terms of Greenboro’s circulation in relation to total OPL circulation and the proportion of the total population served by Greenboro.




2.   Number of people entering the library

The number of people entering the library can, over time, be considered a measure of its success.



3.   Self-Checkout

Greenboro was to rely heavily on self-checkout to support a high volume of business without adding to the complement of circulation staff. The proportion of total circulation handled through self-checkout will be the measure.

4.   Programs Offered and Program Attendance

The number and type of library programs offered is subject to many variables, and Greenboro in its first year was still experimenting with programs to some degree, but a brief comparative review and analysis of programs and attendance will indicate the degree of success of programs and provide some context for the numbers.



5.   Number of Library Cards Issued and Held

Not everyone who has a library card uses it, but over time the number of cards issued can be considered a measure of its success.



6.   Seating and Computer Workstations

Provision of sufficient and appropriate seating is a critical element of library service. Much of this seating today relates to computer use. Greenboro has more computers for its size than any other OPL library. The amount of use made of them will indicate whether there are enough.



7.   Wireless Internet Use

Greenboro was the first OPL library to offer wireless service. The amount of use of the service indicates its usefulness to customers.



8.   Use of the Drive-Thru Book Return

The inclusion of a drive-thru book return at Greenboro was considered an important element of convenience for customers. Its use will indicate how important a feature it is.


For some of the above measures, comparisons will be made between Greenboro and Nepean Centrepointe, as it was effectively planned as a district library, being Nepean’s central library. It must be recognized, however, that, as Nepean’s central library, its role was greater than a suburban district library in the new OPL, and insofar as it is approximately 25% bigger than Greenboro and an established library that has built its services over many years, comparisons should be made carefully.



Qualitative Measures


A.     Written and verbal feedback from the public

A library, which claims to respond to what people want, must pay attention to what its users say.



B.      Functionality of the building

The degree to which the building does what it was intended to do is an important measure of the success of the operations, which it houses.



C.      Popular materials, powerwalls, and merchandising displays

The principle of merchandising – long used by the retail sector – has now become important in public libraries in order to provide convenience for people looking for material that will interest them, and consequently generating high circulation of the material. Ultimately, high circulation indicates that the library is giving people good value for their money.



D.      Information service and roving reference

The traditional model of library service had information staff sitting at a desk, waiting to help customers find material and information. However, the staff was often given other work to do in case they were not busy answering questions, so that customers, seeing that staff was busy, sometimes hesitated to ask questions. In a ‘library of the future’ staff are supposed to be proactive in seeking to meet customers’ needs – and therefore on their feet greeting people and making their services available to all who might need them rather than focused on other work at their desk. We have attempted to do this at Greenboro.



E.       Teen Services

Teens are often considered hard to reach in public libraries. Greenboro was the first OPL library to have its own Teen Zone and a teen services librarian in an attempt to overcome this difficulty.



F.       Meeting rooms

The facility was planned with two 750 square foot meeting rooms for use by the library, the community centre, and the general public. The rooms can be used separately or as one and can even be opened up to the central corridor or ‘link’.



G.      Co-location with the Greenboro Community Centre

In selecting the site for the new library, co-location with the Greenboro Community Centre was considered a major asset, so the success of the library should be judged, in some measure, on how well this has worked.



H.      ‘By The Book’ – the Greenboro Friends’ used book store and café

A modern library of any size is expected to have a place where users can obtain refreshments in the form of coffee, soft drinks, and snacks. The Friends of the Library have done an excellent job of providing this service.





















1.   Circulation


1A     Circulation Statistics


High initial circulation, followed by a decline in spring 2007

Blossom Park branch had been closed for 7 weeks when Greenboro opened on June 6, 2006, so there was considerable pent up demand for material. Considering also that the opening day collection included approximately 45,000 brand new items housed in an exciting new library and it is not surprising that circulation took off very well, reaching almost 64,000 in July (15% more than Nepean Centrepointe) and remained higher than Nepean Centrepointe’s through January 2007, though by then the difference was just under 3%. In February 2007, Centrepointe’s circulation was almost 4% higher than Greenboro’s and this marked the beginning of a trend that would grow. By July, Centrepointe’s circulation was 35% higher than Greenboro’s.


As mentioned above, the decline in circulation coincided with the end of the exemptions from requests and shared collections that Greenboro enjoyed during its first 10 months. More will be said about this in the analysis and conclusions below.



Circulation: Charts & Analysis



This chart shows impressive circulation at Greenboro when the library first opened. It is probably not surprising that it leveled off after four months and was running at about the same level as Centrepointe’s, showing the same monthly trends as circulation at both Centrepointe and Main. This continued until April 2007, but as of May Greenboro’s circulation declined compared to Centrepointe’s.


By the end of April, Greenboro’s exemptions from requests and shared collections had ended. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the decline in Greenboro’s circulation was very much linked to the end of the exemptions. (Centrepointe’s circulation in July, August, and September was atypically high due to the closure of Carlingwood.)

The chart above shows that, while Greenboro’s circulation was in decline as of May 2007, the same cannot be said of total circulation at OPL, except for a slight initial decline, suggesting that the circulation that was lost at Greenboro was picked up at other locations. This tends to confirm the link between Greenboro’s decline and the end of the exemptions from requests and shared collections.


The chart above shows more clearly how Greenboro’s circulation, as a percentage of total OPL circulation, declined after April 2007, when the exemptions from requests and shared collections ended, dropping from about 9% in 2006 to about 7% by the fall of 2007.


Circulation of the various components of Greenboro’s collection will be examined below. In each case, the numbers used include renewals.


The sharp decline of DVD circulation at Greenboro in May and June of 2007 can clearly be seen in the above chart. Most affected are adult English DVDs, which account for a large proportion of total DVD circulation.



This chart shows that the level of adult French DVD circulation (lower line) increased slightly as English adult DVD circulation fell sharply, though French circulation is much lower than English – perhaps because, with fewer English DVDs available, French DVDs gained relative prominence.



Although English juvenile DVDs experienced a decline similar to adult English DVDs, circulation of French juvenile DVDs picked up slightly (lower line), though again the numbers are much lower.





This chart shows the steep decline in the circulation of adult music CDs in April, May, and June 2007. In fact, the decline continued until September, though there has been no comparable decline in the circulation of juvenile music CDs.

At Greenboro, romance, mystery, and general fiction have the highest circulation among mass market paperbacks, as reflected by the three upper lines in the chart above. Fantasy, science fiction, westerns, and horror all have relatively low circulation. The chart above shows that, despite a slight decline in circulation of romance and mystery following the end of the exemptions, there was no decline in other genres and circulation of the more popular genres rose in the summer of 2007. September saw the usual end-of-summer decline, followed by a modest recovery in October.


This chart shows mysteries as accounting for about half of hardcover fiction circulation at Greenboro. It is interesting that mysteries showed two months of decline in circulation following the end of the exemptions in April, whereas general circulation of hardcover fiction shows four months of increasing circulation. Circulation of science fiction is negligible.

As hardcover editions are rare in French fiction, all formats of French fiction are shelved together. Despite a slight dip in circulation in May, the trend from February through July 2007 was one of increasing circulation, though there was a decline in the August – October period.



There has been a sharp downward trend in the circulation of adult non-fiction since March 2007, probably as a result of the end of Greenboro’s exemption from requests.




While there was a general decline in circulation of juvenile print material in the spring of 2007, there was a general increase in the early summer, so it is difficult to draw firm conclusions. There is generally not a high level of requests placed on this material and none of these categories are shared material, so the end of the exemptions probably had little effect on circulation. Still, for the highest circulating categories (picture books, paperbacks, and non-fiction), there seems to be a downward trend.




No clear downward trend is evident for juvenile French print material. Circulation seems to be holding its own and even increasing, though the numbers are much lower than for juvenile English print material.




Juvenile English non-fiction circulation is clearly more volatile than juvenile French non-fiction and seems to be in a downward trend since April, whereas juvenile French non-fiction is holding steady. Juvenile non-fiction is not heavily requested and neither is it a shared collection, so it seems unlikely that any decline is related to the end of the exemptions.



Chinese books are a shared collection, though Arabic books are not. The end of the exemptions would not appear to have caused a significant decline in the circulation of books in either language. In late summer of 2007 there seems to have been a general decline in circulation, most notably of adult books in both Chinese and Arabic. Circulation of Chinese books has been generally steady in 2007, whereas there has been a clear downward trend in the circulation of Arabic books.



Greenboro Circulation July-Oct 2006 compared to July-October 2007

The table below shows those material types that have shown the most significant changes in circulation between July-October 2006 and July-October 2007.






% Increase


Approx. size of increase

% Decline


Approx. size of decline

Adult English DVDs






Adult music CDs







Juv Eng DVDs






YA Eng Graphic novels






Eng. Paperbacks






Adult Eng Non-fiction






Juv Eng paperbacks






Juv Eng picture books






Adult Eng Mysteries






Juv Eng Non-fic






Adult Arabic






Adult Eng CDs






Adult Eng fiction






Juv Fr picture books






Adult Eng fiction (excl. Mysteries)






Adult Chinese






Adult Fr DVDs






Juv Fr DVDs






Juv Eng Fic












Total approx. increase/decline for material types shown above






Actual average monthly decline (all material types, incl. those not shown above)




As can be seen in the table above, total circulation of 13 categories of material declined by an average of approximately 17,000 items per month from 2006 to 2007 in the three-month period July-October. 85% of these this was in shared collections, though, as previously mentioned, the opening of Greenboro’s collection to requests in April 2007 was probably the main cause of the decline. The decline was offset by an increase of approximately 1,000 items per month spread over 6 categories of material in the same period.








Total Greenboro Circulation August—October 2006 and 2007 compared






















This table compares total Greenboro circulation for the September-November period in 2006 with the same period in 2007, hopefully excluding the probably atypical first three months the library was open, as well as December, when weather can affect use. As can be seen, the overall decline in circulation in this period was approximately 25%. During the same periods, total OPL circulation was almost unchanged, with an increase of less than 0.5%, which suggests that Greenboro material continued to circulate at the same level, but some of it through other branches.



Why the decline?


§         Pent-up Demand

An atypical initial surge in circulation on the opening of Greenboro was to be expected with Blossom Park having been closed for 7 weeks.


§         Collection Building for Opening Day

The opening day collection was considerably enriched with the expenditure of $812,000 on materials during the two years before Greenboro opened. This created a highly attractive collection with a large amount of new and recent material and many multiple copies. However, there were no special funds in 2007, so the collection gradually lost some of its luster.


§         Exemptions from Requests and Shared Collections

Greenboro’s collection was to be exempt from requests and from sharing ‘shared’ material for one year from the date of opening in order to try to ensure a supply of attractive material on Greenboro’s shelves.


However, the rationale for the exemptions proved difficult to communicate and did not receive widespread support. The exemptions caused extra work for Virtual Library Services; customers were sometimes misinformed; and it became obvious that some people saw Greenboro as unfairly privileged. Largely because of these difficulties, the exemptions ended earlier than planned.


§         End of Exemption from Requests and Shared Collections

Exemptions for certain materials were ended in mid-April 2007 and by early May all exemptions from requests and shared collections had been removed. From February through April, Greenboro’s circulation had been just 3-4% below that of Centrepointe, but in May it was 21% lower, in June 25% lower, and in July 35% lower. (Comparisons for August and September are less valid, as Centrepointe picked up a great deal of business from Carlingwood’s temporary closure).


Approximately 85% of this decline occurred in shared collections, but it is not clear that shared collections were primarily responsible for the decline. It more likely resulted from the items simply becoming requestable, as the exemptions from shared collections and from requests ended simultaneously. Given the high popularity of DVDs and music CDs, it is probably likely that Greenboro’s shelves now hold fewer of these simply because they are meeting requests across OPL, rather than because Greenboro borrowers are returning material elsewhere.


While the change in circulation levels for non-shared collections has been much less dramatic than for shared collections, there have been significant declines in the circulation of some non-shared collections, such as teen English graphic novels, adult nonfiction, and juvenile English picture books. It therefore seems logical to attribute the decline in Greenboro’s circulation to the opening of its collection to requests in April 2007





Although the pent-up demand explains part of the initial surge, and the large investment in Greenboro’s opening day collection inevitably generated a demand that would probably not be sustained by the operating budget, it seems clearly to have been the end of the exemptions from requests and, probably to a lesser degree, from shared collections, that caused a decline in circulation which began in May 2007.


Although the material types that account for most of the decline in circulation belong to shared collections, the end of the exemption from requests probably played a larger role in the decline than the end of the exemption from shared collections. For DVDs, the underlying factor is probably the limited amount of material available in relation to demand, the result being that items are tied up in request lists and are rarely on display in any of our libraries for on-the-spot browsers.


There are some material types where circulation has increased from July-October 2006 to July-October 2007, and almost half of this increase is accounted for by circulation of shared collections (Chinese material and French DVDs), but the increases are modest compared to the declines referred to above.


Circulation of adult nonfiction, which is the mainstay of the powerwall, declined by 8% between July-October 2006 and July-October 2007. As this is not a shared collection, it seems likely that this decline was the result of the whole collection’s becoming requestable in April 2007 and the fact that the 2007 materials budget didn’t provide new material on scale of the expenditure that created the opening day collection.



Areas of Exploration for Greater Circulation


1.   Non-Requestability

In order to create attractive collections for on-the-spot browsers, perhaps we should consider a modest degree of non-requestability for critical browsing collections, including powerwall material – and not just at Greenboro. This has been attempted with the recent expansion of the Express collections, but remains limited. I would not advocate special item types, which would impose an unwieldy burden and severely compromise the flexibility needed to add to and subtract from powerwalls, but surely there is scope for exploration of this issue.



2.      Shared Collections

It is unclear to what extent shared collections contributed to the decline in circulation experienced when the Greenboro exemptions ended (as opposed to the end of the exemption from requests), but this may have contributed to the decline. I propose conducting a pilot project to remove one of the existing shared collections from shared collections in order to evaluate the effect of this on on-the-shelf collections and circulation at individual branches.


One of the reasons for the adoption of shared collections was the ever-increasing burden of returns on materials delivery of material returned to owning branches, but there has been a steady year-by-year increase in the volume of inter-branch shipments since amalgamation and our counting week statistics do not differentiate between one gray box and another, so that no conclusive data exists on the effect of shared collections on shipping volume. More study would therefore be needed to determine the net effects of shared collections on shipping volumes.


Redistribution mechanisms have been put in place to try to overcome unbalanced collections resulting from shared collections. However, redistribution itself can be time-consuming and requires inter-branch shipments. It would be interesting and useful to see a detailed evaluation and analysis of shared collections at OPL. Certainly, it is a growing trend among public libraries and has many strong proponents, but Richmond (B.C.) Public Library, whose example we have been trying to follow in many respects, prefers to return material to the owning branch.


3.      Acquisition of Powerwall Material

One of the most innovative features at Greenboro is the powerwall. In the months after Greenboro’s opening, there was a good selection of material on the powerwall and we know that this helped generate circulation, though we don’t know exactly how much. With the passing of time and the end of the exemptions from requests and shared collections, staff have found it difficult to maintain attractive powerwall collections, though an increasing amount of creative effort has gone into this and displays are changed frequently.


I am satisfied that Collection Development buys generally popular material for Greenboro, but perhaps we should increase the acquisitions of popular material in the broad powerwall categories in order to increase the effectiveness of the powerwall and to generate more circulation.


A bolder step would be to significantly increase the proportion of popular material in acquisitions for all branches, which appears to have been the key to success for Richmond (B.C.) Public Library. Whether for Greenboro alone or for OPL as a system, this would require consideration of a number of questions, such as:


a)     At what point would we be failing to provide a collection of sufficient depth for a district library?


b)     How effective would this be if the material was requestable and therefore never appeared on the powerwall?


c)      Could Collection Development tailor purchases so that the material was popular enough to generate large circulation but not end up on request lists?





Greenboro’s turnover rates – Success after all


Despite the decline in the volume of Greenboro’s circulation, an examination of turnover rates puts the matter in a different light. Collection turnover rates are a revealing indicator of a library’s success in terms of the degree to which it meets its most essential mandate – that of providing the a collection that people want to borrow. Turnover rates take into account not only the level of circulation, but the size of the collection that generates that circulation. The collection turnover rate is the average number of times the stock of material is borrowed in a year.


When one examines Greenboro’s turnover rates, an encouraging picture emerges. To start with, Centrepointe has been used as a comparator in this report because Greenboro was purpose-built to play a similar role – that of a district library. However, not only is Centrepointe bigger and more established, but it has a collection that is almost 80% larger than Greenboro’s, and Greenboro’s collection actually shrank by 3% from the end of 2006 to the end of 2007 (from 107,958 to 104,757).


According to Collection Development data, Greenboro’s overall turnover rate was 8.0 in 2006, based on prorated circulation for the year as a whole, compared to 4.0 for OPL as a whole. In 2007, the OPL rate increased to 4.4, while Greenboro’s rate fell to 7.0. While this decline in turnover reflects the decline in circulation that has been described above, 7.0 still represents a respectable rate that is significantly higher than the rate for OPL as a whole.


Looking at this in a little more detail, the table below shows Greenboro holdings at the end of 2006 and 2007, the respective turnover rates for the two years, and the corresponding 2007 turnover rates for OPL as a whole. It covers material types that have high turnover rates or which are important in themselves.



Ranked from highest to lowest for major material types


Yellow rows represent collections with lower turnover than the rate for OPL as a whole


Material Type





2006 GB turnover

2007 GB turnover

2007 OPL turnover

Adult Eng DVDs






Express collection






Juv Eng DVDs






Teen Eng graphic novels






Adult French DVDs






Juv French DVDs






Adult Eng books on CD






Juv Eng graphic novels






Juv French board books






Adult music CDs






Juv Eng easy readers






Juv Eng picture books






Juv Eng board books






Juv French easy readers






Juv music CDs






Teen Eng magazines






Juv French bandes dessinées






Teen Eng fiction






Juv Eng paperbacks






Juv French picture books






Adult Chinese print






Teen French magazines






Teen Eng paperbacks






Adult Arabic print






Juv French CDs






Juv Eng fiction






Juv Eng CDs






Adult Eng nonfiction






Adult Eng fiction






Adult Eng paperbacks






Juv French fiction






Juv French paperbacks






Adult Eng large print






Juv Arabic print






Juv Chinese print






Juv French nonfiction






Adult French fiction






Greenboro total













Greenboro had turnover rates of over 10 for the following types of material in 2007:


Material Type

Greenboro turnover 2007

OPL turnover 2007

Greenboro turnover compared to total OPL

Adult English DVDs




Express collection




Juv English DVDs




Juv French DVDs




Adult French DVDs




Adult English books on CD




Teen English graphic novels




Juv English graphic novels




Adult music CDs




Juv French board books




Juv English easy readers




Juv English picture books




Juv French easy readers




Juv English board books






Not all of these material types are very large in terms of numbers, so let’s look at the larger collections – all those over 2,000:


Material type

Collection at 12/31/07

Greenboro turnover 2007

OPL turnover 2007

Greenboro turnover compared to total OPL

Adult English nonfiction





Juv English nonfiction





Adult English paperbacks





Adult English fiction





Juv English paperbacks





Adult music CDs





Juv English picture books





Adult English mysteries





Juv French nonfiction





Adult English DVDs





Juv English fiction





Adult Chinese print





Juv French paperbacks






From this table, it can be seen that of the 13 material types with collections of over 2,000 at the end of 2007, nine have significantly higher turnover rates than the OPL total. These nine range from 26% to 50% higher than the OPL total turnover rate for the respective material types. The four material types with turnover rates below the total OPL rate for the respective material type range between 4% and 11% below the OPL totals.





The decline in Greenboro’s circulation in 2007 was neither surprising nor unexpected, but it should not obscure the clear success of Greenboro’s collection as evidenced by its turnover rates. The overall turnover rate of Greenboro’s collection is significantly higher than the rate for OPL as a whole, and 9 of the 13 most important material types accounting for approximately two thirds of Greenboro’s collection have turnover rates that are between 26% and 50% above the respective rates for OPL as a whole.



1C     Greenboro Circulation in Relation to total OPL Circulation


Greenboro 2007 circulation


Total OPL 2007 circulation


Greenboro’s share of 2007 circulation


Total Ottawa population at end 2007


Greenboro District Library’s community population

50,000 = 5.6% of total

Greenboro District Library’s district population

150,000 = 16.9% of total





Based on the above numbers, one could conclude that Greenboro District Library is fulfilling its role as a community library for a population of 50,000, based on current OPL standards, as it exceeds the circulation one would expect for such a community by approximately one third.





Numbers are counted by the security gates and divided by two, as each person is counted as they go in and out. Almost one thousand people a day enter the library on average. Unfortunately, there have been some problems recovering and interpreting the data, especially in 2006, but these have been overcome and numbers are now recorded on a daily basis.


Not surprisingly, the numbers were very high in the early months the library was open, averaging 1,169 per day. By November 2006, the number dropped slightly below 1,000 per day and since then it has generally been between 950 and 1,000, rising somewhat over 1,000 in June and July of 2007.


It should be noted that when the library is not open Sundays in the summer, the daily average tends to be slightly higher because the Sunday opening is only for 4 hours, giving a somewhat lower daily number than usual, though high on an hour-for-hour basis. The average Sunday count for September-November 2007 was 638, though on Sunday, October 7, 2007 the count hit 850.


If one assumes that things had settled down since opening by September 2006, it is interesting to compare the busy September – November period for the two years, which is shown in the chart below. Though there is a decline of 6 to 8% in September and October, that decline had shrunk to 1.7% by November. 





Greenboro daily average headcount by month

Sep-Nov 2006 vs. Sep-Nov 2007

























The headcount has declined from 2006 to 2007, but by less than the decline in circulation. With a daily headcount of almost 1,000 people per day, Greenboro can certainly be considered successful.





Although Nepean Centrepointe and Main have had self-checkout for some time, in both cases it was added to a library where customers were used to having staff check out their material, which has militated against its use. At Greenboro, however, the hope was that, as a brand new library where there had been no library, the rate of use of self-checkout would be significantly higher.


Happily, we can certainly say that this has proven to be the case. In the very first month Greenboro was open, 72.2% of first-time checkouts were done through self-checkout, a level not achieved by any other branch except Greenboro before or since. As can be seen in the table below, Greenboro averaged 78.92% for the balance of 2006 and 84.82% for the first ten months of 2007, both averages significantly in excess of those achieved in other branches.


Percentage of first time self-checkouts as percentage of total circulation















59.63% (some data missing)





While approximately 85% is probably not the best that we can do, it is certainly the best OPL has done and it has been done with little resistance. A few customers complained about this “cold and impersonal” service (or lack of service), but most took to it happily. It is important to note that the success of self-checkout at Greenboro has allowed us retain the same 4.6 FTE complement of Circulation Assistants as there was at Blossom Park, where the average monthly circulation was approximately 16,000, compared to approximately 50,000 per month at Greenboro. 





A ‘library of the future’ should be very much a ‘people place’, so we would expect to see a great deal of program activity. However, in the early months, Greenboro did not attempt to offer many programs, as there was too much else to do, though of course there were children’s programs in the

Fall of 2006. In looking at program attendance, Nepean Centrepointe is used here as a comparator, as it is the only other OPL library truly functioning as a district library.




Adult Programs


After some trial and error, we have decided to focus on certain kinds of program that we have seen to be successful. Programs that typically work well for seniors at some branches have not done well at Greenboro. Many that do work are computer-related, as befits a ‘library of the future’, such as Internet Basics, Beyond Basic Searching, Introduction to Web-Based Email, Top Ten Things on OPL’s Website, and Using the OPL Catalogue. The Adult Book Club meets monthly, and craft workshops have worked quite well. An English as a Second Language (ESL) chat group meets monthly, organized by our settlement worker, and we have partnered with Toastmasters to do an introductory program.


Although the attendance numbers don’t compare to those of Centrepointe, we feel that we are using our resources efficiently in terms of adult programming. It should also be pointed out that we share the facility with the Greenboro Community Centre, where many well-established programs are offered, though these are mostly fitness-related based on their experience of what works.

Teen Programs


The activities of the Greenboro Teen Advisory Group (TAG) are listed in the section on teen services (see section E below). Although attendance is low compared to younger children’s programs, a comparison with Centrepointe suggests that Greenboro is doing relatively well with this underserved group. While there is surely room for improvement, teen programs at Greenboro are an example of a little going a long way, as the teen services librarian works only half-time specifically for Greenboro, and spends a significant amount of that time providing information service.

Children’s Programs


One only has to be in the library at Greenboro when one of the many children’s programs is taking place to be impressed with the enthusiasm and energy that staff put into the programs! Although Greenboro’s attendance numbers are lower than Centrepointe’s, it takes some time to build up community participation in programs, both from parents and schools, and Greenboro’s children’s programming is still very much a work in progress. Children’s staff are still finding out what works and what does not work in terms of programs and their timing, and are looking for opportunities to consolidate programs where attendance declines after the first sessions, as happens in many libraries.


Greenboro preschool programs have been quite successful. To better serve school-age children, Greenboro staff have been trying hard to attract school visits, but with the exception of one local school, this has proved difficult. In some cases there has been lack of interest on the part of schools, in others limited budgets for bussing have been cited.


There are some important differences between Centrepointe and Greenboro. Whereas Centrepointe has a self-contained children’s library, Greenboro’s children’s library shares the first floor with adult AV and the main powerwall, and the first floor information service point serves both as a children’s service point and a general adult service point, often directing people to the second floor information service point. And although children’s staff usually staff the first floor service point, they also sometimes staff the second floor service point, and vice-versa. This makes for flexibility in staffing and provides variety for staff and may be considered appropriate for a suburban district library where most customers are not looking for highly specialized services. However, covering both service points means that two of the children’s staff often work two evenings a week, which precludes their availability for daytime work and programming.


Yet another factor that affects children’s programming at Greenboro is the presence of the Community Centre and the wide range of programs they offer for all ages. There is some crossover here and it works both ways, but the community centre’s programs are highly successful.


All things considered, the Greenboro’s children’s program attendance numbers are encouraging and can be expected to increase as children’s staff fine-tunes the programming to try to provide the greatest benefit for the greatest numbers.














In the first three weeks Greenboro was open, 1006 new library cards were issued, and an average of 476 per month for all of 2006. Not surprisingly, this average has fallen to 224 per month for the first eleven months of 2007. For comparison, the average number of cards issued per month during this period at Centrepointe was 285. As of the end of November 2007, there were 15,205 valid library cards issued from Greenboro and 16,925 issued from Centrepointe.

Interestingly, the month-to-month trend, since early 2007, is very much the same for Greenboro as for Centrepointe.





Non-Computer Seating


Greenboro’s most appropriate comparator as a district library is Nepean Centrepointe, though Centrepointe is about 20% larger than Greenboro. Seen in this light, Greenboro’s non-computer public seating is generally reasonable in comparison with Centrepointe’s.






Children’s area



Teen area











Children’s & Teen Area


Greenboro’s teen area is much better appointed than Centrepointe’s but this is not surprising, as it has a specially designed teen room. In the children’s area, however, Greenboro falls short of what is required. It has become clear that some children wish to use the children’s library to work, and not always with computers. Other than the lounge chairs and computer seating, there are only two small tables, each with three chairs. These are often occupied by parents accompanying children, leaving children looking for a place to work with few choices on this floor. This may also be one of the reasons why there are generally more children using the second floor than had been expected. To address this issue, two catalog computers in the children’s area were converted to Internet computers in mid-2007. Further reconfiguration of computers may be necessary as well as the addition of several small tables.



Adult Area


The adult area is generally well provided with seating. There are usually (though not always) empty carrels in the quiet room, but the room is consistently used and provides an important refuge for those that need it. The ‘Living Room’ could probably use more comfortable seating and fewer tables, but we are monitoring the situation and may try to relocate a table at some point. The study tables by the windows on the east and north sides of the building are heavily used and provide a pleasant environment for groups to study.



Computer Workstations


With a total of 51 Internet computers, Greenboro is extremely well provided with public computers by OPL standards. Centrepointe has a total of only 23 and even Main only has a total of 52.


Even with so many computers and wireless service, on weekends and busy evenings people wait to use library computers, though on weekdays people can walk in and find computers free until mid-afternoon.



Approximately 55% of available bookings are used. The chart indicates that this is fairly consistent.


Since the fall of 2006, approximately 34.5% of total available time is used. The average length of use per session is approximately 30 minutes for sit-down computers and approximately 8.5 minutes for express computers.


Clearly, Greenboro has enough computers, as customers can generally walk in and use a computer without having booked one most weekdays until about 4:00 P.M. However, at busier times, such as evenings and weekends, all computers are often busy, suggesting that the total number is probably appropriate. Wireless Internet eases the pressure of demand when all wired computers are busy.








Wireless Internet was available from opening day at Greenboro. It was considered an important element of convenience for the public and also reflects the Library’s desire to use technology to enhance public service. It also provides the benefit, when all the wired computers are in use, of allowing others to use online services in the library.


For perhaps the first year, many users had technical problems availing themselves of the service, but with the help of Virtual Library Services and City IT, most of these issues seem to have been overcome and by the fall of 2007 it was working well for most people.


In 2007, there were on average 360 successful wireless sessions per month, though in October there were 603 sessions, which reflects encouraging use of the service and growth.









The chart below shows the number of sessions per month for the period November 2006 – October 2007:

As can be seen, despite a few months where usage dropped, the trend shows increasing use, especially in the fall of 2007, by which time many of the problems we had had with the service seemed to have been ironed out.





In addition to the external and internal pedestrian return slots near the entrance to the library, there is a single drive-thru return slot under a large canopy at the north end. This was designed as a convenience for people who simply want to return material without finding a parking space and exposing themselves to the elements. We therefore expected that the drive-thru return would be most used in inclement weather. Because of unforeseen complications with the difference between the grade level outside and the height of the floor inside the building, this proved to be an extremely complicated and expensive undertaking.


The drive-thru return saw only very low use in the early days of the library, perhaps because it was summer, no external signage had been planned, and many people assumed the “drive-thru” referred to the three main external return slots near the entrance, as many people park by the curb momentarily and cross the sidewalk to return their material.


Prominent signage was finally installed in October 2007, since when there has been a modest but noticeable increase in the use drive-thru return. By late November, the number of items returned there daily varied between approximately 50 and 200, with a daily average of 115 or approximately 7.5% of total daily returns. With good signage in place, usage should provide a more reliable indicator of the need for this service.



Drive-thru return, Greenboro District Library



































Feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly favorable. Much of this has been expressed verbally, but some people have filled out comments cards and we now have the feedback from Counting Opinions for the second and third quarters of 2007.



The Library as a Whole, the Building


I love this library – wonderful architecture. The children love it.


This is a beautiful library, stocked with so much wonderful material. Thank you for your efforts for making this library the excellent place it is.


What people most like about the library is its colorful and attractive décor, its size, its relaxed atmosphere, its special areas (such as the Kids Zone, the Teen Zone, the Quiet Room, and the Living room), its proximity to the community centre, the number of computers, wireless Internet, and the car in the children’s area.



Kids Zone, Greenboro District Library





Comments relating to staff are generally favorable. In Counting Opinions, most people report being very satisfied with both information service and borrower services staff; though it is not always possible to know exactly which staff are referred to.  Many people compliment staff on being helpful, polite knowledgeable, pleasant, and having pride in the building.




During the first few months the library was open, we heard from many customers who greatly appreciated being able to find an attractive selection of interesting material on the shelves – especially on the powerwall and the DVD display units. Some of these customers even came from outside Greenboro’s catchment area to take advantage of the selection available at Greenboro for browsers. Staff explained the exemptions from requests and shared collections, including the fact that these exemptions would end. As the end of the exemptions drew closer, some customers expressed great concern that they would no longer have as good a selection for browsing – and some put this in writing.




The Ambience


It seems clear that the public generally appreciates the relatively relaxed approach we have taken at Greenboro with regard to food and drink. The whole library, with the exception of computer workstations, is considered a designated area for food and drink. We also recognize that trying to prevent cell phone use is almost futile, so staff reserve their efforts for the most disruptive offenders. A ‘library of the future’ can hardly hound people for doing something that most people consider normal and acceptable. When it comes to general noise levels, however, it is a different story and there are a significant number of complaints. The comments received suggest that most people are especially bothered by undisciplined children and teens, and particularly by physically disruptive behavior and bad language, about which more below.







The number one complaint is noise! It comes up frequently among the things that people are least satisfied with in Counting Opinions feedback, and of 34 handwritten comments submitted from opening day to the end of October 2007, 10 pertain to noise – especially noise created by children and teens – especially noise on the second floor, and most especially noise in the computer training room, which is seen as an adult room by many adults. However, with pre-teens gravitating to the Teen Room, some teens gravitate to the computer training room for noisy, and sometimes offensive, socializing. To try to control this, the room was designated a ‘Quiet Computer Room’ in the fall of 2006 and staff have tried to keep a lid on disruptive behavior – with some success.


Certainly, the situation was far worse in the months following the library’s opening than it was one year later. By mid-2007 there were far fewer complaints, though some members of the public have great difficulty accepting that there can be much more than a whisper in a library, and Greenboro has certainly lost some disappointed users because of the noise levels and undisciplined children. However, in relation to the number of people visiting the library, the number of complaints is not great. At the same time, staff have become more comfortable and consistent in dealing with disruptive behavior and some of the worst offenders have been banned.



Slow Return of Material


Probably the second most common complaint is the time we take to check materials in. During 2006, borrower services had trouble maintaining a full complement of staff and staff were sometimes overwhelmed with the volume of returns, especially as there were so many cards to be issued and membership issues to be resolved in the early months, which took much staff time. The problem became most acute after long weekends, when the checkin backlog was occasionally as much as a week. However, it was more typically a few days, and by 2007 generally 1-2 days. Still, some customers compare Greenboro to community branches, such as Alta Vista, where material is checked in as customers return it. They want to check their records later that day and see that returned material is off their record, which is not always possible at Greenboro. This leads us to the third most common complaint…





While many people praise staff, as has been mentioned above, it is clear that a certain number of people feel that staff are too absent, not available to help, and even rude. I believe that most of these complaints relate to borrower services staff – not because they are unhelpful or rude, but because they have the sometimes difficult job of encouraging borrowers to check out their own material and discouraging the expectation that material will be checked in on demand, as to do so exacerbates any backlog that exists. When customers insist that staff do either of these tasks and staff try to encourage customers to follow the (by us) preferred procedure, friction can result. However, there were considerably fewer problems in this regard by the end of 2007 than there were in 2006.


Another problem is the lack of staff presence near the library entrance. The Cards & Accounts counter is a little way into the library and has a specific function; the first floor information service point is too far in and does not have adequate signage (though there is already enough other hanging signage); and there is a lack of vertical surfaces on which to put signage indicating the different parts of the library. Many people do not need staff assistance, but some do. A staff presence would be highly desirable near the entrance in order to:

§         Greet people entering the library, answer questions, and point the way

§         Help with self-checkout problems

§         Take care of cases where the material security alarm sounds as someone leaves the library


One solution would be to build out ‘Cards & Accounts’ to create a single customer service point for the first floor, using the staffing model of small branches, where a Public Service Assistant does everything, though this would require significant physical renovation as well as a shift in the approach to staffing in a larger branch and could not readily be undertaken as a branch initiative. Although this would be an innovation for such a large branch at OPL, it is a model being adopted by a number of progressive library systems and is emerging as a trend.


Another possibility, which offers greater scope for experiment in the near future, would be to move the stand-up podium of the first floor information service point closer to the entrance. This would require some re-cabling and considerable careful planning, especially in terms of obtaining staff support to make it work. I will be exploring the possibility of implementing such a change by 2009.





By most reports, residents consider the Greenboro District Library to have been a great success. Anecdotally, Councillor Deans heard a great deal of positive feedback about the library from residents during the last municipal election, and I have often experienced the same thing myself when I tell people where I work.


Most people like the design – the bright colors, the light, space, and openness, and most people seem to be happy with a relatively relaxed approach to what is permitted in the library. However, noise levels are certainly too much for some people, especially the few who still think that libraries should be very quiet. Some such people have expressed their dissatisfaction with Greenboro and have probably chosen not to return, despite the fact that the library is not always noisy and the Quiet Room is appreciated by some.





The design of the library has generally worked well. Staff and public like the large windows, the bright colors, and the open, airy feeling of the library.


The spaces work well in terms of people’s movement and there are no bottlenecks in the public spaces. My fear that lineups for checkout would block the way of people making their way to elevator or stairs simply hasn’t happened, as lineups are not serious, even when they do occur – unless the system goes down, of course!


What has worked well?

§         The planned adjacencies of the design

§         The environmentally-friendly aspects of the design, such as the widespread use of wheatboard, and waterless urinals

§         The raised floor for flexibility in cabling, though not much new cabling has been run yet

§         The raised floor for even temperature distribution and a quiet ventilation system, despite other problems with heating and cooling

§         The operable windows, despite minor problems in public areas, have been useful at times 

§         The children’s programming area, with its low wall and lightweight partition, works well as a distinct area for programs. It affords a degree of privacy, while allowing others to see in

§         The light wells in the second floor bring daylight down to the first floor during the day, enhance awareness of the whole library from either floor, and contribute greatly to the overall ambience of the library

§         The computer training room for both staff and public training – though it is generally open for regular public use

§         The Quiet Room is greatly appreciated by some, especially as parts of the library can be noisy

§         The gas fireplace in the Living Room is appreciated by many

§         The acoustic attenuation provided by wall panels at the north end of the second floor is very effective in that area

§         The small meeting room in the first floor staff area is invaluable

§         Traffic flow in relation to the checkin/checkout area has worked well and there have not been lineups for checkout which interfere with people entering and making their way to the stairs or elevator

§         Having the main washrooms in the link has worked well, though there is a steady demand for the individual washrooms in the library


What has not worked well?

§         As customers enter the library, it is not obvious where they get help. The Cards & Accounts counter was designed not to loom large and divert people from self-checkout, while affording Borrower Services staff an awareness of what’s happening at self-checkout. As a result, the information service point was located relatively far back into the library. The result is that customers have no obvious person to go to for general and directional information.

§         Inadequate lighting in some areas, especially on the first floor under the light wells   when there is no daylight

§         The heating and cooling system is unreliable and uneven, either due to design flaws or to other factors, most noticeably in enclosed areas such as the Quiet Room, the staff lounge, and the meeting rooms

§         There was an increasingly persistent whistle from the ventilation system in the Quiet Room, but this was finally fixed in November 2007

§         Noise from the ventilation system above the Quiet Room and the manager’s office

§         The elevator seems to become out of order easily and is a source of fairly frequent problems, though these have diminished greatly

§         The distance from receiving to the main circulation area, though this was foreseen as a weakness in the design

§         The lack of an overhead LCD projector in the computer training room, though this is still in the works

§         The external book drop chutes are badly positioned in relation to the bins and sometimes jam

§         Inadequate storage space in most areas, especially for children’s programming

§         The teen room’s not being an enclosed room

§         The computer tables in the teen room are poorly designed and do not support the weight properly

§         The space the Friends of the Library have for sorting is inadequate – this was a casualty of the need to cut almost half a million dollars from the construction costs

§         The acoustics are not particularly good; with the exception of the north end of the second floor; much sound from the first floor carries up to the second floor.

§         The glass walls around the light wells on the second floor do not go right to the floor; on one occasion a removed privacy screen fell through the gap

§         With no lines of sight into the link from the library or the community centre, there are sometimes problems with lack of security in the link, particularly in the evening. As the link is neither part of the community centre nor the library, it is unclear who is responsible for it.







Fundamental to ‘powerwalls’ and merchandising display is the emphasis on popular material. Traditionally, the collection of a district library would include more material catering to interests of limited appeal than would be found in a smaller branch, which inevitably means that this material would see little use and would drive down the overall turnover rate. Greenboro’s collection is designed to be of high appeal to many people, with the result that the material is borrowed often. While this doesn’t exclude material of limited appeal from the collection, it represents a significant change in the approach to collection development.


Greenboro’s powerwall is a double-faced 13-bay section of face-out display. In addition, there are several other smaller areas of thematic face-out display, but the same principle applies to all. The face-out display of popular material attracts customers and provides them with an interesting selection of material on a variety of subjects, including some fiction. This constitutes a ‘value-added’ level of customer service compared to traditional ‘spine-out’ shelving. While this concept is evolving in public libraries and the trend is to increasing merchandising displays, the degree of merchandising display at Greenboro is relatively modest and the location of the main powerwall is not ideal, but the principle has been applied to a greater degree than at other OPL branches.


As we planned Greenboro,  Cate McNeilly, Deputy Director of Richmond (B.C.) Public Library was our consultant. At the time, Richmond was learning from its own experience and was relying increasingly on powerwalls and face-out display. If the final planning for Greenboro had taken place even six months later, there would probably have been considerably more face-out display than we actually have.


How the Powerwall works at Greenboro


The main area for face-out display are the 13 bays of double-sided ‘powerwall’ on the main floor –

strategically located under the light wells, which bring light down from the second floor skylights. As the powerwall is in the middle of the ground floor between the adult audiovisual section and the children’s library, one side of it is for adult books, and the other children’s books. The location is not ideal, as customers have to make a point of going to the power wall, whereas ideally they would have to pass right by it on entering. It could also use a little more floor space for browsers than it has, especially on the children’s side.


Each bay on the powerwall has a theme, which is designated by relatively expensive all-too-permanent signage. The bottom shelf was designed for spine-out shelving, from which staff replenish the upper four shelves where books are displayed face-out. Initially, with the $950,000 that had been spent on collection building, we had large amounts of new popular material, and multiple copies of many titles.


As there is no collection code for powerwall material, it is not possible to track the circulation of powerwall material as such. However, as staff continually replenish the powerwall and monitor the success of the material on it, it is possible to report in general terms how well it has worked, though unfortunately without circulation statistics.


As well as the main powerwall, there are four other significant areas of face-out display on the first floor near the entrance:

§         A double-sided unit of paperbacks (6 shelves)

§         A double-sided unit for the express collection (6 shelves)

§         A large four-tiered display unit with varying thematic displays

§         A free-standing unit housing two catalog computers is used for the display of oversize and coffee-table books that might otherwise not receive much attention


On the second floor there are two small powerwall-type units:

§         A unit with 6 bays of teen material, most of it face-out

§         A unit with 6 bays of fiction, including paperbacks, according to a theme



Powerwall, Greenboro District Library


The Themes


We originally thought that, with the right choice of themes for the main powerwall, we would not need to change them very often, but we have discovered that a much more flexible and creative approach is needed. Although we unfortunately used relatively expensive signage to designate the theme for each bay, we did at least have the benefit of several months of experience before we actually committed to the themes that would appear on the signage, which allowed us to choose themes that were broader than some of the original themes, thus allowing more flexibility in adapting them to currently popular topics or topics that could be matched to material we wished to highlight.

The themes chosen were:




Spotlight on … / En vedette

Spotlight on… / En vedette

Books on CD / Livres sur CD


Mind, Body, Spirit / Corps et esprit

Have You Read? / Avez-vous lu?

New / Nouveautés

New / Nouveautés

New / Nouveautés

New / Nouveautés

Oh Canada! / Ô Canada!

Dr Seuss on the Loose

Award Winners / Grands prix

Books to read together / Livres pour lire ensemble

Homes & Gardens / Chez-moi

Things That Go! / Ça bouge!

Cooking / Cuisine

Beginning to read

Crafts / Bricolage

Favourite Friends / Livres préférés

Your Health / Votre santé

Pour les tout petits

Money Matters / C’est l’argent qui compte

J’aime lire

Have You Read? / Avez-vous lu?

Early Learning / L’Apprentissage


The Challenges


Anecdotally, we know from what many people have told us, that they like the powerwall, and certain customers can be seen routinely checking it out. However, replenishment is sometimes a challenge for some of the ongoing popular themes, as there is insufficient suitable material on the regular shelves on which to draw. Our powerwall shelves are designed for only the bottom shelf to hold material spine-out, but in most cases, we do not have enough material available from the collection to come close to filling that shelf. Typically, there are no more than half a dozen books on the bottom shelf waiting to replace the face-out displays.


The end of the exemptions from requests and shared collections, which had such a significant effect on the circulation of DVDs and music CDs, has probably had less of an effect on the powerwall, as it is mostly non-fiction, which is not a shared collection. However, the end of the exemption from requests has inevitably meant that less material is available for in-library browsing. Also, people who keep checking a bay for a particular theme, such as ‘Your Money’, inevitably find the same material reappearing, as we do not have enough suitable new material to constantly replenish the powerwall.


The location of the powerwall could also be considered a challenge, as it is supposed to be in a location that customers gravitate to, and this is not exactly the case. Their present location is not bad – it’s simply less than ideal and I think that could be addressed by moving the three sections out of their present location and placing them diagonally in the path of incoming customers in an attempt to gain them more attention. This is another project for 2009!





Without special collection codes for powerwall material, we are unable to statistically measure the success of the powerwall, though to do so would involve a prohibitive amount of time making changes to the database. However, based on observed customer behavior and the time spent on replenishment and changing of themes, we believe that the powerwall has been moderately successful, particularly the children’s side, where there are still multiple copies and categories like Eyewitness and Dr. Seuss are borrowed constantly. We have been working with Collection Development to try to maximize the amount of new material we get for the powerwall without too great a detriment to the depth of the collection, and believe that it is a work in progress.


In fact, I believe that we would do well to convert a significant portion (perhaps one third) of the general adult fiction and non-fiction shelving to face-out display. This would require a considerable degree of planning in order to make the displays meaningful within the framework of conventional library shelf order, as well as investment in sloped shelves for face-out display. An even bolder approach in non-fiction would be to combine the increased face-out display with a significant departure from the traditional Dewey-bound order and reflect more of a retail approach. Considerable planning would be necessary, but we could draw on the experience of other libraries that have taken steps in this direction.


Finally, I believe that the main powerwall could be used to better advantage by moving it from its present location to one of greater prominence and I hope to accomplish this by 2009.





The Concept


One of the major ways in which Greenboro was going to break ground for OPL was in ‘roving’ or ‘roaming’ reference, an approach to providing excellent public service that is being adopted in many libraries. The idea is that staff not sit behind an information desk doing assigned tasks that they interrupt if a customer asks for help, but rather that staff spend a significant amount of time on their feet looking for people who need help. This is not really a new idea, even for some of the libraries within OPL, but it is a major departure from established practice.


The concept of roving reference is also an appropriate response to the decline in traditional ‘reference’ questions that has occurred with the rise of the Internet as everyone’s reference tool, though Greenboro has not been open long enough to confirm any such decline. The online catalog has greatly simplified searching for library materials, and the proliferation of websites, coupled with search engines such as Google, has revolutionized access to many kinds of information. This doesn’t mean that people no longer need help using the library, but the nature of the help they need is often different, and roving reference brings a customer-focused approach to this ever-present and ongoing need.


Recognizing that there would still be times when an information service point staffer would need to sit, especially when serving children, our service points on both floors were designed with one sit-down desk and one stand-up desk, which would at least encourage the second staff person to remain on their feet to be better ready to help the public.


The ground floor information service point is located on one side of the ‘Kids Zone’, where it was intended that it do triple duty as a general point of triage for questions of all kinds, an information service point for the children’s library, and for the adult AV collection, which is located on the ground floor. To some extent this was imposed on us by the design of the library, but we took this as a positive factor, which would militate against an unnecessary division between adult and children’s services. The library, after all, is not huge, and serves a population with many children. While not denying a degree of specialization for adult or children’s services, we envisioned a healthy integration between the two. We also hoped it would foster maximum flexibility in staffing for public service.





The Reality


One thing we have done at Greenboro is to eliminate most of the tasks traditionally performed by information service staff at the service point, so that staff’s attention is focused on the public. When available information service staff are not needed for public service, someone is directed to do off-desk work in a staff area. For the most part, the remaining staff do not have to concentrate on work other than serving the public.


We have achieved a modest degree of ‘roving’ at Greenboro. Staff certainly makes a point of walking around to maintain their awareness of what’s happening on the floor and seeing if their assistance is needed, but we have probably not developed this as far as we might. Unfortunately, too, the move to mandatory personal logins for IT security dealt a serious blow to our attempts to free staff from feeling attached to a particular computer.


On the other hand, at quieter times (weekday mornings on the second floor, for example), there may not really be enough customers to warrant more than the occasional walk around. Conversely, at busier times, staff often have a succession of people asking questions at the service point, and some of the more active areas, such as the computer training room and the teen room, which are not far from the second floor service point, require fairly consistent monitoring to try to prevent disruptive behavior. In other words, at busier times, staff have their hands full enough so that they do not have time to ‘rove’ the floor in case someone needs them.


As a final note, because we have often not had a full staffing complement, we have had to make extensive use of casuals. Greenboro operates somewhat differently from most OPL branches in terms of roving, flexibility in staffing ground floor and second floor service points, and giving priority to public service by not assigning deskwork to staff who are on public service duty. It has proven difficult to communicate some elements of our model to casuals, which highlights the need for more training and overall direction in this area.



Portable Telephones, Headsets, etc.


In the planning stages, there was much discussion of the need for ‘roving’ staff to carry portable phones or wireless headsets in order not to miss phone calls while they were roving. It was thought that such devices would also better equip staff to handle telephone information with the caller while the staff member was in the stacks. In the end we decided to wait and see what the needs would be in this regard.


This proves to have been a wise decision, as staff report little need because there are few phone calls. While the complexity of the telephone tree may discourage some callers, (though there have been no complaints), it is more likely a reflection of the fact that people do not often call the information service these days. In the past, most of these calls were to see if the library had a certain item, but now most people can easily check this online without staff help. Similarly, reference-type information is now readily available online, and the kind of person who previously called the library to ask such questions is precisely the kind of person who now uses a home computer to find the information online. Although there can be clusters of calls relating to children’s programs, information staff generally receive between one and several phone calls an hour. As the floors at Greenboro are not that large in area, the need for staff to carry portable phones or headsets does not seem great.


(Borrower Services staff also receive relatively few phone calls – typically approximately 5 per day.)





Greenboro information staff do a modest amount of roving to provide better public service and are little encumbered when on duty at the service point with tasks that divert their attention from the public. Unfortunately, mandatory personal logons have removed an important element of flexibility that encouraged roving. Furthermore, at busier times staff do not have the time to rove and there is still some merit in having a reasonable degree of staff presence at the service point. Despite this, the roving principle is one to be pursued and formalized, perhaps in conjunction with a more concerted attempt to replenish the powerwall, although this would amount to work that could divert staff attention from customers seeking help.


Richmond (B.C.) Public Library now favors removing desks from information service points completely and having staff rely on public computers to assist customers. I am not sure I would want to go that far, as all our public computers can be busy, which would be inconvenient if assistance involved more than searching the catalog.


We do not feel that there is a need for staff to carry portable telephones while performing public service. In a very large library there might be such a need, but not at Greenboro.





The Teen Zone


Greenboro is the first OPL library to have a dedicated teen area (The Teen Zone). Details of the design were based on feedback from teens at a meeting held with nine members of the fledgling teen advisory group (TAG) who were recruited in the summer of 2005. At that meeting, they were asked what kind of teen room they wanted at the new library.


The response of these impressive, serious young people was:

§         Computers for group and individual use

§         A bar-like counter with stools to work at or just hang out with friends

§         Display space on the walls

§         A wide-screen monitor to watch DVDs or play games (this did not come from the teens themselves, though they were enthusiastic when it was suggested)


The first three elements have been incorporated into the teen room, though not the wide-screen monitor because it was low among priorities and it was not very practical in the available space. A wide-screen monitor is no longer part of the plans for the teen room, as the current TAG is not very interested in it. If it was used for gaming, it would attract mainly preteens and the teens would prefer to watch movies on a larger screen.


The computers in the Teen Zone are used heavily by pre-teens, which tends to make it less attractive to teens, though teens can be seen browsing the collection, and the display on the posting boards reflects the work and activities of the TAG. Perhaps one of the reasons that pre-teens gravitate to the room is that there were only four Internet computers in the children’s area, and even now there are only six, but clearly the pre-teens aspire to be teens and enjoy the space.


The Teen Zone has walls on three sides, but is open to the rest of the second floor, which houses the adult collection. This is unfortunate, as it is not acoustically self-contained. A fourth wall made of glass, with a glass door, allowing clear line of sight, but making the teen room more self-contained, would enhance the space and reduce the spillover of noise.


The bright colors of the teen room and the interesting furniture certainly make the space attractive though the sign, which has a large picture of “teens” actually depicts rather old teens who are dressed in a style which is recognizably very out-of-date to today’s teens! This picture will be replaced.


The teen collection receives considerable attention, but the electrical and data outlets in the floor are unfortunately placed in such a way that the computer table restricts access to the collection somewhat. As the floor is concrete, this would be difficult and expensive to change.




Teen Zone, Greenboro District Library


TAG Activities


Once we were open, the teen services librarian used the original list of about 16 names from the original recruitment to bring the TAG to life. The TAG is now composed of:

§         Boys and girls aged 12 to 17

§         Teens who live mostly in the Greenboro area, though two are from Greely, but they go to school all across Ottawa

§         Teens with a mix of ethnic backgrounds, including Chinese, Somali, Italian, and Francophone

§         Meetings are drop-in with as many as 21 teens at a session, though the entire group is larger

§         Meetings are held monthly and last 2 hours


TAG members volunteered over 350 hours in 2007. Their activities have included:

§         Reading and writing reviews for over 70 advance reading copies of teen fiction books

§         Discussing teen fiction, how the publishing industry works, how books get on the shelf at the library, and providing feedback for the Collection Development Teen In-Service

§         Acting as one of three focus groups providing feedback for the Homework Help website for teens, which was then revamped into Study Zone

§         Advising Collection Development about a new video game collection

§         Planning the monthly Teen Book Club

§         Painting windows in the children’s library for the Summer Reading Club and providing program prep for children’s programs

§         Conceiving and executing the Harry Potter launch program for children, which was attended by six teens playing leading roles in costume

§         Providing input for the youth component of the Library’s Strategic Plan

§         Choosing 5 favorite books for display in Teen Zone

§         Working on a book review in media format

§         Joining BOPL’s book club on the children’s website and creating quizzes, word mazes and publishing online reviews of teen and children’s books

§         Judging the ‘Golden Compass’ contest





The Teen Zone itself has been moderately successful. It would have greater potential if it were more acoustically self-contained and physical access to the collection could be better. It would also work better if we had planned a place for the pre-teens, who come to the library in such large numbers. Thanks to the efforts of the teen services librarian, the TAG is a great success, as evidenced by their numbers and the scope of their activities.


However, a lot more could be done for teens and preteens. The members of the TAG are impressive young people who are interested in the library and in contributing to it. What is missing, however, are activities for the far less motivated teens that use library computers or just hang out at the library and sometimes cause problems through inappropriate behavior. Staff do engage these young people and are sympathetic to them, but we do not have the resources to do much for them. The teen services librarian has had considerable success with Runescape Club and Pillow Fight programs, which attract some of the more disadvantaged teens and preteens, but with half of her time devoted to collection development, only half her time is devoted to public service at the information service point and working with teens. If we had a full-time teen librarian/youth worker who could work more with some of these young people, it might help keep some of them out of trouble. And if such a person had the time to coordinate teen programming with the community centre, this would be a very good thing.





The Greenboro District Library and the Greenboro Community Centre have two 750-square foot meeting rooms, which can be used as one. The rooms have proved very successful as a venue for many kinds of meetings and events, from larger library programs, meetings, and training sessions to community activities such as table tennis, blood donor clinics, and advance polls. On a typical day the rooms are used from one to four times. There have occasionally been logistical issues over bookings, which are done through the community centre, and over the dividing or opening up of the rooms, but on the whole the joint ownership of the rooms has worked well.





Co-location with the Greenboro Community Centre was a big plus in determining the location of the Greenboro District Library. The library’s relationship with the community centre has, for the most part, been successfully cooperative. There have been minor issues over the logistics of meeting room bookings and use, and we both need to talk to each other more about our programs and how we could work together in that regard, but day-to-day communications on operational issues are generally good and friendly cooperation is the rule.





An important component of the success of the Greenboro District Library has been By The Book, the used bookstore of the Friends of the Library at Greenboro, located in the link between the library and the community centre. Although the bookstore had difficult beginnings in the planning stages, the group of volunteers who took on the challenge of setting up the bookstore in its space at the west end of the link did an excellent job – not only of setting up the bookstore, but also creating a small café, where they serve excellent coffee and snacks. The availability of coffee and snacks has enhanced the experience of visiting the library for many and provides great convenience for many visiting the facility as a whole.






‘By The Book’ – the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library’s Used Bookstore and Café at Greenboro







Guide to Ratings


I have graded each of the criteria according to the following scale of grades. Although the grades are subjective, I am confident that they accurately reflect the relative success of the various criteria.





Very good




Good, with qualifications




A table of ratings appears on the next page.








Circulation statistics

A promising beginning followed by the expected decline, but how to sustain a popular browsing collection that will not be swallowed up by requests?



Collection turnover

Turnover rates compared very well with OPL rates



Greenboro circulation as ratio of OPL circulation

Greenboro is pulling its weight in terms of circulation for its catchment area



Daily headcount

A slight decline in 2007, but still respectable use of library




Best level of use at OPL



Program attendance

Not at the level of an established district library, but promising for a new library attached to a community centre



Number of library cards issued

The ongoing level of new cards issued suggests sustained interest in the library



Seating and computer workstations

Adequate and well planned with some exceptions, such as seating in the Kids Zone



Wireless Internet

A valuable service seeing growing use



Use of drive-thru book return

Not heavily used, but late arriving signage may improve use



Written and verbal feedback from the public

Generally very positive, but many complaints about noise



Functionality of the building

Mixed reviews: Generally good, but some serious problems, regarding adjacencies in the entrance and with heating & cooling



Popular materials, powerwalls, and merchandising displays

Successful so far; probably has more potential, but how to realize that potential when online requests siphon material off the shelves?



Information service and roving reference

Not as much roving as we expected, but sometimes for good reasons. A good principle worth pursuing.



Teen Services


Some problems with the teen room, but the focus on teens and the activities of the TAG are outstanding



Meeting rooms

Well used by library and many other groups.



Co-location with the Greenboro Community Centre

Convenience for the public. Good relations between library and community centre.



‘By The Book’ – the Greenboro Friends’ used book store and café

An important asset to the library, particularly the café.


Overall evaluation

§         A splendid building, which works well, despite some failings

§         A well-used facility with a number of key features of convenience for users

§         A popular collection with a high turnover rate, but with some challenges maintaining effective merchandising displays

§         Staff highly rated by the public, but lacking a presence in the entrance

§         Good ratings from users, though noisy at times






Collections and Merchandising

Greenboro’s experience suggests that popular collections and merchandising should be pursued as a matter of policy across OPL while maintaining sufficient depth in the collection system-wide to satisfy most customers. Merchandising could be taken much farther than has been done at Greenboro, and the placement of merchandising displays for optimum advantage should receive high priority in the planning of new libraries and the retrofitting of existing ones. Generalized merchandising displays should be encouraged throughout the collections to make it easier for customers to find popular material without having to navigate the Dewey call numbers.


Use of Technology

Greenboro relies successfully on self-checkout technology. Hopefully, self-checkin will be the next step. Although Greenboro’s computers are often not all in use, there are times when they are, and this would suggest that a similar number of computers should be planned for the next district library, though a greater number should be placed in the children’s area if the demographics support this. Wireless Internet service is very popular and should become a regular feature in our libraries.


Teen Services

Teen services are very important for a library like Greenboro. The Greenboro TAG (Teen Advisory Group) has been very successful and offers a model for other branches. The Greenboro Teen Zone has been successful except insofar as it attracts mainly preteens. However, it would work better if it were bigger, totally enclosed but with a glass wall for visibility (rather than being open to the rest of the library), and acoustically engineered to isolate the room from the rest of the library.


Noise and Acoustics

One of the biggest public complaints about Greenboro has been that it is noisy. The open design of Greenboro contributes to this, so I would recommend strongly that more attention be paid to acoustic attenuation of ambient sound in future libraries. The Quiet Room has been very successful and should be a feature of future libraries.


Design & Functionality

Greenboro’s design has worked very well in general terms, but in future libraries, special attention should be paid to the physical layout of the entrance in terms not just of self-checkout and checkin, but also of the adjacency requirements of merchandising displays and the presence of staff to provide basic information to customers as they enter. In this respect, a single ground floor service point for all library services might be considered.


Special attention needs to be paid to lighting and areas that might not be sufficiently well lighted, as well as to the placement of rooftop heating and cooling units so that their sound is not intrusive.


Roving Reference 

Greenboro’s experience with roving reference has been a modest success that can be taken further. This should be reflected in the design of future libraries, though I would not necessarily recommend the complete elimination of service points.


Drive-Thru Drop-Off

The drive-thru drop-off is certainly an added convenience for some people, especially under adverse weather conditions, but probably doesn’t warrant the space and resources devoted to it, particularly if the regular external drop-off were well designed.









Regardless of Greenboro’s successes and failings as described above, it is worth considering the role of a ‘district library’ within OPL’s service delivery framework. Criteria for district libraries are as follows:


District Library Criteria


Applicability of Criterion

District branches are built in densely populated areas, are central to their district, and are a minimum number of kilometers from other district branches and the Central Library

Greenboro is relatively densely populated; the location is fairly central to its district; it is 6 km from the two nearest branches and 14 km from downtown.


Service hub for community branches in catchment area

Greenboro is not a materials delivery “ service hub” for its community branches, nor does it have the level of resources that would allow it to provide service to ‘community’ branches.


Minimum 30,000 square feet in floor area

At 29,000 square feet, Greenboro is close.


Fully equipped computer training rooms

Greenboro has a computer training room with 10 computers and an instructor’s workstation. It is used for staff and public training sessions.


Meeting and program rooms

Greenboro has a large, dividable meeting room, which is co-owned and managed with the community center. It also has a children’s program room and a small staff meeting room.


Food facilities

Greenboro has a used bookstore and café run by the Friends of the Library. The café sells hot and cold beverages and snacks in the link between the library and the community center. With the exception of computer workstations, the library is a designated area for the consumption of food and drink.


Separate areas for children, teen, and adult collections

Greenboro has separate areas for children’s, teen, and adult collections


Separate service points for children, teen, and adult areas

Greenboro has a service point for adult and teen services and another for children’s and general information services


Comfortable reading and study space

Greenboro has comfortable reading and study space


Resource for the cluster of community branches that they serve

Greenboro acts as a resource for its cluster only in limited ways. E.g. Training room, meeting rooms, occasional advice on operational issues.


Serve as the community branch for their immediate neighbourhood

Greenboro is primarily a community branch for the immediate neighborhood.


Hold a minimum of 150,000 items in their collections

Greenboro’s collection is still approximately 100,000 items. Regular ongoing weeding may be limiting its growth.


Offer specialized training and a range of programming for adults and children

Greenboro offers a range of programming for children, some for teens, and limited programs for adults. Specialized training takes the form of staff giving adult computer-related programs.



District Library Criteria


Applicability of Criterion

Has separate information and circulation service points

Greenboro has separate information and circulation service points.



Takes advantage of technology as appropriate in the delivery of library services (e.g. self-checkout)

85% of Greenboro circulation is handled by self-checkout; Greenboro was the first OPL branch to offer wireless Internet; with 51 computers, Greenboro has more than any other branch except Main.


A range of specialized technologies is available for people with disabilities

Greenboro is one of several branches with a computer workstation that has assistive technology


Service as a primary resource for reference materials for their community branches. These in-depth collections include core adult and children’s reference and reader’s advisory collections, specialized municipal information, and electronic resources

Greenboro has a relatively small print reference collection (approx. 1,300 compared with over 11,000 at Nepean Centrepointe). With the preeminence of electronic information sources, we have not built up specialized print reference collections at Greenboro.


Provide in-depth print and audiovisual works on a wide variety of subjects, including parenting collections.

Greenboro’s collection is more of a popular collection, which calls into question its role as a district library in this respect.


Specified district branches will act as a primary resource for in-depth French language materials for their district.

Greenboro’s francophone population represents approximately 7% of its total user population. It is not a primary resource for in-depth French language materials for its district, though it certainly has more than the rural branches to the south.


District branches offer a broad spectrum of children, teen, and adult programming, such as:

§         Full programming for children

§         Regular computer based training on Internet skills

§         Training on how to use library resources for specialized subjects

§         Sponsorship of system-wide activities such as Heritage Day

§         Regular library tours

Greenboro offers full programming for children; regular computer-based training on Internet skills; very limited training on using library resources for specialized subjects; and many library tours.

Greenboro has not ‘sponsored’ system-wide activities such as Heritage Day.

Yes, with one exception

District branches are expected to be open no less than 60 hours per week

Greenboro is open 63 hours per week most of the year (59 hours in summer).


Targeted circulation is greater then 500,000 items annually

Greenboro’s circulation in 2007 was 571,131.







Greenboro District Library as an OPL Resource


Greenboro certainly plays a significant role as a district library within OPL, by hosting teleconference training sessions and staff computer-based training sessions and by staff’s playing an active role in OPL-wide committees and working groups, such as adult programming, Web 2.0, teen advisory groups, the technical services ops group, the GASP group, and powerwall promotion.



Greenboro as District Library: Collections


Greenboro meets most of the criteria for a district library according to OPL’s service delivery framework. However, in a number of key ways, Greenboro is not fulfilling the role of a district library and this relates mostly to collections.


Greenboro has a relatively small print reference collection because most reference material is now available online, either from websites of from the electronic databases to which the library subscribes. Greenboro also has no particular reference specialty, partly because we are new, but also because we have seen little demand for in-depth reference service. This contrasts greatly with Nepean Centrepointe, which, as Nepean’s central library, set out to specialize in serving local businesses and built up the service over many years.


Greenboro’s collection is also not yet at the 150,000 mark that is expected of a district library. In fact, it did not grow greatly during the first 18 months we were open. The end of the exemptions from requests and shared collections saw an outflow of material from Greenboro, but we also do a great deal of ad hoc weeding as well as the scheduled weeding of specific areas of the collection from time to time.


The table below shows Greenboro’s and Nepean Centrepointe’s total collection sizes at the end of 2006 and 2007 respectively:



Collection at Dec. 31, 2006

Collection at Dec. 31, 2007




Nepean Centrepointe




Despite a few minor areas where Greenboro has slightly more material than Nepean Centrepointe, the difference in the collection sizes is reflected in just about all the major collection codes and the considerably greater collection of Nepean Centrepointe must surely generate a higher level of circulation, even if their turnover rate is lower.


In terms of being a district library, it is not just the size of the collection that matters, but also the depth of the collection. Greenboro has tried to focus on popular materials and this can only be done at the expense of less popular material, which means that the collection does not have much more depth than many community branches. In this respect, Greenboro is not acting as a resource provider for residents of its district, but rather functions as a large community library.


Greenboro is also not functioning as a district library in terms of adult programming generally. Adult programs have been offered, but most have been poorly attended. This may have to do with the demographic of the area and the fact that there is a community centre next door, though the community centre itself has found that the only successful adult programs are fitness-related, so they offer little else.







Greenboro and Centrepointe: Demographics


Based on the 2006 Statistics Canada census, the table below shows the populations of the assumed community catchment areas of Greenboro and Nepean Centrepointe by home language and age groupings. (Further study is needed to determine the actual catchment areas).




% of single responses

Nepean Centrepointe

% of single responses











Other languages





Total census single responses *










Languages representing 1% or more in either area


























(* It should be noted that the census numbers used here are based on single responses. The totals are different in the age statistics reported below.)


As can be seen in this table, Greenboro’s population is linguistically more diverse, with over twice the percentage of francophones and 30% more people with a home language other than English or French. Whereas Centrepointe’s main other language is Chinese (4%), Greenboro’s is Arabic (5.6%), and Greenboro has twice Centrepointe’s percentage of Spanish speakers. However, Centrepointe distinguishes itself by having a small Russian speaking population, whereas Russian speakers are rare in Greenboro catchment area.



Age Group


% of total

Nepean Centrepointe

% of total

Preschool (0-4)





Primary (5-9)





Young teen (10-14)





Older teen (15-19)





Twenties (20-29)





Adult (30-54)





Young senior (55-74)





Older senior (75+)











It can be seen from the table above that Greenboro’s catchment area has a significantly higher younger population that that of Nepean Centrepointe, though Centrepointe has somewhat more people in their twenties. Greenboro has a higher proportion of people in the 30-54 age group, but Centrepointe has an even higher proportion of people over 55.


Greenboro and Centrepointe: Staffing and Circulation


Borrower services staffing levels and 2007 circulation for Greenboro and Centrepointe are shown in the table below:



2007 Circulation

Circ Asst scheduled annual hours

Circs per Circ Asst hour

Page scheduled annual hours

Total Circ Asst & Page annual hours

Circ per total Circ Asst & Page hours
















The above numbers would suggest that Centrepointe Circulation Assistants handle approximately 6.6% more circulation that their Greenboro colleagues and that, when Page time is factored in this difference increases to 14.7%. This is particularly interesting given Greenboro’s high reliance on self-checkout.


However, it should be borne in mind that this includes only regularly scheduled hours, which do not include Sundays, extra hours, or casual hours. Further study should also look at anomalies in the circulation levels, such as the large increases in circulation experienced by Centrepointe when Carlingwood was closed for renovations, as fluctuations will often be handled without corresponding adjustments to staffing levels, staffing levels being generally determined based on typical work levels. It is not necessarily practical to change the core hours when temporary fluctuations in workload occur.



Greenboro District Library – first floor





This document (which is subject to ongoing revision) attempts to define the model for operations at Greenboro. While we do not always live up to it, it provides a point of reference to review our operations on an ongoing basis.





§         The Greenboro District Library seeks to provide its customers with popular material that will appeal to a wide range of people.

§         Collection Development selects a high proportion of very popular material for the Greenboro District Library, particularly in subject areas regularly featured on the powerwall.

§         Powerwall displays are designed to provide convenience to customers by offering a selection of attractive, interesting material of various types, organized according to themes or genres.

§         Powerwall displays will consist of items in good condition based on a subject or theme that is expected to have popular appeal and to generate circulation.

§         Themes may be chosen to bring attention to not-so-recent items that are not getting the attention they deserve on regular shelves.



Information Services (Adult and Children’s Services)


§         Information services staff strive to be welcoming and helpful to customers.

§         Information staff rove the public area in order to help members of the public and to maintain their awareness of what is happening on the floor.

§         As much as possible, information service staff do not have assigned tasks other than serving the public when on public service duty, except for powerwall-related duties.

§         Information service staff constantly monitor powerwalls to keep successful displays stocked and to change displays to move material.

§         The bottom shelf of powerwalls is used to shelve material spine-out; this material is then used to replenish the face-out displays above.

§         Information staff intervene to stop and prevent disruptive behavior by customers.

§         Adult services and children’s services staff work together cooperatively to provide as seamless public service as possible.

§         Adult services and children’s services staff work cooperatively with borrower services staff to ensure the smooth functioning of the library and as seamless public service as possible.



Borrower Services


§         Borrower services staff strive to be welcoming and helpful to customers.

§         Borrower services staff issue cards and help customers with issues relating to their accounts.

§         Borrower services staff strive constantly to check in returned material without delay.

§         Borrower services staff respond to problems at self-check out and the security gates as quickly as possible.

§         Borrower services staff set aside new and popular material, which may be used on powerwall.

§         Borrower services staff work cooperatively with information services staff to ensure the smooth functioning of the library and as seamless public service as possible.