Wednesday, March 7, 2012

About the Oneida Public Library Community Survey

Congratulations to the supporters of the Oneida Public Library on the passage of the budget.
The day our editorial came out in which we noted that we were denied access to their community survey, I was given a copy by library officials.
There were a few things that didn’t make sense to me, so I contacted Ron Barrows of The Barrows Group of Cortland, who conducted the survey.
I had the chance to sit down with Barrows for more than an hour and ask a lot of questions..
He stressed that it would be a mistake to make the survey into something that it isn’t. It’s wrong to place much emphasis on its exact percentages. The goal was to get people - library supporters and, especially,  opponents - to share their views so library officials can get a clearer picture of the range of opinions that exist.
Like most of us, the officials tend to hang out with and get feedback from people much like themselves. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that few of us actually interact with a true cross-section of the community. When everyone you encounter throughout your day expresses opinions similar to yours, it’s just human nature to start believing everyone agrees with you.
The survey has key statistical shortcomings. Nearly three out of four people contacted wouldn’t complete the survey. Barrows says this is a key reason people should focus on the range of comments and not the exact numbers.
And it’s also fair to note that Barrows is not a professional pollster like Gallup; rather he a consultant who is helping the library with its fundraising efforts.
With those caveats, I see nothing wrong with the methodology he used, and I’ve done a few surveys myself in the past.
I hope the library officials study this survey thoroughly and use it as a tool to reach out to all segments of the community and involve them in the planning for their 21st century library.
Anyhow, I’m posting my copy online; you can read it and judge for yourself.

See it for yourself;