Q Method for documenting community interests

There are many ways to understand community needs, from considering your own experience, doing resident interviews, reviewing data or local news, or simply by talking and listening to people in your community. A process that we recommend when gaining community input and guidance is called the Q-Method, named after Qumisha Goss, librarian and learning circle facilitator from Detroit Public Library.

The Q-Method is participatory public bulletin, created using paper, tape and stickers, to document and display community interest on specific topics, online courses or ideas.

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The most popular course with 20 votes was Marketing in a Digital World. There was a tie for second place – Introduction to Public Speaking and Social Entrepreneurship 101 both received 16 votes. To start 2017, Parkman Branch, based on the results, offered both the marketing and public speaking courses as learning circles.

In practice, the Q-Method has often been used to document library patron interest in already available online courses in order to determine which learning circles would be have the most uptake. In addition, the Q-Method can have applications for generating feedback on other issues, including organizational decisions, programming directions, and community satisfaction levels.

Process

  1. Make a copy of this Q Method template.
  2. Update the default courses listed on the template with topics that you expect your communities will be interested in. (Not sure how to search for online courses? Click here!)
    Search p2pu.org/courses and document 20 courses based on a range of interest that you suspect your community to be interested in or would benefit from.
  3. Print your Q Method and tape or pin it to a bulletin board or wall close to the entrance.
  4. Place stickers near by to poster. No stickers? A marker on a string works well too.
  5. Leave the Q Method up for a few weeks.
  6. Review feedback and choose the most popular stickered course or courses to run as a learning circle.

For more information, check out Dotmocrocy. Dot-voting (also known as dotmocracy or voting with dots) is an established facilitation method used to describe voting with dot stickers or marks with a marker pen.

And, again, here’s the Q Method template to get you started!

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Very cool! I noticed that the Q-Method crossed the Atlantic Ocean and is now being used in Nairobi and Cologne!

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This image is our adaptation of the Q-method for a public poll on topics of interest for Learning Circles.

PPL has offered many Learning circles to targeted audiences. We are now picking up on the Q-method,and offering a public poll. We have a hard copy survey and an online version. In 2 months, the survey yielded 56 responses. Public speaking and self-publishing were the 2 topics that received the most votes. Among the many other topics that people stated they wanted, Spanish, writing, and technology were also very highly requested.

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Photo from San Jose Public Library. My photo is also here.

The experience this time around with the Q Method was my most successful yet in that we received the most responses. This is the third time I’ve used this style of passive surveying to choose a course for my branch’s Learning Circle. It was also great to have it near the information/reference desk, as I myself as well as other staff here had the opportunity to talk to a lot of survey participants about Learning Circles.

When I did the surveying this time I used subject areas instead of specific courses. This is because I planned to do the surveying in two phases, the second of which I just began today. The idea was to get an idea on the basic areas of interest for patrons that already come into the library then narrow down course choices based on subjects of interest. The display also gave participants the option to write in specific suggestions if they should feel so inclined. Phase two is taking the subjects decided on by the folks in the library and comparing the results to a poll posted on NextDoor. This will allow me to compare and contrast between the needs of those that are already in the library, versus the needs of the greater community.

So far I have learned that my best guesses for what would be popular in our neighborhood line up with the results of the survey, but not as starkly as I would have imagined. While computer science was the most popular subject, foreign language was a tight second, with comparable interest in other subjects such as artistic pursuits and new skills like public speaking. Reflecting, I think the results paint a picture of a community with a variety of interests that could hopefully be convinced to visit the library to join a variety of Learning Circles. I’m interested to see how registration goes for my next course. I believe it will be a coding class, pending results of the NextDoor poll- but my community has already surprised me, so who knows!

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