Understanding your community needs

Last updated:  25 March 2024

The best early literacy programming for a community will be based on a good understanding of the local community and its needs.

When planning a series of early literacy programs for a community, public library staff are encouraged to complete a community analysis.  

This process involves both collecting and updating data about the local community and considering how these data can inform a library’s early literacy initiatives.

The children’s services team should conduct this analysis annually.

Community analysis template

The Library Community Analysis template is designed to guide you through developing a profile of the children and families in your area.

Step One

Decide if your community analysis will be for the whole local government area (LGA) or the community that is served by a branch library.  

Will you analyse your whole community (LGA) or should you consider the needs of the community that uses each branch library or the mobile library?

In a large library service or regional service the branches may operate in very different communities and a site-by-site analysis may be more helpful than one that covers the entire LGA.  

For example, some parts of an LGA may have intergenerational literacy challenges or include many single-parent families or have many grandparents who are primary carers, while others do not. Awareness of these characteristics will help to shape early literacy sessions to meet community needs.

Step Two

Using the questions on the template, collect the data about your community.

What data is available to analyse your community?  

Does council use ProfileID or other tools that aggregate ABS statistics about your LGA?  

Talk to the social planners and children’s services staff in your council find out what data they already have.

Use the SEIFA index and the  Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) to collect data about disadvantage in your community.

The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a nationwide data collection of early childhood development at the time children commence their first year of full-time school.

Step Three

What does the data tell you about your community and how they will access the library’s early literacy sessions?  

For example, information about local transport options (e.g. bus and train timetables) should be considered when designing the schedule of storytime sessions. And, if a community has one or two dominant languages other than English (LOTE), there may be greater demand for storytime in those languages.

Who can you talk to in your community (e.g. local primary school principals or early childcare operators)? Learning more about the local schools or early childcare and education settings can help the team organise visits to the library by Kindergarten teachers and classes, so they become familiar with and appreciate the local library as a resource?