Delaware Division of Libraries

Optimize library outcomes in your community

Boy who used Delaware public libraries to design and print a 3D hand

"Delaware Libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification system as a match point across all library services—including reference, programs, and circulation—to get a sense of how Delawareans are using libraries and what they are trying to accomplish."

Annie Norman
State Librarian and Director, Delaware Division of Libraries

Showcasing value can be difficult for any library, but it's essential when funding depends on competing with many other community interests. Dr. Annie Norman, State Librarian and Director of the Delaware Division of Libraries, looked to business models to support libraries in her state. "Businesses have a true focus on the customer, to provide value to the customer in order to survive," she said.

After studying many business books and theories, Annie came up with a model to map and measure "informal learning while also documenting the libraries' contributions." She uses tools that library staff would recognize from the methodologies they use in collection management. "Since Delaware libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification® System for their collections and circulation, we now use that same taxonomy to track and align with program attendance and reference questions," as well as with community partners and professional development attendance. They map the Dewey subject areas against a modified version of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, since libraries provide many levels of service to their users. This helps Annie and others focus on the customer. "What are the services, the subjects that they're using?" Annie asked. "What are they trying to do?" By starting with circulation statistics and layering other user and staff services, libraries can identify trends, gaps, and areas for improvement.

"Our role is to help individuals and communities to achieve their full potential. It's not just what they need today. It's understanding their vision, what they're trying to achieve, and making sure we have everything in place that can help them do that."

Delaware libraries use spreadsheets to collect data and map it on the Dewey/Maslow framework. And at a recent Delaware Partners networking event, partners pinned business cards to the areas where their services fit.

Delaware Division of Libraries' Dewey/Maslow framework
Example of how the Delaware Division of Libraries maps the communities it serves against Dewey and Maslow

With all this information in hand, Annie spoke to state legislators and other agencies about the value of Delaware libraries. "For the very first time, libraries were mentioned in the governor's 'state of the state,'" she said. "And, the first lady has agreed to be the honorary chair for a Delaware Library Card campaign!" Libraries have received some additional state support, and a pilot program with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services has brought social workers into libraries as well. "We now have four years of trend data by Dewey subject categories," she said, "so we're more aware now of what's happening in libraries."

"Our goal," Annie added, "is to design a more seamless sequence of services for Delawareans to help individuals and communities move up the hierarchy of needs—to achieve basic needs, to learn basic education, to develop curiosity, to become self-directed learners, and to ultimately become innovators in support of Delaware's innovation economy." And she's eager to help other libraries reach for the same goal. "I'm happy to share, happy to help, and would love to have more colleagues to brainstorm with," she said. "For all types of libraries, using the Dewey/Maslow framework for library services can help you organize, maximize, and showcase your library's value!"

All copyright rights in the Dewey Decimal Classification system are owned by OCLC. Dewey, Dewey Decimal Classification, and WebDewey are registered trademarks of OCLC.

Map showing location of the Delaware Division of Libraries

Library at a glance

  • Supports the Delaware Library Catalog, a shared catalog for all Delaware Library Card holders to access 33 public libraries, 6 academic libraries, 16 school libraries, and 15 special libraries with 2.6 million items
  • Established Delaware Partners with libraries and other government agencies, non-profit community organizations, social service agencies, and more across all disciplines to maximize resources and opportunities for Delawareans
  • Through a new pilot program with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, provides social workers at seven public libraries to help Delawareans with employment, health, and family needs

Related stories


Engage your community through common interests

See how Denver Public Library stays relevant by reaching people through the activities they already enjoy.


Point patrons in the right direction

Hear how the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library helps patrons locate resources they don't yet know they need.