The building is finished, now what?
We’ve been working on a new Strategic Plan this year, which will serve as our guidebook for the next three years. In my first library director job in California some years back, I inherited a 20-year plan. When I first tried to say tactfully that a 20-year plan was probably not workable for a public library, one Board member was a bit defensive, letting me know that they had paid a consultant quite a bit to come up with that plan and they didn’t need a new one. Years into that plan, it sat on the shelf. The parts of the plan that were doable had already been done, and the rest was no longer relevant.
Most libraries now have moved to plans which cover a time period of 2-5 years, and which are somewhat less specific in outlining exactly what action steps will be taken. Times change quickly, and often libraries struggle to keep up, needing to plan and secure funding to accompany each new program or service. Computer usage, for example, has decreased steadily in many public libraries as many more people have a smart phone in their pockets. We receive fewer simple questions that can be answered by Google, but more questions on how to sort through search results to find what is needed.
Our last Strategic Plan covered a period of great change and upheaval – the pandemic, moving to and operating in a temporary location, and then moving back into the remodeled library. One of the first steps in strategic planning is looking at statistics over the previous several years, along with statistics of peer libraries. With the pandemic and moves, our last “real” statistics we can compare to are from 2019. Since then, the world has changed, as has the demand for library materials, services, and spaces. For example, we see more people looking for e-books and downloadable audiobooks, for non-traditional things to check out like record players and lawn games, and for more spaces to use to study or gather for meetings.
We began our Strategic Plan process with a staff survey earlier this year. Our staff, especially those on the front lines at our service desks, hear what people say on a daily basis and see how they use the library. As such, their input is invaluable. Equally valuable to us is making sure that we are supporting staff, as working with every segment of the public has its difficult moments and encounters.
Earlier this summer, we conducted a public survey about what people in the community want and need from their public library. We really appreciate the over 1200 people who took the time to make their voices heard. There are some things over which the library has no direct control, but we still want to hear all comments and questions, referring them elsewhere when necessary. It was also wonderful to hear how much people are enjoying our newly remodeled spaces!
This week, we are sitting down with some focus groups made up of library stakeholders – City Council members, representatives from the County, the School District, area businesses and organizations, and others with whom the library has a working relationship. There are still a few more opportunities to make your voices heard during three public open houses: in person at 10a.m. on Tuesday, August 15th and Saturday, August 19th, and virtually at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 17th. Please check the library’s website and social media or call for more information.
After studying all of your input, we’ll do our best to figure out how all of the wants and needs expressed help form our priorities for the next few years. Once that process is completed with the help of our staff and Board, our roadmap will be ready and we’ll share it with everyone. Thank you to everyone who has helped with this process! As always, we are here for you.