by JANET MANDELSTAM
Input from the community and service to the community are the forces driving the Monroe County Public Library’s new three-year strategic plan.
“Our library is designing a roadmap to meet community needs in ways we never imagined before 2020,” says Director Marilyn Wood. Words like “equity,” “diversity,” “accessibility,” and “inclusiveness” are peppered throughout the document.
The goals and action steps in the plan were developed following a survey of county residents and local organizations. The survey was mailed to residents, posted on the library website, and promoted on social media.
The library received 2,669 responses. “And we went through every one,” says Joshua Wolf, community and customer engagement manager.
The team focused on answers to a single open-ended question: “One way Monroe County Public Library can better serve me and my family is …” Not surprisingly, the answer was “more”— more bestsellers, e-books, bookmobile stops, evening and weekend programs, and computer skills classes.
But, Wolf said, “There was one surprise.” The survey produced many requests for a Library of Things, like tools and instruments.
The survey team also reached out to 74 local agencies such as United Way of Monroe County, The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County. The feedback from these organizations urged the library to promote digital literacy and build its capacity to offer social services.
“We’ve always been a place for information on sources of social services,” says Wood. “The hope now is that we will be more involved in direct service.”
The library incorporated much of the survey response into the strategic plan along with ongoing planning for the new Southwest Branch Library at South Rogers Street and West Gordon Pike. While the plan updates existing goals like providing free and equitable access to information and supporting reading and lifelong learning, there is one brand new goal: to adapt and respond to community and partner needs.
The plan lists more than 30 first-year action steps for 2021. Among the most significant, according to Wood, are to increase community engagement for underserved audiences, to continue to revise hiring and training practices, and to lead new branch planning, design, and construction efforts.
Plans for the Southwest Branch have been in the works since 2018. “We again went to the community for input,” says Wood.
While the site “met all of our standards,” she says, “we learned that elementary students had planted a forest on the property. Our first site for the building was in the trees. We redid the plan, moved the building, and put parking underground.” The target date to open the new branch is late 2022.
Throughout the process of developing the strategic plan, Wolf says, “We were humbled by the community response at a time when nobody had left their house— humbled by the sense of ownership they have in the library.”
Download the strategic plan at mcpl.info/stratplan to learn more.