ALLEGAN DISTRICT LIBRARY
The 2012 - 2015 Strategic Plan is a continuation of planning done in 2003 and 2006. The library was successful in meeting some of the goals set in each of those plans. Goals that were met successfully brought about building remodeling and maintenance (all three rest rooms, the break room, the Carnegie Room, and the staff work room). Migration to a new cataloging / circulation system (ILS) was completed in 2004. Staff salaries were adjusted and a new copier was installed in 2011. Among the items not accomplished are an emailed newsletter, the addition of study rooms, a system for promoting older titles in an organized way, an ongoing “advertising” campaign in the Flashes or online and expansion of the building with a two-story addition that includes a parking lot entrance and elevator. Some of these goals continue to appear on the Strategic Planning Committee’s wish list for 2012 - 2015.
This round of planning has one important and distinguishing difference. The library operating under the municipality of the city of Allegan became a District Library in 2009 with added opportunities and responsibilities. In 2010, a successful campaign for a .85 mill levy resulted in across the board funding based on the property tax within Allegan Public School district. A newly formed Board of Directors wanted to ensure that new funding was used effectively to meet the future needs of patrons. A renewed Strategic Plan would provide an action plan to meet that goal.
The planning process began as a discussion within the Board of Directors in the spring of 2011. A day long Strategic Planning workshop was planned for September 2011. The purpose of the Workshop was to bring together constituents and stakeholders of Allegan District Library to formulate a vision, mission and guiding principles that would assist the Library in responding to the challenges of change. Allegan District Library also wanted to know what services its patrons would need in the next 3 - 5 years; what resources and services should be in place to address those needs and how to use available resources effectively. A survey was developed and distributed to gather input from patrons concerning their current usage, their image of the library and their wishes for the Allegan District Library's future. The survey was available online and at the library. Postcards were sent to over 2000 individuals encouraging them to take the survey. A copy of the survey results accompanies this plan.
Strategic Planning Workshop
A pre-planning committee met twice to decide on the goals and structure of the workshop, how it would be advertised and who would be invited to attend. The main purpose of the workshop was to be proactive about planning and to demonstrate accountability to citizens. The date of September 22, 2011 was chosen. Approximately 40 invitation postcards were sent to Board members, staff, Allegan Public School representatives, Government officials, Friends of the Library, Historical Society, Mental Health Groups, Allegan County Community Foundation, Perrigo, Allegan Hospital, Michigan works, Delano Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Head Start, AAESA and patrons representing the disabled. Approximately 20 people representing a cross section of patrons, support groups, government officials and staff attended. The Workshop was held in the Carnegie Room of the Library. The Library was closed for the day allowing staff to participate fully in the workshop.
The structure of the workshop was informal discussion along with several group projects designed to illicit creative thinking about what the future of Allegan District Library should be. The following topics and projects were completed:
1.The Process of Establishing Goals based on Community Needs, Library Priorities and continuing Evaluation.
2. Current Perceptions of the Library held by attendees.
3. Environmental Scan in which four groups investigated different portions of the library to compare perceptions with reality.
4. Community's Perceptions based on results of the survey completed in August 2011. See Survey results addendum.
5. Establishing an individual and collective Image for the Library based on the needs of the future.
6. Comparing present perceptions with hoped for images to establish a Vision for the Future.
7. Creating a Mission Statement that describes what the Library should be accomplishing that will make it unique and viable in meeting the needs of today's patrons as well as those of the future.
8. Establishing Guiding Principles that set the parameters and values for how the Library carries out its Vision and Mission.
9. Setting Goals and Priorities for the next three years that translate the Vision and Mission of Allegan District Library into action.
Outcomes of the Strategic Planning Workshop
The Allegan District Library will be a “bridge” of information from the past to the future.
The Library serves as a transition between generations and groups of people who want information delivered in different ways. It is important to serve the needs of patrons as they are today while considering ways that will help them in the future. The Vision Statement developed from Strategic Planning work groups reflects that role.
The current mission statement was revised during the workshop to read:
The Allegan District Library provides modern and traditional library resources and services to meet the evolving educational, recreational and informational needs of the community; encourages reading and learning by all; and conserves our national and local cultural heritage.
There is a strong emphasis on education as well as informational needs and a promise to support our local and national heritage by preserving historical and genealogy materials in the library's collection. The Mission is written in the context of the Guiding Principles which reflect the value of individual differences.
The Guiding Principles work group focused on the continuing role of the Library to serve all of its patrons without bias and to provide information in a format usable to the patron. Protecting confidentiality continues to be a priority as well as promoting the Library as a focal point of the community. These Principles provide the values that will guide the growth and development of Allegan District Library.
Provide open and free access for all patrons.
Communicate an accepting and helpful attitude.
Respect each person’s individual needs.
Protect privacy and confidentiality.
Select materials that present a wide variety of viewpoints.
Provide information in a format usable to the patron.
Serve as a community center.
Be responsibile stewards of public assets.
Continued Strategic Planning
A Strategic Planning Steering Committee was formed to continue discussions of Major Goals and priorities. The Steering Committee met throughout February and March 2012 to formulate a priority list of goals and strategies for 2012 - 2015.
The members of the Steering Committee:
Carol S Browne, Board Member
Holly Dowd, Library Staff
Marion Ellis, Patron
Mark Gabala, Patron
Carol B. Garofalo, Board Member
Catherine Hellmann, Board Member
Linda Koch, Reference Librarian
Ann Perrigo, Library Director
PJ Wilson, Library Staff
Maintain excellent service to patrons through
Providing a safe facility that promotes usage
Using technology to enhance services and communication
Using our resources (including space) effectively and efficiently
Encouraging professional development that improves service
The Major Goals are a compilation of initial ideas developed among participants of the Workshop and subsequent discussion by the Steering Committee. Discussion surrounded the primary goal of providing excellent service to patrons. Individual suggestions fell within four categories: physical facilities, technology, improved professional development and improving the image of the Library through increased marketing and communication strategies. In the final version, Physical Facilities Safety Plan was treated as a separate set of strategies.
Providing a safe facility that promotes usage
The Library is a combined structure of an original historical building established in 1914 and a modern addition built in 1976. It is accessed through a side drive situated on a hill. The access route from the parking lot below the building up the sloping sidewalk is difficult for some to climb and in the winter often creates a safety hazard that is insurmountable for many patrons. There are limited exits from the building and access to the second floor can only be accomplished by stairs inside or a ramp or stairs outside. There is no Emergency Plan nor is there an updated plan for smoke and fire alarms. Therefore, one of the immediate goals of the Strategic Planning Committee is to recommend to the Board that an Emergency Plan be written and that the premises be evaluated for improvement with regard to safety hazards for all patrons and staff.
Using Technology to Enhance Services and Communication
Technology is a gift to some patrons and a bane to others. The Survey revealed a significant number of patrons who were concerned that the Library "would leave them behind" and abandon books in favor of technological forms of information and reading that would be inaccessible to them. Others stated the Library needed to move more quickly into realms supported by technology such as ebooks, self check-out, interactive programming and increasing information available on the Library's internet site and through email. This is the challenge to the Library and its staff. How to move effectively and efficiently to enhance access to information without abandoning those who have little or no desire to see libraries change from how they operate presently. It is the goal of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee to recommend investigating processes, hardware and programs that will meet the needs of technologically aware patrons while helping those with less experience continue to feel comfortable and able to access information in a way that is suitable for them. One of the strategies to bridge this gap is to support the use of technology for both patrons and staff through onsite and computer based education. This is an immediate need and should begin as soon as possible.
Using Our Resources (including space) Effectively and Efficiently
Being good stewards of our resources is a primary goal of the Library This includes, of course, the monies collected in support of the Library but also using space to support the usage needs of patrons. A great deal of conversation took place about this topic. There is consensus that improved access to the library is a priority and that the image of the Library would be improved through professional landscaping. The upstairs Carnegie Room is used for meetings and programs as well as storage of books to be sold by the Friends of the Library. Discussion centered on how this space might be better used to support daily activities of the Library rather than used primarily for storage. Strategies for improving service to patrons are creating a business center, easier check out and drop off facilities, creating a group work area, designing a Friends "book store", studying improved lighting in the children's area and general clean up of the offices, break room and work spaces to improve the functionality of the Library. The discussion of space is ongoing and will benefit from a task force dedicated to developing a phased renovation plan for the Board's approval.
Marketing and Communication
One of the most valuable assets we have is communication. Internal communication can be improved through an employee List Serve used to share information, ask questions and raise issues that need to be resolved. A second strategy is to hold more frequent staff meetings where issues can be discussed and shared face to face. Communication from the Board can be improved by posting Board minutes on the employee List Serve. According to the survey results, it is most important that patrons feel encouraged to communicate with Staff and Board members and that patrons receive a satisfactory response.
The image of the Library is another valuable resource because it is perception that drives who sees the Library as an added value to the community. It is consensus that the Library needs to improve its image by making itself and what it has to offer better known. Strategies for achieving this goal are linking to school and government web pages, improving our own web page, increased visibility through posters, paid advertising and more communication with senior citizens and visually impaired. A strong recommendation is to add a standing committee to the Board to monitor communication and marketing effectiveness.
Encouraging Professional Development That Improves Service
Professional Development opportunities need to support the overall goals of the institution. Professional Development for the purpose of improving service to patrons is a positive for both the staff member and for the many patrons the staff member will assist with new knowledge. Strategies for achieving this goal are establishing a professional development agenda to be pursued by staff as a whole, improving education of staff about their own work and the work of others; rewarding staff who take initiative to improve their knowledge and who initiate new ideas for the betterment of the Library. Arranging a time (or times) when staff can meet to share professional development opportunities is an arduous task due to staggered schedules and the number of hours the Library is open but if the strength of the Library resides in the knowledge of the staff, it is a challenge well worth taking.
This Strategic Planning initiative undertaken in 2012 is a continuation of Strategic Planning done in 2003 and in 2006 and a prelude to the planning that will continue in the future. It is an evolving process that must be evaluated frequently to stay relevant and timely.
This plan speaks to a group of smaller tasks that need to be addressed very soon along with a beginning discussion of more daunting tasks that will change the overall landscape of the library and how it functions. The long range plans need more time to fully develop. Technology is more prominent in our current Plan than in previous plans; however, technology is changing so rapidly that it is difficult to plan more than a year or two in advance. Options that may be available in two years or options that are available now but will soon be obsolete are difficult to predict. The Library will have to do its best to keep up without getting too far ahead of its patrons.
From past experience, a strategy that seemed to aid in achieving success was to assign a staff-person and a trustee to work as a team to accomplish each goal. Also, adding deadlines or desired year of completion improved the success rate. The Action Plan attached to this narrative is organized by year.
Allegan District Library is fortunate to have a well qualified and dedicated staff who understand the importance of listening to patrons and assisting them whenever possible. The Library could not function without the technical staff and Librarians who constantly deliver more than expected. The Library also has a dedicated Board of Directors who value the Library and hold it and the staff in high esteem. The Board of Directors must take responsibility for overseeing implementation of the Action Plan by providing budgetary support where necessary and holding those responsible for implementation accountable.
Thank you to those of you who completed the survey, who participated in the Strategic Planning Workshop, who volunteered and met each week on the Steering Committee and who supported this process in other ways. Already, there are changes being implemented and new ideas being generated. There will be more to come. I suspect you are breathing a sigh of relief that the Planning process is ending...but we have just begun.
Dr. Carol S Browne