Carleton Place librarian Meriah Caswell presented the library board’s strategic plan to town council on June 27, a five-year overview that seeks to modernize the book-lending facility while continuing to meet the evolving needs of the community.
Caswell explained that libraries in general are experiencing significant challenges as they seek to respond to an expanding range of needs while handling funding shortfalls that impact staffing time and resource allocation. The strategic plan arose out of consultations with community representatives and library workers from Carleton Place, Mississippi Mills and Beckwith. A situational analysis determined the size of their collection, the number of computers, and the variety of constituencies who regularly use library services.
In addition, feedback was generated through a survey that went out with water bills to capture the thoughts both of regular visitors as well as non-users. A high number of responses – over 400 – provided valuable input on the library’s future direction. The walls of the library were also adorned with large sheets of paper where users could write their feelings with markers, a form of consultation particularly attuned to the institution’s younger visitors.
“Overall the message was that people really love our library,” Caswell said. “We got an almost 100 percent approval rating for questions regarding helpfulness and accessibility of our staff, while the kids were also very clear that we need more lego!”
Among the most common requests in the survey were longer hours (especially in the morning) enhancements for a building that is starting to show its age, a café area, and increased availability of tutoring and training rooms. Caswell noted that “lots of people still don’t know all of the things we do,” as a significant number of requested improvements related to things the library already offers.
Going forward, the strategic plan rests on four planks: transformation of the space to become more accessible and barrier-free; enhancing library services; increasing community engagement, and improving service delivery.
As technology changes, Caswell says the library needs to build flexibility into its plan, adapting to advancements in the digital world while still accommodating those who still prefer to leaf through the pages of a book. She also feels outside directional signage will direct more people to the library as well.
Mayor Louis Antonakos was full of praise for the library. “The staff is as good as we can get,” he enthused. “I have used it since I was a little boy.”
Cutline: Carleton Place librarian Meriah Caswell presented a five-year strategic plan to modernize the book-lending facility while continuing to meet the evolving needs of the community.