Lis­ten­ing tour mines ideas for an up­dated li­brary sys­tem

Town halls en­gaged com­mu­nity for in­put

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­

The Charles County Public Li­brary Sys­tem is on its way to be­com­ing a 21st cen­tury li­brary sys­tem, but in or­der to to im­prove its in­no­va­tive and mean­ing­ful com­mu­nity-cen- tered ser­vices, the li­brary ad­min­is­tra­tion sought feed­back from its main con­sumers — the com­mu­nity.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, Janet Salazar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CCPL, led the six-month plan- ning process for de­vel­op­ing a com­pre­hen­sive three-year strate­gic plan. The process was guided by a nine-per­son plan­ning team rep­re­sent­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion, each li- brary branch and trus­tees.

“Li­braries al­ways have to trans­form them­selves be­cause things change. Our li­brary sys­tem is in the midst of chang­ing. We want to be seen as a 21st cen­tury li­brary be­cause we will al­ways have books (tra­di­tional col­lec­tions and book talks) but we’re also try­ing to move for­ward with more in­no­va­tive pro­gram- ming (hav­ing 3D print­ers, maker spa­ces, and com­muni- ty con­ver­sa­tions).”

On March 2-7, the feed­back of lo­cal res­i­dents was part of the CCPL strate­gic plan to com­mu­ni­cate their thoughts and sug­ges­tions by way of sev- eral town hall meet­ings that oc­curred across the county at the Wal­dorf West Branch, Po­tomac Branch in In­dian Head, La Plata Town Hall and Nan­je­moy Com­mu­nity Cen­ter.

“We asked the com­mu­nity about what they want to see in their li­brary as far as the fa­cil­i­ties’ mas­ter­plan which plans out what we will be do­ing for the next 10 years. We are do­ing tar­geted fo­cus groups and hav­ing stake­holder meet­ings...We want to be in line with what the com­mu­nity wants. We want to give them the pro­grams that they ask for and that the in­for­ma­tion that they need. A public li­brary is all about its com­mu­nity,”

Salazar said.

Toni Gar­vey from Prov­i­dence As­so­ciates, a li­brary con­sult­ing firm based in Ari­zona, led the town hall at each lo­ca­tion. She spe­cial­izes in li­brary master plan­ning, col­lec­tion anal­y­sis, ser­vice plan devel­op­ment, fa­cil­i­ties master plan­ning and fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies.

Gar­vey asked for res­i­dents’ ex­pec­ta­tions from their lo­cal li­brary in ar­eas such as new tech­nolo­gies, con­struc­tion and learn­ing how to use per­sonal de­vices.

“One of the roles of a li- brary is to be able to pro­vide ser­vices or equip­ment that in­di­vid­u­ally we prob­a­bly won’t have be­cause it’s not fea­si­ble or we can’t afford it. It doesn’t mean the li­brary needs to have ev­ery­thing but if there are things specif­i­cally that the public is look­ing for then what bet­ter place than a li­brary, where ev­ery­one can have ac­cess to it,” Gar vey said.

Clau­dia Bel­lony-Atan- ga, chair of the CCPL board of trus­tees, sug- gested that the lo­cal li­braries in­clude tech­nol­ogy area with maker space.

“Dif­fer­ent li­braries have vir­tual re­al­ity ar­eas that you can go in and maker spa­ces where you can make some­thing or try some­thing new. Also an area for busi­nesses to come and share their prod­ucts and ideas in small busi­ness ar­eas,” Bel­lony-Atanga said.

Many of the lo­cal resi- dents sug­gested a cafe, out­door space and more com­fort­able chairs at the lo­cal li­braries. Oth­ers sug­gested hav­ing more of an ex­press li­brary to make check­ing out and re­turn­ing books eas­ier.

“I’d rather the li­brary have enough com­put­ers with in­ter­net for kids to get on than to have 3D print- ers and 3D tele­vi­sions,” said Tif­fany Sharpe, a Wal- dorf res­i­dent.

Bryans Road resi- dent Kim­berly Darling agreed.

“I think lots of work space and room to plugin would be great for the li­braries,” Darling said. “It’s re­ally help­ful that there are ex­perts on the li­brary staff that can help us use our stuff but I don’t think [we need] any ad­di­tional cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy.”

Wal­dorf res­i­dent James Brown said he would like to see a cafe or cof­fee area at the lo­cal li­brary for those who need to work off site at the li- brary dur­ing the week. He also sug­gested that the li­brary al­low mil­i­tary per­son­nel to use a “com- mon ac­cess card” in or- der to check their email.

“Cut­ting edge as far as knowl­edge is OK as long as it’s not to the detri­ment to the pop­u­la­tion that it serves ... Books aren’t go­ing to keep the li­brary rel­e­vant — mak­ing it a spot for peo­ple to come to is what’s go­ing to keep the li­brary rel­e­vant,” Dar- ling said.

Wal­dorf res­i­dent Felix Gilbert sug­gested a class about pro­tect­ing kids on- line as a work­shop.

“I al­ways ex­pect the li- brary to be cut­ting edge and to be push­ing those bound­aries but more specif­i­cally the li­brary be­ing on top of its game in re­gards to fil­ter­ing be­cause ob­vi­ously with new tech­nol­ogy comes in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial and I ex­pect the li­brary to be the most safest place,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert also sug­gested adding on con­fer­ence room space and hav­ing busi­nesses grow at the li­brary as a co-work­ing space.

“In most cases I’m also see­ing that the li­brary is decreasing space of the col­lec­tion but in­creas- ing the peo­ple space for peo­ple to in­ter­act, build a pro­gram and study. Tech­nol­ogy is a re­ally chal­leng­ing area for li- braries,” Gar­vey said.

Res­i­dents at the Wal­dorf West town hall be­lieved the most im­por­tant things are in­side and out­side space, couch ar­eas, a cof­fee spot, a wa­ter foun­tain, more na­ture, a fire­place and a play area for kids. They also com­pared the cur­rent fa­cil­i­ties of the lo­cal li­braries and con­cluded that the amount of park­ing and space at the La Plata Li­brary Branch and Po­tomac Li­brary branch is very lim­ited.

Salazar said the in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from the town halls will help the li­brary in plan­ning and pri­or­i­tiz­ing its cur­rent ser­vices, al­lo­cat­ing re­sources and iden­ti­fy­ing new li­brary ser­vices and pro­grams. The public in­put will also help the li­brary pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity of build­ing new branches and mak­ing build­ing im­prove­ments at cur­rent lo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of a new La Plata branch.

For more in­for­ma­tion, call Salazar at 301-9349001, ext. 120, or email jsalazar@cc­plon­


Toni Gar­vey, from Prov­i­dence As­so­ciates LLC, a li­brary con­sult­ing firm based in Ari­zona, led the town hall at Wal­dorf West Li­brary. Gar­vey spe­cial­izes in li­brary master plan­ning, col­lec­tion anal­y­sis, ser­vice plan devel­op­ment, fa­cil­i­ties master plan­ning and fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies.


Lo­cal Charles County res­i­dents at­tend a Charles County Public Li­brary town hall at Wal­dorf West to give their feed­back about what a 21st cen­tury li­brary sys­tem should be.

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