Listening tour mines ideas for an updated library system
Town halls engaged community for input
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,”
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 email@example.com.
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.