Library Strategic Planning: supporting the cultural heart of the community

Amy Howlett, Director of Springfield Town Library. Photo by Karen Engdahl

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – “Let’s start with this fact: the library is going to change over the next five years, even if we don’t have a map. Think of the power we have if we make a plan!” said Springfield Town Library Director Amy Howlett as she reflected on the strategic planning process her staff, board members, and community constituents have been working on over the past few months.

Howlett, who was hired in part because of her strategic planning experience, says she has spent much of the past 18 months learning about the library and its place in the community. “Now it’s time to gather ideas and move forward,” she said. Working with organizational consultant Lawrence Webster, Howlett and staff have conducted community focus groups, board interviews, and staff retreats to look closely at supporting the role of the library in the coming years.

“One thing we can all agree on is that we want the library to stay a safe, comfortable place where people can get together. We want to keep providing traditional materials such as books and CDs in addition to online resources,” she said. “But there are many other projects to consider as well.”

“An issue that comes up often is the matter of the number of Springfield residents with library cards,” Howlett said. “We’re considering a project in partnership with a local school where the first graders will visit the library and get their library cards. That way, we hope the involve the whole family – somebody will have to bring that first grader to the library to take out a book!” Making the library family-friendly and building on services such as the weekly story hour for children are continuing priorities in the planning process, she explained.

“Some local leaders have proposed that the library should be a showplace for town planning exhibits and presentations,” she went on. “We could provide the venue for models and displays from local groups such as the Select Board or the Historical Society.”

“We’re also looking at ideas for attracting millennials and GenXers – what do those groups want and need? We’re considering weekly emails, changing hours to be available when they’re able to come here, and serving as a point of connection with other organizations,” Howlett said. Other groups Howlett plans to involve in the planning process are teenagers and “young careerists.”

The biggest surprises she’s had during the months of planning? “I was so excited to hear from the people who want to develop projects connecting us with all the other Springfields in the country,” she laughed. “And those who want us to share our passions with others in libraries around the world. It can be done! We just have to make the plan and do it!”

Howlett hopes the final version of the strategic plan will be presented to the Select Board sometime within the next few months. Proud and excited about the final product, she said, “Involving the right people drives you forward – and we’ve been lucky to work with so many dedicated, committed community members.”

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