Embracing the community's curiosity,
literary pursuits and technology needs
The John G. McCullough Library is an essential community center: a comfortable and welcoming place where people of all ages can satisfy their curiosity, stimulate their imaginations, become informed citizens and connect to the online world. Our library cultivates a stable, vital and dynamic community by facilitating lifelong learning and literacy at all levels.
Goals and Objectives*
1. The library will provide the community with a welcoming, inviting and comfortable place to read, learn, conduct research, meet with others, connect with the online world and attend programs.
To meet this goal the library will provide:
- Access to all facilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Space for community meetings
- Space for small group activities
- Space for viewing and listening
- Facilities for distance learning and videoconferencing
- A comfortable, well-lit reading room
- A local history room
- A designated young adult/teen space
- Additional facilities for public computers
- Accessible bathroom facilities
2. The library will continue to provide programs and events to engage patrons of all ages, with opportunities to experience, learn, discuss, view, listen, and engage with others.
To meet this goal the library will host or sponsor:
- Readings and/or author events (with a goal of 3 per year)
- Musical events (with a goal of at least 1 per year)
- Films and/or film series (with a goal of at least 3 films per year)
- Lectures (with a goal of 2 per year)
- Inter-generation programming, such as the Head Start Reading Program, the Library Jubilee Series (facilitated by Bennington College students), and community computer mentoring
- Cooperative programming with other area organizations, such as Bennington College (e.g., the Vermont Reads lecture and Jubilee Series) and Vermont Arts Exchange
- Clubs/groups, such as reading, knitting, and cinema
- Increased number of workshops, such as the writing workshop conducted by Annie Raskin
- Various literacy programs, such as the Head Start Reading Program, the North Bennington Kindergarten library orientation/Story Time, and programs addressing computer/internet literacy
3. The library will communicate frequently and openly with its user communities concerning library events, projects, and issues of interest and concern to its patrons.
To meet this goal the library will provide:
- A newsletter via email, online and hard copy
- Event postings in the community and library
- An outdoor marquee for library events
- A suggestion box
4. The library will be open and available to its patrons with a schedule that allows users a wide range of opportunities to visit.
5. Acknowledging that the library will undergo some changes while implementing these goals, the library will make it a top priority to preserve and improve the valued inclusive and comfortable atmosphere that its patrons have come to expect.
* The library's board of trustees and staff will be responsible for the evaluation of progress made in meeting the stated goals of this plan.
On June 30, the committee held their first meeting with guest Amy Howlett from the Vermont Department of Libraries. Ms. Howlett gave the committee an overview of the planning process, including suggestions for gathering information about and getting input from the community. She also supplied the committee with a sample timeline with suggested tasks to ensure a successful planning process.
Six meetings were held from July 21 through October 20. During this period the committee oversaw the collection and analysis of data about the community and library, the development, dispersal, collection and analysis of a community survey, and the planning of four focus group meetings (three for adults and one for children). The tasks undertaken in this period fell into two main categories: data gathering and soliciting community input.
Data gathering involved looking at various sources for population statistics (e.g., census data, Department of Libraries annual report of library statistics) and determining the makeup of the communities served. It also involved developing data on the library, circulation statistics, user groups, and how various populations use the resources of the library. The committee decided that community input would be gathered by means of a survey and community focus groups. These formats allowed the committee to ask directly what people want in terms of services and additional resources and activities. A survey was developed and approved by the committee, and members took on tasks of data collection, statistical reports and information analysis.
Wendy Hirsch, Associate Provost of Bennington College, who is experienced in running focus groups, met with the committee and gave a presentation on how to structure and run focus groups. At Ms. Hirsch's suggestion, the committee devised three focus group questions and generated a list of community members to be invited to participate in the focus group sessions. Wendy graciously accepted our request to act as moderator of the focus groups. Three sessions were held between November 15 and December 6. An additional focus group for children was moderated by committee member Laura Boudreau during the same period.
Beginning in February 2011, the committee undertook reviewing the various reports and summaries from the focus group meetings and the community survey. It was agreed that all of the results point to the fact that the community has a very positive view of the library, its resources, staff and programs. Additional space for ongoing activities and new programming was the primary and often-repeated need expressed by the respondents.
While participants suggested new activities, programs, resources and technology, the thrust of the comments revealed that the community does not want the library to change in major ways. It would seem that they want more of what is being done at present, plus new spaces for additional activities. They stressed that they felt “comfortable” and “at home” in the library and they wanted to see that atmosphere preserved in a new addition.
Having analyzed all the data collected, and having identified what types of services and facilities the community is looking for the library to provide, the committee identified and developed five goals/objectives for the library. They are: (1) to provide the community with a welcoming, inviting and comfortable place to read, learn, conduct research, meet with others, connect with the online world and attend programs; (2) to provide programs and events to engage patrons of all ages, including opportunities to experience, learn, discuss, view, listen, and engage with others; (3) to communicate frequently and openly with user communities concerning library events, projects, and issues of interest and concern to its patrons; (4) to be open and available to its patrons with a schedule that allows users a wide range of opportunities to visit; and (5) to preserve and improve upon the inclusive and comfortable atmosphere that patrons have come to expect, while pursuing the preceding goals. These five goals will serve as the outline for services that the library will pursue over the life of the plan, in order to meet the needs of the community.
The committee also felt that the library’s mission statement should be revised to fit more closely the stated goals of the new long-range plan. The new mission statement was submitted to the board of trustees at their April 26,2011 meeting and approved. In addition, one of our sources for developing long-range plans suggested that a tag line encapsulating something essential about the library would be useful in a variety of ways, e.g., capital campaign and other promotional materials. The committee suggested the following: Embracing the community's curiosity, literary pursuits and technology needs
Susan Alancraig, Laura Boudreau, Cathy Daughton, Bonita Dundas, Ben Harvey, Preston McAdoo, Annie Raskin, Susanne Warren, and Oceana Wilson.