Last month I wrote about the recently adopted Strategic Plan for the Poudre River Public Library District. The new plan represents a change in how the Library District will measure success in coming years. How can we best communicate and demonstrate the positive value of our services and programs to our customers? How does our Library District transform and change lives?
It is no longer sufficient to simply count attendance at programs, the number of books checked-out or the number of reference transactions each year. These are all good measures of activity but not necessarily of value. It is no longer sufficient to simply plan programs and provide new services without also developing anticipated outcomes and impacts. Outcomes are the change in perspective of participants of our services or programs such as the acquisition of new skills or changes in behavior. Impacts are a higher level of change and reflect a change in the wider community.
Of course, knowledge of our community's needs and priorities is necessary in developing realistic and meaningful outcomes and impacts. To that end, our employees are expected to establish relationships with our stakeholders, those organizations, agencies and individuals who support the library and have a stake in its success. Stakeholders will help us identify and articulate the priorities and needs of our community.
Beginning in 2016, the Library District will include an evaluation component to our services and programs so that we can begin to assess the Library District's value to our community. This year approximately 20 staff members were introduced to evaluation models and tools. Three employees attended a week-long training session, Research in Public Libraries, to help lead our organization in making data-driven decisions as part of our daily operations.
I'll end this column with a famous quote from Peter Drucker, "If you can't measure something, you can't manage it."
Library District staff and trustees are very excited about the new strategic plan that will guide our activities and services for the next three years. It has been a year in the making beginning with a community needs assessment in the fall of 2014. Over 1,000 persons participated in focus groups and completed online surveys to share with us their ideas for the future of library services. In March the Board of Trustees received the findings. Respondents identified seven themes/needs around which to structure the Library District's strategic planning process:
The community needs assessment provided an important source of data, along with current demographics, use patterns, staff feedback and library trends that was considered by the Library District Board of Trustees in developing four overarching goals for the next strategic plan. These goals are:
The third step in the planning process was the formation of a team composed of staff, the Executive Director and a Library Board trustee to draft and propose strategies and tactics to accomplish the four goals. At its meeting in September, the Board of Trustees adopted the plan. Employees are now drilling a little deeper to help identify specific activities to achieve the strategies and tactics. The planning team will continue to meet throughout this year to determine measures of success and finalization of a timeline.
Over the next few months, you will be hearing and reading about broadband access to the Internet and the City of Fort Collins' initiative to explore community broadband for its residents. Broadband is a way to connect to the Internet from our homes and businesses and it provides faster access than original "dial-up." Next Generation Broadband is faster yet with speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current broadband services available today.
Most of us would be completely lost without the Internet. As our use of multiple devices such as tablets, smart phones, laptops and PCs increases we become more dependent on the Internet for communication, education, entertainment, work and government services. The need for affordable, high-quality access is central to our quality of life and economic vitality.
Most library applications such as signing up for a library card, placing a reserve on a book, downloading a digital recording or eBook or searching a database are done online. Effective delivery of library services, programs and collections to our customers is dependent on reliable, high-speed broadband and this need will only intensify in the future.
The City of Fort Collins already has ownership or rights to many miles of underground conduit and fiber that is used for City operations. The Library District is also connected to this network. You may wonder why the City cannot simply expand this network to the rest of the community.
A 2005 state law, SB- 152, limits local governments from competing with the private sector to provide broadband services including Wi-Fi services in public places or partnering with private broadband providers to provide services to residences or businesses. Voters, however, can exempt themselves from SB-152, allowing local governments to decide how to pursue and develop broadband connectivity to residents and businesses. Many cities and counties in Colorado have been successful in passing such measures including Boulder, Longmont and Estes Park.
On Tuesday, November 3, 2015 voters in Fort Collins will be asked to exempt the City from SB 152, allowing the City to research its options in 2016 for the provision of community broadband. Two informational sessions on Next Generation broadband, the need for community access, and successful approaches taken by other cities will be held at the Old Town Library on September 29th and at Harmony Library on October 13th. Both sessions are at 7:00 p.m. I will be co- presenting these sessions with Dr. Patrick Burns, Vice President for IT at Colorado State University. Both Dr. Burns and I are members of the City of Fort Collins Broadband Steering Committee and have been active in professional activities concerning networking and telecommunications.
The new school year may be right around the corner but there is still plenty of time to relax, read, and to discover new authors and books. On August 8, the Library District invites you to our Local Author Book Fair, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. at Old Town Library. The fair will feature readings, book signings and the opportunity to meet the many talented writers that live right here in our own community. Twenty percent of all book purchases will be donated to our support group, the Poudre River Friends of the Library.
On Thursday, August 13, 7 p.m. at Old Town Library, first time novelist, Val Brelinski, will make an appearance and discuss her debut novel, The Girl Who Slept with God. Ms. Brelinski is a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and teaches creative writing at Stanford's Continuing Studies Program.
And while I'm writing about books, don't forget to drop in on one of the Library District's book clubs to help select titles for the coming year.
Exciting news for the little ones! The Library District has added some new items to our collection: T.A.L.E.S (Take Away Literacy Enhancement Skills) Kits are theme-based collections of books, props, music CDs and activities for parents and caregivers to help them introduce early literacy skills to their preschoolers. These are perfect for borrowing while you wait for regularly scheduled storytimes to resume in September.
And finally, comic books are now available for downloading from Hoopla! Check out the impressive list of graphic novels and comics to borrow for free!
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