Thayer Memorial Library’s Board of Trustees recognized the need to develop a new long-range plan assuring the Library continues to provide excellent value while identifying opportunities for change as Lancaster’s needs evolve. In anticipation, Library Director Joseph Mulé attended the Public Library Association (PLA) national conference in Indianapolis, with a charge to focus on library development and planning.
The Board then commissioned a Strategic Planning Task Force to develop and recommend a plan for Library service sustainability and improvement for the next six years. The Task Force members included Director Joseph Mulé, Trustee Chair Emily Rose, Trustee Steve Piazza, former Trustee Maribeth Eugene, and ad-hoc members Assistant Director Karen Silverthorn, and Children’s Librarian Susan Mello-Conroy.
The Strategic Planning Task Force reviewed several planning frameworks and used a blended approach to develop a custom planning scheme. In addition, The Task Force applied a variety of tools to evaluate Lancaster’s service needs. The deliberative approach enabled the Task Force to submit official recommendations to the Board of Trustees to guide Library development into the future.
Information gathering began with a SOAR exercise (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) for the library staff facilitated by a planning consultant. The Task Force then organized a Community Planning Group composed of demographic representatives from four age groups (teen to over 50) to participate in a day-long session of SOAR and Vision activities. At a later date, several community stakeholders were interviewed to collect testimonial data used to compare and contrast with other collected data sets.
The taskforce reviewed the extensive PEW Research Center Internet Project’s Library Typology survey, which assessed public library engagement nationwide. Using PEW’s, “What kind of library user are you?” quiz for communities the Task Force surveyed residents attending Lancaster’s Annual Town Meeting.
Finally, demographic and institutional data were compiled, with the development of benchmarks for comparison, to aid further in the assessment of the Library’s user needs. Throughout the process, the Task Force was guided by these questions:
⦁ Is Thayer Memorial Library a good value for Lancaster residents?
⦁ Can the current level of service provided by Thayer Memorial Library be sustained with existing or anticipated funding levels, as Lancaster’s needs change?
⦁ How have Library users and their needs changed, and how are they evolving?