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Enhanced services drives library’s 5-year plan

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Earlier this year, more than 200 residents, local leaders weighed in on what they want from their libraries, ranging from easy mobile access of library services to more workforce training options.

A group that includes two library board members, seven employees from the Johnson County Public Library system and community members have sorted through requests and ideas from interviews with local residents, government, school and business officials and workers. Based on what they learned through those interviews and national trends, new services such as 3-D printing, educational play areas for children and video conferencing for businesses are part of a new vision for the future.

The group is now using those interviews to form a plan for what services the library should offer. They are narrowing their focus to nine specific areas, including social services and supporting local schools, that will be used in the new plan expected to be finalized by the end of the year. By state law, the library must regularly create five-year plans to continue getting state funding.

More than just books

The Johnson County Public Library is working on a new strategic plan:

What it is: By state law, the library must create a five-year plan every five years to receive state funding.

What they are currently doing: Forming teams of library board and staff members to research specific projects that relate to nine areas of library work, including:

  • Involvement with other government groups
  • Economic development
  • Supporting local schools
  • Programs for adult library patrons
  • Forming community identity and culture
  • Library social services
  • Adding technology
  • Making library books and items
  • accessible
  • More funding, including starting a library foundation

What’s next: Studies throughout the summer and more planning sessions before completing the five-year plan by the end of 2013.

Much of the planning will include considering what the library can afford and whether it is currently spending its money where it should, director Beverly Martin said.

This summer, small groups from the library planning team are studying their role in the community and specific ways to serve the county through new services they could offer children and adults. Changes could include reorganizing children’s books by topic, adding technology such as video editing software and converting library space into work rooms for woodworking or other projects.

The libraries also could make an automated system to track population growth and density and demographic changes through records already collected by schools, health departments and other government agencies. The data would then be stored in one place and be available for officials, businesses and researches to use.

The interviews library officials conducted with residents and community leaders produced specific suggestions for what members of the community, businesses, schools and local governments want from the library system.

A top priority was more technology, such as computers and e-readers, residents told the library.

To help local businesses, the libraries could provide them videoconferencing for a fee. The library is considering adding meeting space and areas where people who work from home can gather.

E-books have been popular, so the library also could offer music, videos and TV shows digitally, said Davin Kolderup, digital services librarian.

The library also could help more with online college classes, similar to how it currently works with Vincennes University, where university staff visit libraries a few times per week to work with students on software and other Web education tools.

The library also is working to revamp its website and make it easier to use on smartphones and tablet computers, such as by offering an app, Kolderup said.

Another area of focus brought up in the interviews and in research was on educational services for children and teens.

The group is looking at ways to grow those programs, including space for students to produce and edit video, make projects with a 3-D printer or do woodworking, said Sarah Taylor, digital services director for the library’s Franklin branch.

Technology areas in the library branches for children also could be created, where iPads would be available for children to learn how to use and play with while also learning their ABCs, Taylor said.

The library group will study over the summer the feasibility of the ideas being considered, prepare reports on their research and then go to the library board in August to present the reports.

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