Re-imagining Madawaska Valley Public Library

Peter Fright, Vice-Chair of the Board of Madawaska Valley Public Library, reports on the Madawaska Valley Public Library’s Strategic Plan.

Madawaska Valley Public Library has always evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. Its success is reflected in a 27 percent increase in membership over the last 10 years, a substantial achievement for a small rural community library. The Board of Trustees, CEO, staff and volunteers are committed to building on this success and a new five year Strategic Plan was approved by the Board in 2020 with the aim of developing a facility fit for the this decade and beyond.

During 2019 a great deal of work was undertaken by the board and CEO to prepare the Plan. This included a survey of library users, residents and visitors covering a wide variety of issues ranging from library opening hours and program content to the choice of loan collections and the building itself. We also hosted a well-attended Community Forum which provided an opportunity for people to discuss ideas and proposals for enhancing Library services. In addition, the Board consulted with other Public Libraries and used the resources of Provincial and County Library networks to gather information about how to identify ways to make improvements.

An analysis of the information gathered was undertaken with the resulting Strategic Plan developed as a ‘living’ document to be used as a guide to making improvements to Library services in the coming years. 3 core strategies were identified:

Evaluate the Potential for a Community Hub

The concept of providing a safe and comfortable space combining a range of services and amenities for the community is not new. In fact, the idea has been around in Madawaska Valley for at least a decade and is a reality in townships within our region, the facility in Maynooth being a familiar example.  During the preparation for the new Strategic Plan it was clear there existed widespread support for the idea of transforming the library into a community hub. 

Consequently, it was agreed to investigate how this could be achieved while accepting that it would not happen overnight. Actions to support this objective include identifying the type of services and resources a community hub could offer, evaluating the capacity of the existing building and determining the amount of space required. The need to identify and engage with partners – not least Madawaska Valley Township – was seen as critical to the success of such an enterprise in terms of technical and specialist expertise as well as fundraising. A Business Plan would be developed to assess costs, benefits and future growth with sustainability as an underpinning principle.

Enhance the Profile of the Library in the Community

MV Public Library is a well-used and much-loved resource amongst residents, summer cottagers and visitors. Since the Library wants to ensure that current and potential patrons are fully aware of the diversity and ever changing services provided, it was agreed that ways will be explored to improve and enhance its profile in the community. 

The action plan for this core strategy includes the adjustment of opening hours in response to user feedback, determining how to use social and conventional media more effectively and improve the Library website. A theme which links the 3 Core Strategies is the continued development of partnerships. In this instance the highlighting of joint projects is seen to be important in showing how the Library works well with businesses, agencies and individuals within the community.

Enhance Library Programs

A wide range of programs have been provided by the Library over the years and they continue to attract a considerable amount of support from the community. The library has also hosted a variety of events presented by individuals and organizations, which have been well attended and resulted in positive feedback from participants. Building on this strength will result in even further improvements in this area of service provision.

These will include developing and expanding Children’s and Youth programs, the delivery of participative workshops on a variety of subjects, the provision of a range of educational programs and presenting events which reduce social isolation, especially for more vulnerable members of the community. Again, the aim is to do this within a partnership framework.

Pandemic

All Strategic Plans, of course, need to be flexible and take into account changing circumstances and the Library is no exception. The emergence of the current pandemic occurred just after the Plan was approved and it appeared that everything would have to be put on hold. In fact, nothing was further from the truth. Everyone involved in the Library stepped up and ensured that not only would services continue in one form or another (curbside pick-up for instance) but most activities involved in the Plan would be carried forward. Work continues in evaluating the potential for a community hub, on line educational courses have been identified and procured and new programs (on line and socially distanced) were creatively designed and delivered with a very encouraging response. The constructive and energetic way the Library has adapted to the ‘new’ world has elicited positive feedback from many in the community and the whole experience has enhanced its image in general. So, despite the challenges posed by the covid situation, there remains an optimism about the Library’s future path. 

The full Strategic Plan is accessible at the Library itself and on its website OR Click HERE to download a copy.

 The Board and CEO (Karen Filipkowski) welcome anyone with an interest in helping to make improvements. Please contact Karen to discuss ways to contribute.

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