Strathmore library looks ahead

·3 min read

The Strathmore Municipal Library is planning its future by focusing on becoming more accessible, promoting reading and learning, connecting with the community, and providing a comfortable and functional space.

The Strathmore Library has released its 2020 to 2022 plan of service, outling its ongoing strategy of providing refuge and services to residents of Strathmore, and books too, of course.

The library’s role and presence in the community has evolved, said Rachel Dick Hughes, who has worked as director since Februrary 2013.

“The library’s programming has increased exponentially in that amount of time,” she noted. “The number of staff has grown and they all come to their job with different ideas and different passions, so we’ve been able to grow our programming based on what they love to do and what they’re good at.”

Library membership has grown to about 6,000 members. But many non-members also visit to use computers or to simply socialize.

“The library has grown into a place where people enjoy being, and also a place where they know they can find whatever they need,” said Dick Hughes. “Our staff are really good at making sure people get connected to what they need.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the value of the library as a place people can be around other people without having to spend money.

“We’re kind of the only place in town that is possible,” she added. “The value of library as a public free space has really been reinforced by the pandemic.”

The library’s visiting library service, which delivers books to members of the community, is also critical for people isolated by the pandemic. “That service mostly helps people who have poor health anyway, so for them to have regular phone calls with our community was huge; and then also just to be able to find something to read and somebody to talk to was really important.”

The library is looking to create more groups for people to get together to fight isolation. One successful program has been the library’s knitting and stitching group, members of which are “so happy to be together,” said Dick Hughes. “So I think we’re going to work on more groups like that, where there’s a shared interest and people can come together.”

Providing group programming online is also important because some people are not yet comfortable meeting in person, she said. The library is planning an online book club so people can meet and discuss books from anywhere with internet connection.

One of the priorities of the library is to foster life-long learning, including adult learning programs for people with lower literacy or who have barriers towards literacy. These programs will also help people understand and navigate technology, which has become even more pervasive throughout the pandemic. “We do technology tutoring, if somebody needs help,” she said.

But books and other media remain central to the library’s work. The library is working to expand its collection, including adding more large-print books, audio books and digital books, to give more options to its diverse readership.

“We’d like to spend a little more money to beef up our collection,” said Dick Hughes.

From surveying the community, the library learned many value accessibility and affordability. As a result, the library is working to reach people who are not using the library now and keeping fees low. One initative to reduce barriers is a program being implemented for users to have the option to “read away” their fines for late-returned books.

To reach these goals, the plan of service includes specific benchmarks, many of which include target numbers to reach. “I think it’s very easy to say we want everbody in the community to be reading and be highly literate,” said Dick Hughes. “But a plan is only as good as the steps that will get you to those objectives.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times