Survey: Falmouth library users want more space, technology

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FALMOUTH — A recent survey by the Falmouth Memorial Library Board of Trustees shows residents value the role of the library in the community, but wish it had more space and programs.

Julie Rabinowitz, president of the board, said responses from 100 interviews and 200 surveys will help trustees as they address the status of the library, its goals and the challenges it faces.

Responses also will be used to identify leadership qualities needed in the library’s next director. The search for a new director is under way.  

Last year, a $5.65 million plan to create a community center in the Motz building and convert the former Lunt School into a library was rejected by voters. Many arguments in favor of moving the library centered on the need for more space.

Rabinowitz said major themes in survey responses include strong support for and pride in the library, as well as the need for more space and programs. 

“The survey results overall indicated that people in Falmouth value the library, the services it provides and see it as a place where the community interacts,” Rabinowitz said.

“You might go to a meeting there, but in a larger sense, people see friends and neighbors there, and make friends there, and share common interests there, all this in an inter-generational sense,” she continued. “People like that Falmouth has such a place and are proud that it is such a well-used and loved place.”

Interim Director Ellen Conway said she was surprised by the number of people who are “looking for more of everything” from the library, but thinks the results are helpful in planning for the future.

“It was very encouraging to see the results, because in general we find people do appreciate the library and staff. That’s nice to know,” Conway said.

A top response to a survey question about how the library can improve was space. Rabinowitz said the responses were interesting, too.

“Spaces was noted as both a plus and a minus for the library,” she said.

Conway said every inch of the 10,700-square-foot library is in use, including a kitchen area stacked with boxes of books. She said community space is used daily for meetings by various groups.

The lack of space was mentioned by survey respondents who said they would like more meeting space, work space for collaboration and tutoring, “loud” rooms and an area for teens.

Conway said the lack of space for teens is well known to staff.

“There’s really nowhere else in town for them to go right now, except stay at school,” she said.

Youth Services Librarian Will Brown said teens have told him they would like to have a comfortable place to gather after school.

“We’d like to try to make that space here in the library if we can,” he said.

Brown said if space allowed he would start offering more programs for teens. Story times for younger children are already popular and attract as many as 25 children per event, he said.

Patrons made clear through the survey that the future of the library involves technology. Residents want a state-of-the-art and cutting-edge facility that balances traditional with technology, according to a survey summary prepared for trustees.

One respondent said “we like our hard-cover book in the evening, our audio book in the car and our e-reader when traveling,” according to the survey summary.

Respondents suggested the library provide training for residents on the latest technology and continue to offer public computers with Internet access. Conway said the staff has put together printed information about how to use e-readers because of demand for that type of information.

While the library offers a small selection of e-books, librarians are mindful of balancing new technology with traditional library uses, Conway said.

“We find users of the library don’t want to give up books, but they also want to feel it’s a place where they can bring their new devices and find interesting things to load on them,” she said.

Rabinowitz said the board and staff are already making some smaller changes to address issues brought up in the survey. Plans include a new website this spring, more programs and a monthly newsletter available in print and via email.

“We plan to take on a larger strategic planning process after the director is hired, and that will bring in both the director’s prospective and involve the information gathered in this process,” she said, adding any significant changes would occur under the director of the new director.

Conway said she encourages residents to continue to share ideas about how the library can improve and meet the needs of the community.

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.

Sidebar Elements

Youth services librarian Will Brown, left, and Dave Billings, who handles inter-library loans, work at the desk of Falmouth Memorial Library last week. A recent survey of patrons shows they support the library but would like more space for additional programs.

Kristina Skillin, right, searches for books while John Bonnell reads the newspaper at Falmouth Memorial Library. Skillin, a living historian from Falmouth, said she wishes the library has more space and resources for patrons. Bonnell said he visits the library twice each week to look for new books.