Yarmouth library adopts 5-year plan to engage patrons

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YARMOUTH — Merrill Memorial Library’s new strategic plan seeks to engage more people with the library by creating new programs, offering more resources, and expanding the hours of operation.

The five-year plan, which would cover 2017-2021, was created by the library’s board of trustees and a group of volunteers over the past year and relied heavily on community input.

The idea to create a strategic plan came about at the end of 2014 after the library underwent a $2.5 million renovation

“We all felt that we had this renovation and there was a sense that the library had a revitalization,” library President Philip Jones said. “We wanted to make sure we were doing everything we could to create the community resource that the community wanted.”

The plan outlines five priorities and goals. One priority is to expand the library’s collection of materials, which includes joining Minerva, a consortium of 50 libraries. Another goal is to increase the library’s collection of downloadable digital materials by 50 percent.

Another priority is to strengthen customer service by expanding the library’s hours, which is something residents have been asking for, according to Director Heidi Grimm. Another goal towards better customer service would be increasing professional development for library staff. 

Strengthening the community’s relationship with the library and getting more people involved with library programs is another priority. Goals include increasing the number of library volunteers, doing more to reach people who are unable to visit the library, and providing services to local businesses.

Another priority is for the library to provide recreational, intellectual and cultural enrichment. This includes finding ways to more actively engage students and seniors with the library. Another goal within this priority is to increase early literacy and family programming by 20 percent.

Developing stronger communications is another priority laid out in the plan. This includes creating a communications and marketing plan and further defining the role of the board of trustees.

The strategic plan committee conducted a survey at the beginning of the year and received almost 600 responses. Jones said it was clear from the results that people consider the library a “community asset.”

The survey results show that people are most interested in having expanded hours, more adult programming, and more digital materials.

The strategic plan committee worked with consultant Deb Hoadley to reach out to community members and use their feedback to write the plan. The committee also held public forums, as well as focus groups with library staff. 

The committee also interviewed library directors from other communities, including Freeport, Brunswick, Auburn, Biddeford, Camden and Kennebunk. The director of the Maine State Library was interviewed, too.

Jones said while improving the library’s offerings and its role in the community is very important, the committee was pleased to discover how well the library is already doing.

“The very nice thing is how much the library is loved,” he said. “We heard that over and over again.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Merrill Memorial Library’s new five-year strategic plan seeks to engage more Yarmouth residents with the library and its programs.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.