Yarmouth library seeks input on strategic plan

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YARMOUTH — Merrill Memorial Library is developing a five-year strategic plan and is looking to the community for input.

Over the past four months a strategic planning committee has been holding focus groups and conducting interviews to guide the development of the plan, which “will set goals and priorities for the future.” A survey has now been created with the hope of reaching more residents.

“I would love for the community to tell us where to focus our rather limited resources over the next five years,” Library Director Heidi Grimm said.

The survey, which can be completed on the library’s website or by hand at the library or Town Hall, has a deadline of Feb. 15. Library patrons and residents of all ages are encouraged to take the survey.

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

“As we were moving back into the building, the library board decided it was the perfect time to look ahead,” she said. “It was the ideal time to engage with the community.”

With so much attention already focused on the library, Grimm said it was a good opportunity to use the momentum to keep residents involved. 

The library website says developing a strategic plan is important because of how libraries are changing. It says technology has changed the roles of libraries, and Merrill Memorial Library would like to update its offerings.

“A library now does so much more than just lend books,” the website says. “It provides any number of social services to its community.”

Having a strategic plan in place will allow the library to provide these services.

“The purpose of the strategic plan is to position the library to be able to provide, in a cost-effective way, services that meet the demands of the changing needs of the community, and to educate the public and all the stakeholders about library services,” according to the website.

The effort to reach out to residents and community leaders has been led by consultant Deb Hoadley, who was hired by the library to gather information and help put the plan together. Hoadley has led focus groups with school administrators, town department heads and residents.

In a meeting last November, Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff and  school librarians came to the concensus that one of the library’s priorities should be helping children develop a love of reading. It was also noted that the library should be aware of demographic changes in town and be sure that library services are available for low-income and immigrant families.

Demographic changes were also discussed by Town Manager Nat Tupper, Police Chief Michael Morrill, Economic Development Director Denise Clavette and Yarmouth Community Services Director Karyn Garofoli. They said the library should be aware of patrons with special needs and health concerns, and how they can best be reached and served.

Grimm said a lot of residents have told her the library needs to be better at publicizing its services, and thinks the biggest challenge will be finding an effective way.

The schools, as well as residents, said the library should also be open later. The library closes at 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; it has been suggested that it stay open until 8 p.m., as it is on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grimm said people also want more programming. This, combined with extended hours, would require hiring additional staff or assigning more hours to the current staff. 

Another suggestion has been to partner with local businesses, and Grimm said she is looking into having businesses sponsor programs as way to save the library money. She said it’s hard to say whether the library’s budget will be able to fund what will be laid out in the strategic plan, or if additional funds will need to be raised.

Grimm said once the results of the survey are in, Hoadley will compile a document with notes and then work with the planning committee to write the strategic plan. Grimm said it should be ready and in place by the end of March.

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

Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth has made a community survey available to help guide the development of a five-year strategic plan.

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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.