Thank you for reading my column for The Local and thank you Penny for this opportunity to bring library news to the community each month.
The other chief librarians in the region find it amazing we have three local newspapers, and it really is quite amazing at a time when print media is under pressure from newer forms of media. But as with many things in Niagara-on-the-Lake, our newspaper situation is unique and part of a long history of firsts. The first newspaper in Upper Canada was established here, as was the first lending library.
Newspapers are going still strong in NOTL, and so is the library. Like everyone else, we’ve made some small and some large adjustments to our operations during the pandemic, changes that make us better positioned to serve the community now and in the future. We started to plan the library’s future just before the pandemic hit, so recalibrated the process to reflect our new reality. After a short delay, we’re happy to say the plan is now complete and we’re excited to bring it to the community.
Library board and staff worked hard on the plan, and received valuable input from residents about the library’s next four years. We surveyed both library users and non-users, and used their feedback, along with an extensive environmental scan, to develop four strategic directions and related goals. The scan included a review of the town’s demographics and economy, town council’s strategic plan, the town’s Official Plan, the Glendale district plan and the municipal service delivery report.
We also compared ourselves to four other public libraries of similar size (Pelham, Port Colborne, Port Hope and Thorold), using the province’s annual public library statistics. We looked at our own internal statistics for the last three years, at trends in the library and information world and the larger world and we filtered all this information through the lens of the pandemic.
Finally, we asked residents, board members and staff why the library is important to the community, and heard a few themes repeated. One of the most frequently mentioned was that public libraries are more than books in a building; they’re community hubs knitting the social fabric of the community together.
The social fabric of communities around the world is stretched thin by the pandemic, and here’s what we’re doing over the next four years to help our community rebuild and thrive:
1. Inspire lifelong learning, discovery and creation: Inspiring learning, discovery and creation for all in the community through access to information, tools, technology and support services.
2. Build community: Build community through partnerships conducive to communication, mutual understanding, and making connections.
3. Increase awareness: Raise awareness in the community about the impact of the library and the valuable opportunities and resources it provides.
4. Innovate for efficient and sustainable operations: Implement best practices to strengthen our human, capital and financial assets to enable the library to flourish and increase sustainability.
Each of these directions has several goals to guide board and staff as work plans are developed over the next four years. Our mission, vision and values have also been updated to align with the new plan and we’ll review the plan quarterly to gauge our progress. Over the next few months, I’ll introduce you to individual staff and board members who are putting the plan into action. You can view the complete plan on our website at notlpubliclibrary.org.