September 18th, 2019

Library Chat: Library asking questions about local wants and needs

By medicinehatnews on June 7, 2019.

The library has a Plan of Service which sets strategic direction, describes what the library will do for the community and defines measurable goals.  The current plan runs until 2020 but we are running out of unmet goals.  That is a good problem but it means it is getting to be time for a new plan.

A new plan won’t be completed for a while but we have already started some needs assessment.  We want to talk to the community, understand what is going on, and develop  services that respond to local needs.  We started last weekend at Spectrum. We lured people into our booth with free buttons and asked them a question.

On Friday we asked “Why don’t you use the library?”  We heard about barriers we are aware of already, like the lack of parking and distance from Southridge, but there were surprises. More than one person mentioned fines, either fines they knew about or fines they were scared might be there. If it’s any consolation I hate late fees and fines too — I call them photo radar for libraries. If fear of fines is keeping you away please come talk to us. We want to help.

On Saturday we asked “What is one thing our community lacks?” This might seem like a non-library question but it is good to start with community needs. The library can’t help with everything — for example, we couldn’t get the Spectrum beer gardens opened earlier like one person wanted — but sometimes we might surprise you. There was lots of desire for more family activities and activities for older pre-teen kids. Come to our free barbecue and announcement event at the library at 5 p.m. on June 17 and you’ll hear all about how we can help with that!

On Sunday we asked, “What is one program or service you would like to see at the library?” There were lots of requests for more of what we already do, like “more Monoporead” and “more lawn yoga,” but there were new ideas and insights as well.  Someone asked us to mix up our calendar because seniors’ events citywide tend to always be on Monday and Tuesday.  I did not know that!

My personal favourite responses were “more play for older adults,” “game night for seniors” and “virtual reality for seniors.” Our next Plan of Service will include long range planning, and we already know our population is expected to age considerably over the next 10 or 20 years. We and other public agencies need to get ready for a “grey wave,” and the seniors of the future are not going to be content with old fashioned services.  

Ken Feser is chief librarian at the Medicine Hat Public Library.

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