The Denton Public Library has launched a new plan that will carry into 2020; it will focus on education programs, community outreach and resources the library offers, as well as attempt to clear up some issues the library has had.
The “2020 Strategic Plan” is a four-year plan that outlines the goals of the DPL. Terri Gibbs, the library director, said the focus of its strategy hasn’t changed much, but the details and goals within those respective categories have.
“[Libraries] do these neat things,” Gibbs said. “But we do them in new ways.”
The previous plan, which was written about three years ago, has expired. Gibbs explained that in order to receive accreditation from the state library, there needs to be a “current strategic plan in place.” The purpose of the plan is to give accountability to what the DPL wants to accomplish.
“So here’s a document that represents that,” Gibbs said.
A big part of the library’s strategy in both the old and new plan is community outreach. The idea is to be able to bring the library to the people, specifically those who cannot make it to the library. Ideally, it helps the library be everywhere, even the places that Gibbs considers “underserved.” This idea though, hasn’t been without roadblocks.
Issues still present
While the document attempts to remedy some of the issues the library is presented with, some are more difficult than others. Staffing at all three locations has proven to be a challenge, especially considering attendance at classes went up by 14 percent this year, and new library cards by seven. Gibbs explained the DPL has several “special needs” that other City of Denton departments don’t, due to its constant interaction with the public.
“We have three locations and they have to be staffed,” Gibbs said. “We have to keep the doors open and help people who come to the facilities.”
Gibbs explained that while the libraries have to be staffed, there is also a need for staff to help with outreach, an element that both the old strategic plan and the new one hit on.
The old plan
Gibbs said when they wrote the previous strategic plan three years ago, there was a “conscious effort” to focus on community. This introduced new outreach programs, including DPL2go, a vehicle service that brings the library to the community through books and activities. The goal, according to Gibbs in a YouTube video posted by the city of Denton, was to bring the library to those who couldn’t come to it.
“We do give out free books,” Chris Savercool, a library assistant, said in the video. “We set up the mobile station and laptops so we can set up applications and renew people’s [library] cards on the spot.”
What the new plan offers
To try and alleviate some of the staffing issues, the DPL is planning to hire someone who will be in charge of outreach full-time, a move Gibbs said will help.
“It’d be great to have that,” Gibbs said. “At least one person who is dedicated to organizing [outreach], cause it’s rather piecemeal now.”
Meanwhile, going off the previous plan’s focus, the new plan continues that emphasis of community through methods such as a “book bike,” as well as a program that reaches out to underserved children and introduce more Spanish classes. There’s also a concept called “Big Ideas,” which are goals that would be considered outside of what the library can accomplish by itself.
“Those are things we want to talk to the community and council and the city planners about,” Gibbs said. “To meet a need that we see developing within city government and within the community itself.”
The “Big Ideas” included in the new plan are the opening of a children’s facility and a “municipal archive,” which according to the plan would help “preserve institutional memory and output across local municipal government.”
In terms of technology, some plans have already been implemented, like 17 new iPads set to be deployed at the library’s three locations within a month. New public scanners are also in the plans. Additionally, the DPL is currently in the process of moving over from the City of Denton’s server to its own, a move Gibbs said will make them “a little more efficient.” On top of this, a software upgrade for the library’s catalog has recently been purchased. The upgrade will make the catalog more responsive to customer searches, as well as integrate the programs within the library.
“[It] will help with marketing and give a much more complete and accurate picture of what the library does,” Gibbs said.
Stacy Sizemore, the branch director for the DPL South Branch, said for his library, there are plans to offer more programs to young adults and teens.
“Our programs for small children have been very successful,” Sizemore said. “What we haven’t been doing is teen programs. We are in the process of planning a teen area for the library.”
Gibbs said the goals outlined are all within the current budget process – which includes budget and the DPL’s donation account. While Gibbs said that the money from donations can “vary wildly,” she added that due to the length of the plan, this doesn’t all need to happen tomorrow.
“The strategic plan in of itself is a marker that helps us stay focused on what we’re doing,” Gibbs said. “It’s easy to get distracted. There is just so many needs.”
Ultimately, Gibbs said the library has a habit of trying to be “everything to everyone.” An impulse that she said is good, but doesn’t work in practicality.
“We have to stay focused on what we’re good at, what’s needed, and what we can actually accomplish, Gibbs said. “That’s the document that sets that into motion.”
Featured Image: The Emily Fowler Library sits on Oakland Street. It is open Monday through Saturday 9 AM-6 PM and Sunday 1-5 PM. Kady Shirley