In order to chart the future course of the Riverside Public Library, the board has adopted a long-range strategic plan that addresses everything from space needs and technology to the library’s collection, staff development and community outreach.
According to library Director Janice Fisher, the strategic plan, adopted by the board officially in December, was an eight-month effort that involved the board, library staff and library patrons.
“I felt we needed some plan for the future,” Fisher said. “It’s been a long time [since the library adopted such a document]. We want to make sure we’re prepared for the future.”
In recent years, the library has focused on building maintenance, specifically repairing the roof of the 75-year-old building in 2004. The library also updated its heating/air-conditioning system in 2004 and is in the process of updating lighting inside the building.
“We’ve had some fairly extensive structural things to look at,” said library board President Martha Heine.
The strategic plan sets forth six goals for the library, which the staff hopes to implement over the next three years. Fisher added that the goals would be addressed in stages, as money allows changes to occur.
“The board is very dedicated to making sure we don’t overspend on our budget,” Fisher said. “Any improvement plan will be done on an ongoing basis, and we’ll work the budget around it.”
For example, Fisher said part of the current effort to replace lighting in the library was the result of a $20,000 bequest and a $5,000 gift from the Friends of the Library. Meanwhile, the Young Adult department of the library was funded by a $25,000 memorial from the Berquist family.
“We’ve been very fortunate in the past few years,” Fisher said. “Generous donations have helped us along the way.”
With just $51,000 in the library’s special reserve fund, the board is likely to move deliberately with respect to implementing the goals outlined in the strategic plan.
While the document doesn’t rank the goals by level of importance, a couple of them dovetail into one another, including evaluating space needs and physical layout of the library and focusing on technology.
“We know that our building is not being used to its optimum space,” Heine said. “We’re going to address that in the next few months and decide what we’re going to do about that.”
One thing the board may do is hire a space planner to determine if the current layout of the library is best-suited to delivering library services. For example, since its creation five years ago, the Young Adult section of the library has become immensely popular, according to Fisher.
“It’s so popular we may need more space,” Fisher said. “We know we can’t add on to the building, but there may be a way to change the layout, to make things more accessible.”
The board has also decided to resurrect its Technology Committee in order to rewrite its technology plan. Part of that plan will be an assessment of the current number of computers available for patrons (four in Adult Services, two in Juvenile and two in Young Adults). The library will also create a website committee to address any issues concerning the library’s online presence. The library has recently added a calendar section to its site, as well as Board of Trustees meeting agendas. Meeting minutes will be available online by summer.
As far as computer equipment goes, the strategic plan notes that most of the computers in the library are outdated and that its server is “reaching the end of its life.” It also notes that the wiring in the library “is inadequate for updated technology.”
Part of the strategic plan also calls for regular financial forecasting for the library, including a three-year budget forecast and a five-year capital improvement plan that can be updated annually.
“We don’t want to ever have to go to referendum,” Fisher said. The library last went to voters in the mid-1980s, to fund the construction of an addition on to the building.
More immediately, Fisher said the library is putting more emphasis on staff development and training. Instead of an annual inservice, staff members will attend quarterly meetings and complete online continuing education courses.
“We want to make sure everybody is getting continuing education, not just department heads,” Fisher said. “We want to make sure we’re prepared for the future.”
The library also wants to strengthen its ties with schools that serve the village, including District 96 and Riverside-Brookfield High School by offering meetings, specialized programming and librarian visits to schools.