HARVARD -- Library Trustees Davida Bagatelle and Charles Redinger gave selectmen an overview of their five-year plan, which can be viewed on the library website.

"It became apparent a couple of years ago that we needed to prepare such a plan," sketching out future plans for library services and technology upgrades, Bagatelle said.

A consultant who worked with the schools on their plan helped the trustees map out theirs, she said, with input from a "representative group" of community and board members and library staff. One key element was to determine how to derive support from a greater cross section in town," she said. "We reached out and we listened."

Step two was to create a list of strategic goals, with success indicators and problem-solving strategies. From there, the process moved to a three-phase plan to establish a working group, collect data and do necessary research.

The 14-member group split into three teams, one to look at "internal trends such as traffic, circulation, capacity and safety issues, including ADA compliance, inside and out. Another group analyzed "external information" such as the impact of the digital age on all libraries, and frame a plan to react and respond, posing the question, "where are we and where are we going?"

Finally, the group sent out a survey to see how townspeople view and use the library. There were 400 responses.

One take away was that the library is well-used and appreciated, with gate count and circulation numbers up.


According to the survey, people come in for three main reasons, to browse, look for specific resources or for programs.

"Books are a big deal," Bagatelle said. No surprise there, books and reference materials are what libraries are all about, after all. But survey respondents also liked the look and feel of the building, which underwent an extensive renovation not long ago. "They perceived the library as an extremely pleasant place," she said.

According to the State Board of Library Commissioners, which keeps track of use trends, despite the disparity between old and new and the challenges of keeping up with technology, library use is increasing. Such differences are incorporated in the library's revised mission statement, which Bagatelle said the trustees are very proud of.

Their goals include improving communications and information-sharing strategies, firming up communication channels with other town organizations and boards and working with them, and the effort works both ways, Bagatelle said.

For example, the trustees were "thrilled" with the support they got for the library budget from the Finance Committee.

Challenges and Priorities

One of the challenges to be addressed is how to deal with the after-school crowd. "That's a priority," Bagatelle said, pointing to a two-hour training program for staff to instruct them in establishing behavior guidelines for teenagers who hang out at the library after school and also provide a better environment for everyone. Next year, plans are in the works for "more aggressive training" and better use of space, with a re-configured floor plan geared to be friendly to both to teens and other patrons, she said. Another big step was hiring a part-time youth coordinator, "to relieve staff of that burden," she said. The Library Trust funded the position.

Redinger spoke of "generational divides" and technology, with a strategy to "recognize these changes" and formulate a five-year plan that is proactive as well as reactive. Keeping up with new-age gadgets such as Kindle and Nook, for example. Library Director Mary Wilson says there's work in progress to develop WiFi programs and services to help forward the transition from paper pages to use of e-readers, he said.

Selectman Lucy Wallace suggested coordinating with the Council on Aging, which offers programs and conducts classes in Internet use.

That's just the kind of "synergy" they aim to explore, the two trustees said.