Strategic Planning for Small Libraries

Written by Kathleen Webb

It was time to start a strategic plan.  After several years in the director’s office, the library’s previous plan was badly outdated.  I looked over the usual resources, gave the matter some thought, and then looked for some professional help.  No matter how good my ideas were, I couldn’t get around the need for community input.  Previous surveys had not had a good rate of return.  It was time to hold community focus groups.  I must admit that I had to set aside some significant trepidation.

We contracted with the North East Ohio Regional Library System for assistance and planned those community focus groups under their guidance.

We started by asking the library staff members to submit the names of people who regularly used the library.  We all seem to know different patrons, so it was easy to compile a list of 75 names.  We knew that some people worked during the day and others didn’t drive after dark.  Our solution was to hold two focus groups for adults, one on a Friday evening and the other on Saturday morning.  I composed a business letter of invitation, printed it on library letterhead and hand-addressed the greeting and the envelope for each person.  We affixed stamps, dropped the letters in the mail and counted the days until we began to receive RSVPs.  Many people were pleased to be invited.  We had some who declined with regrets due to prior commitments.  There were only a few who did not respond at all.

We prepared for the focus groups by setting up our meeting room with tables and chairs in a large square so people could see each other as well as the leader.  We provided light refreshments but found that people were too excited to eat.  Our NEO-RLS coach brought seven questions about the community and the library.  We set up a flip chart and easel to note the responses to each question.

My trepidation began to fade as friendly people arrived.  We started with introductions and a brief explanation of our strategic planning process.  The first question was presented and people eagerly shared their thoughts.  The first sheet of paper could not contain all the ideas that were brought forth.  That sense of eager participation continued through the seven questions and two hours of our focus group.  When the questions ended and our time together was finished, many people expressed their gratitude in being asked to share.

The Saturday focus group proceeded in similar fashion.  Altogether, we had 45 patron participants, plus two staff members in each group.  We compiled the responses to each question and our NEO-RLS coach helped us find similarities to condense the details.  Those responses shaped the priorities and strategies that would make up the outline of our strategic plan.

We used the momentum of success to plan a community focus group with our teen patrons.  They respectfully responded to the same questions, adding some different insights.  They also did not hesitate to enjoy the food we provided in appreciation of their time spent with us.

Altogether, our community focus groups provided very useful information.  This experience has been successful beyond my expectations.  And yes, my trepidation is all gone!

I would encourage you to invite your patrons to share their thoughts and insights as you plan for the future of your library and your community.

Kathy Webb, Director
Marvin Memorial Library

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Make Your Library A Destination

By Sandi Thompson, Puskarich Public Library

Small libraries are in a unique niche.  Usually located in small or rural communities, Ohio’s small libraries take on local flavors and are a reflection of their community.  What makes your small library special?  Perhaps your library has a special collection of items, a huge annual event, community garden, concerts, art displays, or a unique makerspace that brings people to your library.  Today’s library continues to be a fascinating place always offering new things to do and learn.  Many small libraries throughout Ohio offer interesting things to do and see.

The Puskarich Public Library is located in Cadiz, part of southeast Ohio’s coal country.  In 1994, the Harrison County History of Coal Museum (www.thecoalmuseum.com) was established to preserve the local deep mining and surface mining history.  It is located in the lower level of the library and exhibits were developed in cooperation with the Ohio History Connection. There are many donated items in the museum including photographs, remnants of large coal shovels, watch fobs, and scrip.  Various films that explain the mining industry can be viewed in the attached theater space.  The museum is open during library hours.  Special tours with retired miners can be arranged for larger groups.

The centerpiece of the Harris-Elmore Public Library is a 1904 Elmore car built by the Elmore Manufacturing Company, only one of two are known of this model to be in existence.  The carmaker began by making bicycles in Elmore, Ohio in 1893.  By the time cars were being produced though, production was lured 20 miles away to a factory in Clyde Ohio, and eventually the company was purchased by General Motors.  Even though it was only in production for a few years, the Elmore car was considered reliable due to its relatively few parts.  The engine only had three internal parts: the piston, connecting rod and crankshaft.

OLC RoadsterThe little blue roadster came back to Elmore about forty years ago after Elmore native, Pete Willet, purchased it at auction from The Henry Ford Museum and donated it to the library.  Amy Laity, Director of the Harris-Elmore Public Library, feels fortunate to have the car and says how many enthusiasts stop to see the car due to their close proximity to the Ohio turnpike.

The Dr. Earl Sloan Library is a small rural library located in Zanesfield, Ohio.  Housed in a historic brick and gray stone building with an Italian tile roof, most people are immediately transported back to their childhood when they walk up the wide, oak tongue and groove steps to the main hall, see the original interior woodwork and plaster walls where the Library Director, Polly Bargar, still uses skeleton keys to lock the doors.  Part of the charm is maintained because the library’s bylaws include that changes “be considered and enacted deliberately” thus phone service was not installed until 1995. This well-preserved building houses pieces from the county’s first Historical Society and items that document the life of Earl Sloan, the library’s namesake.

Earl Sloan grew up in Zanesfield, the son of a local Irish immigrant, who made horse harnesses.  Earl’s father was well known for his ability with horses and for the strong-smelling liniment that he developed to rub down horses with sore muscles.   In 1871, Earl went to work with his brother in St. Louis at a livery stable.  While there, one of their customers discovered that the liniment relieved the soreness in his back.  They began advertising that the liniment was “good for man and beast.”  At 23 years old, Earl moved to Chicago since sales were so successful, and he continued to promote the product.  He later added “Dr.” to his name, trademarked the liniment and started a corporation.  In 1913, he sold the business for 1 million to William R. Warner & Co., the maker of Listerine.

Earl Sloan eventually provided money to aid in the building of the library in Zanesfield and established an endowment for its continued maintenance.  Many of his items make for a fascinating display at the library including his portrait by a local well known artist, amazing grandfather clock, Sloan’s cookbook, and other unique items.  With sufficient notice, the Director also provides “history and village tours” making a visit truly memorable. “Sloan’s Liniment” is still sold online today, being popular in the Asian market with the same label and walrus mustache according to Library Director, Polly Bargar.

The Loudonville Public Library recently created a truly baby friendly early literacy play space.  Every element that was incorporated into this area focuses on fostering the development of early literacy skills.   The centerpiece of the new area is “Marjorie’s Alphabet Soup Diner.”  The features of this special play space also include a padded bench for caregivers, many integrated tactile options for the babies (“discovery” packets containing seeds, marbles, and corn), large letters, mirrors and wall mounted interactive games.  This is a very unique space worth visiting especially if you have little ones or are thinking of creating an early literacy zone in your library. The process of creating this area was featured in Public Library Online, a publication of the Public Library Association.

An awe-inspiring installation of stained glass windows is located in the Conneaut Public Library.  The first window was commissioned in April 1998 that coincided with the opening of their new library.  Since that time, various windows have been commissioned including one depicting beautiful irises in honor of the retirement of the library director, Debbie Zingaro, and two windows were commissioned by the youth services coordinator, Stephanie Gildone, in memory of her mother appropriately depicting Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood.  As of today, the library hosts 15 stained glass masterpieces all created by stained glass artist, John Sheffer.  Each window has a special story to tell.  Sadly, John Sheffer passed away in 2016.  John had designed six windows that detailed the lifestyle and history of Conneaut.   These designs will come to fruition as friends at AZURE Stained Glass Studio complete his works to be installed later this year.

The Conneaut Public Library also is the site of a spectacular Summer Reading extravaganza.  Their Build a Better World program aims to educate local families about the history of their city through its diverse architecture.  They will be visiting different countries via “Dewey Airlines” Flight 629 inside a part of the meeting room that is transformed into the inside of an airplane.  The other half of the meeting room will change each week with oversized cut outs of a country map, flag, children in costumes of the country, animals and a famous structure. All will be painted with fluorescent paint and lit with black lights so everything glows.  Examples of hometown architecture that are influenced by that particular country will be discussed and shared.

The sights and exhibits within the walls of small libraries are as varied and unique as the communities that they represent.  Ohio has a treasure trove of wonderful and exciting libraries.  If you have a chance, take a trip and visit one of these “best kept secrets.”  There is always something new to learn and discover at a library!

-Sandi Thompson, Director, Puskarich Public Library

My thanks to these wonderful individuals who provided such interesting information for this article:

Polly Bargar, Director, Dr. Earl Sloan Public Library

Amy Laity, Director, Harris-Elmore Public Library

Mike Thornton, Director, Loudonville Public Library

Stephanie Gildone, Youth Services Coordinator, Conneaut Public Library

Cindy Prather, Assistant Director, Conneaut Public Library

Mandy Knapp, OPLIN

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Creative ways for your small library to create revenue with minimal work

Kroger Community Rewards— Your library will get a quarterly check based on the spending habits of patrons who select your library as their community reward benefactor. Setting up your library to be a benefactor of Kroger Community Rewards is quick and easy. Approximately 10 days after filling out the online form and submitting any requested supporting documentation your organization will be active to start earning money. After receiving conformation and an organization number from Kroger the next step is for your patrons to log into their Kroger Plus Account to select your library as the organization to receive the community rewards benefit.

For more information visit: https://www.kroger.com/topic/kroger-community-rewards-3

Thrift books library program–  Your library will get a monthly check for weeded and donated books sold on your behalf by Thrift Books. After signing up for the program you will be given an account login for a site where you simply scan the ISBN of the unwanted books to see if Thrift Books is interested in them. From there you pack them up, affix prepaid UPS labels on them and send them out. Thrift Books will market and sell the books and split the proceeds with your library. Any books that do not sell are eventually recycled by Thrift Books. Small libraries are often short on storage space so this is a great way to keep inventory manageable even if you hold an annual or semi-annual book sale.

For more information visit: https://www.thriftbooks.com/library/

Amazon Smile—Amazon will donate 0.5 percent of the cost of eligible purchases to your organization. Your library’s 501(c)(3) has to be on file with GuideStar USA Inc. in order to enroll in the Amazon Smile Program. There are detailed steps to follow to apply to the program and also steps to verify status with GuideStar USA Inc. if needed.  The library must provide checking account information to Amazon Smile as they only send electronic transfers of the earned donation amount each quarter. Patrons will have to select your library as their benefactor on their Amazon account.

For more information visit: https://org.amazon.com/ref=smi_ge_raas_org_org

Roger A. Donaldson, II, Network Administrator
Jackson City Library, OH

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Fundraising 101: tightening our belts another notch

In lieu of Governor Kasich’s recent proposed cuts (still subject to changes by Legislature) to the Public Library Fund (PLF)—a proposal which would dole out $57 million less than 2008 amounts to Ohio’s 251 public libraries!—I thought it apropos to visit the subject of fundraising.

Who (benefits from fundraising): Obviously when seeking donations it’s important to share information regarding the program needing support, and which of your patrons/community members will most be affected by it, but it’s just as important to inform the businesses of how you’ll make them famous in your community! Let businesses know exactly which newspapers/radio stations/websites/the library’s blogs/social media pages, etc. you will be appreciating them on! Send donors news clips from the local newspapers; articles featuring the programs which their dollars funded shows how their money is being spent!

What (donations are you seeking): Before requesting anything from a business/organization it is best to know what exactly you’ll need for the program/project you have in mind. If you’re hosting a Pool Party as part of Summer Reading, you might be requesting a donation of the pool and lifeguard coverage, not necessarily a financial donation. Be specific. How much or how many hours. Or if your library is hosting a Gingerbread House event you may choose to request candy and other supplies vs. money from your local grocery. Remember a donation doesn’t have to be monetary, it is anything that fills a need!

Where (to seek donors): Go big or go home is one of our mantras. Start with your local area businesses, universities, organizations (Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, etc.), then move to other larger businesses within your county. Larger corporations that specialize in something may be more willing to support a venture that aligns with their focus, i.e. Marathon Petroleum may be more likely to sponsor a STEM program—they know the importance of science and math for kids! And if they don’t, educate them! We are located in the NW section of the state, and yet we solicited and received donations from Toledo, Columbus, and Cleveland—all locations between 1-2.5 hours away! Corporations are compelled to donate certain monies each year, and it always look great for businesses to help non-profits, so it’s a win-win.

When requesting donations make sure you not only briefly explain the program, but also, and more importantly, explain why it’s important to your target group. Consider adding a couple statistics that show how successful this program was in years past, for example:

“We believe that with the support of our local community and businesses we will not only help children stay on top of their education, but also spread the love of reading to our community! Readers make readers—adults who read to children spread a love of reading and a curiosity and hunger for more knowledge!

The numbers speak for themselves! Just look at the FANTASTIC participation numbers we saw in 2016…”

Why: Libraries are constantly faced with budget concerns and “tightening our belts,” so not only is it prudent to seek outside assistance, but it also looks great when you’ve been awarded outside monies—it says to your patrons and communities, “see how hard we’re working to make our money stretch!”—also not a bad thing for patrons to be aware of, especially if you run a levy (or levy renewal) campaign. Make sure anytime you are awarded grants you advertise that fact by getting an article into the local paper or radio, advertise your award on social media/the library’s website/blog, etc. Not only is this a great time to shine on your success, but it’s also an opportunity to share with the community how you’re going to use this money, and also yet another opportunity to thank the donor!

When: When seeking donations or finding grants that you’re interested in make sure you mind the deadlines. Set reminders in your calendars that allow plenty of time for you to get your application ready and reviewed before submission. If you are seeking funding/donations for particular programs, i.e. Summer Reading, allow extra time for requests to be reviewed—we learned from one town civic organization that their last “business” meeting of the year was April, so we made sure they had our donation request letter by March.

How: If you’re not sure what’s out there, take a beginner’s grant writing course (some libraries occasionally offer these free of charge!) Have a grant writing guru on your board or in your community? Ask them if they’d be willing to donate some time to help you get started! Start small and simple. Don’t get overwhelmed.

Some great places to start if you’re specifically looking for library grants:

http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/programs/grants.htm

http://librarygrants.blogspot.com/

http://grants.library.wisc.edu/organizations/libraries.html

http://www.grantwrangler.com/librarygrants.html

Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library, OH

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Creating Community Through StoryWalk

I think we can all agree that making our libraries more visible in the communities we serve should be one of our most important goals.  One great way to do that is to work with your community to install StoryWalk.  StoryWalk® is a fun and innovative way for people of all ages to exercise their bodies, as well as their minds. The library-sponsored StoryWalk in Dover is located in the City Park around a charming pond. As you take your walk counter-clockwise around the pond, you will come to 17 posts which contain 2-page spreads of a children’s picture book. By the time you have come full-circle, you will have read a book in its entirety.  StoryWalk® was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and was developed with the help of  Rachel Senechal of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalks® have been installed in 50 states and 11 countries including, Germany, Canada, England, Bermuda, Russia, Malaysia and Pakistan. Thanks to the City of Dover and our post sponsors, the Dover Public Library has been able to bring StoryWalk® to the Dover, Ohio community.  Each month a new story is installed in the StoryWalk posts. We make StoryWalk titles available for sponsorship for only $50 (covers the purchase of two children’s books which need to be cut up and laminated individually). If you sponsor a story, you may choose a title (pending Library approval; must be family-friendly and no more than 32 pages long). You may also make the story more personal by adding a short bio or a write-up explaining what the story means to you.

To be completely honest, StoryWalk for our library has been a public relations bonanza.  Working with the City of Dover has been great and the project brought a lot of attention and publicity to both the library and the City of Dover.  We encouraged local civic groups like Rotary and Exchange Club to sponsor a post ($350), as well as individuals in the community.  My parents, for example, sponsored a post in memory of my older sister, Jenny, who passed away in a car accident.  Dani Gustavich, our Children’s Services Manager, was the person who brought StoryWalk to my attention.  It was her passion and commitment to getting the funding in place that made the project a reality.  Dani planned a wonderful ribbon cutting ceremony that included invitations to city officials, sponsors, and members of the community.  On top of that, children’s author and illustrator Will Hillenbrand’s book, Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze! was selected as the very first title to be featured in our StoryWalk.  Hillenbrand himself came and read his book and participated in the ribbon cutting.

If you are looking for a great community project that involves multiple organizations and partners, then perhaps StoryWalk is right for your library.  For more information, go to: http://www.doverlibrary.org/kids/storywalk/

Jim Gill, Director
Dover Public Library

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Big Talk, Small Libraries

The Public Libraries in Ohio are some of the greatest in the nation. We have awesome libraries due to local and state support, as well as advocacy support of the Ohio Library Council. We have incredible continuing education offered through OLC, the State Library of Ohio, Regional Library Services, and consortia, to name a few resources.

As small libraries, we sometimes have trouble finding the time or funding to get away to bigger events such as conferences and conventions. Your Small Library Action Council understands this, and we are working to make events more accessible for you.

In the meantime, we believe it is important to share resources with you that could help you in your libraries. There are two upcoming online conferences, which are both free, that you should know about.

The first conference is BIG TALK FROM SMALL LIBRARIES 2017 presented by Nebraska Library Commission. The conference will take place February 24, 8:45 – 5:00. You can find more information at this link: http://nlc.nebraska.gov/scripts/calendar/eventshow.asp?ProgId=15807

The second conference is LIBRARY 2.017: EXPERTISE, COMPETENCIES, AND CAREERS. This conference is open to libraries of all sizes, and will take place March 29, 3:00 – 6:00. You can find more information at this link: http://www.library20.com/expertise-competencies-and-careers

I have attended a Library 2.0 conference in the past. Not only is it full of great information, but it can also be a fun experience from the comfort of your library. You navigate to different sessions, browse the vendor exhibits, and you can interact with presenters, attendees, and vendors.

I encourage you to think about these options for additional, free, continuing education.

Cheers and happy learning!

Betsy Eggers, Director
Napoleon Public Library

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Beefing Up Your Events Calendar: Successful Programming for Smaller Libraries

At the Ohio Library Council’s 2016 Convention & Expo I had the pleasure of co-moderating the UN-Program, “Beefing Up Your Events Calendar: Successful Programming for Smaller Libraries,” with Tom Dillie of Minerva Public Library. In case you’ve never attended an UN-Program, the focus is to allow folks to share information in a very casual fashion, and hopefully walk away with at least a new idea or two.

Our UN-Program was well attended and flushed out many varied program ideas. I typed up a list of the program ideas and respective library that hosted the program, with the hope that folks could take the notes off the OLC Convention & Expo site post-conference, but wanted to again share them here, in the event that folks didn’t get to see them while they were available online.

Listed are the names of the program and hosting library, some also have a name attached too. Feel free to contact the library to get more information on how you can borrow their idea for your library!

  • Puzzle Exchange: Norwalk, Monroeville, Sandusky
  • March Madness (w authors instead of basketball: Lane Library (Fairfield), Amanda
  • Transform Your Life (Unplugged – 8 weeks of programs): Sandusky
  • Zentangles Coloring: Green Co.
  • Spotlight on ___ series (includes things like Religious Tolerance or Heroin Addiction): Lima Public Library, Dani
  • Seed Library: Williams County Library
  • Cursive Writing Competition: Paulding Co. Library
  • Cookbook Club: Lane Hamilton (? Can’t read my writing)
  • Build a Better World (cook food based on your ethnicity): Warren Trumbul
  • Fun for Foodies Cookbook Club (recipe and recipe card to share): Sandusky
  • “Ada Chats” (local speakers share passionate topics 10-15 minutes, based on TED Talks): Ada Public Library
  • Amazing Race: Way Public Library
  • Pokemon Walk: Sandusky
  • Masking Tape/Painting/Monograming canvases: Monroeville
  • Goodwill Upcycle art: Sandusky
  • String Art: Monroeville
  • Archery Programs: Milan Berlin Library
  • Pop Culture programs (Walking Dead, International Dalek Day, Dr. Who): Milan Berlin Library
  • Family Yoga: Delaware Co. (Powell)
  • Lunch w/ lyrics (music in park featuring diff. bands) Birchard Library (Fremont)
  • Sports for Dummies: Birchard Library
  • ODR Hunters Education: Highland Library
  • Beer Tasting w local bar: Highland Library
  • Book Brunch: Highland Library
  • Murder Mystery: Highland
  • Women’s Self Defense (Sheriff’s Dept): Paulding Co. Library
  • Book Discussion @ Local Bar: Cleveland Heights
  • Haunted Library: Williams Co.
  • Staff Readers Theater: Coshocton

 Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

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