First – a news flash. Last week, the Friends of Schlow Library, an independent 501c3 group that provides financial and volunteer support, came in first place in the Centre Foundation’s online fundraising event, “Centre Gives” by having the most donors - 278, who gave an average of $62 per person. Total of $522, 074 was generated for 82 Centre County non-profit organizations from 2,300 donors, many of whom are in this room. Thank you for responding to our urgent emails and phone calls last Thursday. The Friends received an additional $5,000 for winning this “grand prize”. We are honored to be well respected by our generous community, and humbled by this show of support.
Good Evening and thank you for the agenda time this evening to introduce the Schlow Strategic Plan, 2013-16. This is the first public communications about the plan. First, I’d like to introduce the Board of Trustees, most are here with us tonight. Please stand when I call your name:President, Marilyn Byers, Harris TownshipVice-President, George Henning, Ferguson TownshipTreasurer, Rich Kalin, State CollegeSecretary, Cecilia Merkel, Patton TownshipNicole D’Aulerio, Patton TownshipLynn Myers, State CollegeDel Scott, HalfmoonDave Thiel, HarrisMaureen Welesko, CollegeI thank the trustees for overseeing the operations of Schlow Library in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is a hardworking group of individuals who represent you and the citizens of your municipalities in planning, setting policy and monitoring the quality of your public library.
This year, the industries that provide content for libraries are in great flux and agitation. As you can read on this slide, the publishing, movie, music and educational industries are losing income and control of their products due to disruptions such as Amazon, Netflix, MOOCs, and rapid changes in consumer behavior. Since libraries serve as middlemen for these products, these disruptions are affecting us as well. It is within this context that the library has produced a practical and flexible plan for the next 3 years, with a look toward the more distant unknowns.
We began the process by collecting and analyzing a great deal of data, including existing COG reports. Surveys gathered up-to-date feedback from a sample set of COG residents. The Ivy Group, Ltd. was selected by the Board’s Strategic Planning Committee to facilitate meetings, design surveys and analyze data, and they are completing the graphic printed version of the plan. We are confident that this plan reflects the latest in community use and perspective.
The end result of our research is six targets that build on Schlow’s existing strengths and adjusts and improves performance in areas of library use that are rapidly changing. I will briefly cover each of the areas and tell you about our major projects in each area. We describe each target area with a slogan that makes it easy to visualize and inspire us.
Our first target is the activity that will take the most staff time and money: the library website. We did take into account the developments charted by this timely cartoon.
This is the current Schlow website. It uses Drupal, free software, and is done in-house. Over the years, however, we have added so many features and so much online content that it is getting complex and less user friendly than we would like. Since books, movies, and music are increasingly going online, it makes sense for us to invest in a better website than to consider building a physical branch library or bookmobile. So, our key initiative is to improve the website so we can always say “we are where you are”.
This is a newly redesigned library website better organized than ours which emphasizes the three things people do the most on library websites: check out what the library owns; do homework and research; download e-books. This initiative is in the capital improvement plan and an RFP for a vendor is underway.
In addition, we hope to continue and possibly expand the remote dropoff network. We currently have five book returns and a delivery service that takes books to Foxdale and the Village at Penn State. We are in negotiations to test some other sites to make getting and returning materials to Schlow as easy as possible, especially for residents farthest away from Schlow.
The second target is about children. Schlow has an award-winning children’s dept. It is an official Family Place library: we have the play area, parent resources, and parenting classes which earned us the designation. We want to maintain our strength in this area, and improve by providing more books and coaching to daycares, where a considerable number of preschool children spend their days. We also want to build more excitement for reading in the upper grade children, because reading time often declines in favor of tv and video gaming and gadgets in grades 4-6.
A newer role that Schlow has taken on in the past few years has been “gadget training”. We currently average 6-12 people every Saturday morning for classes on iPads, Facebook, Kindles, you-name-it. This tech training, and our free public computer workstations and Wi-Fi, are among our key roles in the community and we hope to continue this. “Community Connector” also refers to our partnerships. We want to increase our activities with COG Parks and Rec, nonprofits and businesses to offer the most cost-effective services.
The slogan for our 4th target came from one of the architects working on State College Borough’s downtown master plan. Over several meetings, we learned that the survey data for the master plan included many positive comments on our facility and its role as a destination place and community center at the corner of Beaver and Allen. In our surveys, we received as much feedback on the building as the books and materials, something our consulting firm said doesn’t happen very often. Our brand is not just books, but this building. We will continue to prioritize the upkeep of this beautiful, 7-year-old facility and have a fully trained “concierge” staff to make library use comfortable and easy.
One question I get asked at parties and gatherings is – with all these e-books, what will happen to the library space when all the books go away? Print is not going completely away. But we need to be prepared for a gradual decrease in the space needed to shelve physical materials. The answer is already in town – the knowledge commons at Pattee Library @ PSU and Brooklyn PL in NY. We see floor space gradually becoming flexible small group areas where people can collaborate, tutor,, create tapes and videos, or business plans. These rooms are small, visually attractive, and contain appropriate furniture and hardware. This is what will happen in the more distant future, beyond the three years of this plan.
The 5th target celebrates the fact that we serve many different readers and learners, everyone bringing unique expectations to the printed word, and expecting Schlow to anticipate and satisfy those expectations, whether it be via print, e-book, large-print or audio book. Our mission statement is “The Centre of Reading & Learning” and we will continue to build excitement and passion for reading via the events shown here.
A subset of the new website will be dedicated to free online learning opportunities. Modeled after similar programs at other libraries, we will be a portal to numerous videos and classes that are meaningful to our community, and created by local residents.
The last target is of particular interest to COG elected officials – funding. We remain concerned about the future of state funding, and the need to limit municipal contributions. Meanwhile, expenses for personnel, benefits and materials keep going up. We want to continue to press forward with fundraising and alternate income streams, and prepare ourselves for a major gift campaign that would feed existing endowments at the Centre Foundation. It will take several years to prepare for a major gifts campaign, and I can’t promise it will be by 2016, but it is imperative that we aim high for an endowment goal that would provide interest income of significance in the annual budget process.
This plan is not allowed to be filed away. We will refer to it and the progress we are making at every library management and board of trustees meetings. We will use it to say yes to projects that matter, and no to partners that don’t share our priorities. And given the rapid of change of disruptive technologies, we are prepared to adapt and shift strategies quickly.
Thank you so much for your attention this evening and for your support of our work in the community. We continue to thrive, thanks to the strong support of the COG municipalities, and our users appreciate it. Last week, a crying mother visited our children’s department to bid a tearful farewell to the staff, because the family was returning to their home in a different part of the world. “You have made my life here worthwhile,” she told us. That’s the impact you have made – and we appreciate that you care.
Friends of Schlow LibraryFirst Place, # of Donors - $25,600