In 2009 The Seattle Public Library completed a decade of building renewal and expansion. The voter-approved Libraries for All capital program renovated or replaced all 22 branches that were in the system as of 1998, added four new branch libraries and built the new Central Library. Library use increased by more than 55 percent over the 10-year period.
Our focus now shifts from buildings to services. The Library Board of Trustees launched a strategic planning process in early 2010 to chart a course that will meet 21st century information needs.
Many individuals and groups shared their ideas, insights, and passions in the development of this plan. The Seattle Public Library is a public institution, funded by the public for the public - and so a great deal of effort went into consulting the public about the future of the Library.
The planning process began in March 2010 with five community open houses held in libraries across the city. More than 240 Library patrons provided input about priorities and new directions the Library should consider. In May, nearly 33,000 people responded to The Seattle Public Library Community Survey, answering questions about their current use of the Library's resources and buildings and their engagement with Library staff members. In May and June the Library hosted two Public Forums:
Meanwhile, from April to June, the Library facilitated Focus Groups with service providers who work with children, teens, older adults, immigrants and refugees, and people who are homeless. The discussions focused on how the Library can better serve these populations and the people we serve in common can benefit if we work together in partnership.
Library staff members have been involved throughout the process. They have provided valuable insight into the evolving usage patterns and preferences of Seattle residents. More than half the Library's employees shared their ideas through an open-ended survey that asked about the future role of the Library, trends and changes in how people use Library resources, and suggestions for new or better ways to serve Library patrons. As the final plan was developed, staff participated in a series of discussion groups to refine the emerging strategies.
Throughout this planning process, the Strategic Plan Project Management Team, a Strategic Planning Advisory Committee, and the Library Board of Trustees met regularly to review the results of these various inputs and to delve into the specifics of many topics including the impact of digital media, community building, and effective partnering.
The Advisory Committee served as a sounding board and source of inspiration, contributing thought-provoking and ambitious perspectives from academia, business, and the nonprofit sector. The Library Board, the Library's governing body, stewarded the plan, providing input at key junctures and developing the statements of vision, mission and guiding principles that are the foundation for the plan.
The Library Board adopted the plan in February 2011. This Strategic Plan will guide the Library's efforts and is intended to set an ambitious course for the future of the Library and the enrichment of Seattle's residents.
The Library is committed to reporting back to the Seattle community on a regular basis about our progress in implementing the plan. We encourage Library users to check the public website for ongoing information, and to continue to let us know how we are doing as we embark on a new era for The Seattle Public Library.
Major Themes of the Plan
Pulling together the threads of this multi-layered exploration, key themes emerged to guide development of the Strategic Plan. Supporting Seattle's devotion to reading and learning remains the core function of the Library. The content of the Library's collection is of paramount importance to patrons. We need to aggressively expand digital resources while guaranteeing patrons have access to material in formats they are comfortable with.
Libraries play a central role in Seattle's communities and neighborhoods. Now more than ever, libraries need to strengthen our democracy by inviting civic engagement through discussion and dissemination of information. Taking this role a step further, The Seattle Public Library should not wait for people to come through its doors, but instead actively reach out to listen to people and connect them with Library resources where they are.
In approaching all of these ambitious goals, it is clear that our Library must team with public, community and business organizations to expand its reach through strategic partnerships. Finally, the Library's ability to actively enrich the lives of Seattleites requires creation of an organizational culture that encourages thoughtful innovation and experimentation.
Read the complete Strategic Plan
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