It’s Not Just Books Anymore
By Teresa Clark
If you think a library is simply a building that houses books, think again. Our ever-changing electronic world is changing how and why people access public libraries and their services. In addition, the Johnson County Public Library (JCPL) is working to keep up with these latest trends and needs in our community.
The staff of JCPL wants you to see the library as more than a place to find books, magazines, music and movies. It’s also a place to connect with local social services and to attend classes for learning new skills. You can even use the library to find resources for a job search, for your small business or for taking tests such as the ACT and SAT.
To accomplish this, the staff and board of JCPL worked diligently for more than a year to create a new five-year strategic plan. The entire planning process was led and directed by the library’s board members who were kept advised throughout the process and gave their final approval to the new plan. About 80 percent of the library’s 82 employees were involved in creating the plan.
The new plan builds upon the countywide library system’s current plan which ran through 2013. The new five-year strategic plan features nine primary goals, also known as charters. These charters were created after library staff members gathered information from more than 150 community conversations with business, government and social leaders.
“Strategic plans are not always about brick and mortar, and this one in particular is not,” said JCPL Associate Director Ann Alexander. “And they’re not always about adding new things. It’s strategic.” She said this new plan finds the best ways to use the library’s limited resources to reach the most people.
One example of this is how the library serves families with young children. Only 34 percent of households in Johnson County have children, which is in line with the national average. More and more homes consist of baby boomers that have empty nests, couples that choose not to have children and couples that choose to have children later in life. Yet many people view the library as a place only for children and young families.
“Traditionally a lot of library services have focused on servicing families with children,” said Alexander. “We need to make sure we don’t forget about what is clearly the majority of people who like the idea that libraries serve children, but that’s not serving their personal needs.”
Another trend that is affecting how people use libraries is e-books. You may think that e-books are making libraries obsolete. However, the truth is e-books are increasing the use of libraries. E-books open the door for libraries to reach out to more patrons who may not have used traditional library services in the past.
Each of these trends is affecting every branch of JCPL. The White River Branch consistently has the most visits as well as the largest circulation of all JCPL branches, so it is expected that the library will focus resources on improving services in the Center Grove area.
Center Grove residents can expect to see other changes, such as possible expanded services to the Bargersville area. “We’re looking at some new marketing options to increase our outreach in the [Center Grove] area and tell people what we can do for them,” said Alexander.
The library staff also hopes to have more collaboration with Center Grove Community Schools to assist students, teachers and families. “We see our role as helping the schools and families because they’re looking for activities for their kids,” said Alexander.
Alexander says the new strategic plan is a living document, not put on a shelf to collect dust. “It does change as you go,” she said.
When the entire plan is implemented by 2018, the ultimate goal is that JCPL is seen as a current and vital service to the community. “We’re providing not what we think the public should have but what they’re asking for,” said Alexander. “We want to find our niche and make sure we do it the best we can.”
Teresa Clark is a communications professional who lives in the Center Grove area with her husband and daughter.