With input from more than 200 community members participating in focus groups, surveys and interviews, the Churchill County Library has completed its 2022-2026 Strategic Plan that outlines the need for an expansion of the library building and a mobile technology lab.
The Strategic Plan documents the number of library users and compares the space available to the county’s population, and incorporates the feedback gathered by a 12-member Library Strategic Planning Task Force made up of community members.
“It’s not what we think you want, it’s what you tell us you want,” Library Director Carol Lloyd said.
The Strategic Plan is required every five years in order for the library to qualify to receive federal funding through the state. The library and its planning task force had completed its needs assessment by the end of 2019. But shortly afterward came the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns.
The library’s yearly attendance increased steadily each year from 2013 through 2019, and more than tripled from 3,991 users in the 2013-14 fiscal year to 12,219 in 2018-19, and then the Covid shutdowns skewed the data.
“We were on track to have one of our best years ever, then COVID hit,” Lloyd said.
During that time, Lloyd said the library began to implement changes to continue serving the community even when library facilities weren’t available for in-person use. Among the changes, the library created a You Tube channel and taped story times once a week, and also posted short videos for users. The library also switched to a grab-and-go model for some of its craft programs, where patrons could pick up materials to do the crafts at home. They also began to deliver books and pick up returns.
Lloyd also used the time to dive into the information gathered from the Planning Task Force and the Community Needs Assessment for the Strategic Plan. What people said the most is that the library needs more space.
“Now I’ll take the Strategic Plan and drive it forward,” she said.
The Strategic Plan has been approved by the Churchill County Library Board of Trustees, and Lloyd is scheduled to present it to the Churchill County Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
According to the Strategic Plan, at 9,265 square feet, the library has about 1/3 square foot per capita for the county’s population of 25,387. Industry guidelines call for five to eight seats per thousand residents, which would be 160-256 seats. The library has 48 seats, or 1.7 seats per thousand residents. The number of computer work stations is also far below industry guidelines. The Plan also identifies the need for multi-purpose meeting rooms.
Cost estimates for the proposed expansion range from $6 million to $11.5 million. The mobile lab, a van that would be equipped to serve the community remotely, is estimated at $90,000 and needed staffing increases are projected at $86,000.
“I totally understand the County Commission has got a pot of money they have to try to allocate,” Lloyd said. “We know this building is undersized for the number of people who come through here.”
Lloyd is in her ninth year as Library Director, and she has overseen a total transformation of library services. Including an automated checkout system that freed up staff to interact with patrons in other ways, such as leading activities or helping them find materials. With programs for every age group from story times for little ones to crafts and an IT outreach program at the Pennington Life Center, the library reaches every segment of the population. It’s not uncommon for library employees to arrive to work in the morning to find people in their cars in the parking lot using Wi-Fi.
“We know how important this library is to the community, and we know we can do better,” Lloyd said.