By MATT HOPFHerald-Whig Staff Writer
Like most 14-month-old toddlers, Leo Cassens likes to explore.
One place he gets to do that regularly is at the Quincy Public Library, where he was playing with a wooden train set over the weekend in the Children's Department. Leo's mom, Hannah, takes him to the library a couple of times each week to allow him to socialize with other children.
"There are children's programs in the morning that he goes to," said Greg Cassens, Leo's father.
The library has released a strategic plan through 2017 that outlines a way to improve services to the 500 people who use the facility each day. The plan comes on the heels of a multimillion-dollar expansion and renovation that was completed last year.
"It was time to look ahead and see what we want to do next," said the library's executive director, Nancy Dolan. "Obviously, we want to continue to provide the best service that we can, but we wanted to see if there were certain areas that we need to focus on."
The library sent a survey to patrons last year to get thoughts on all aspects of the library, including operating hours, materials, programming and services.
Greg Cassens has no complaints about the facility.
"I think they've done a great job with the renovation," he said. "The (Children's Department) is quite an upgrade since I was a kid."
The library now has 47,300 square feet of space, up from 34,500. The main floor has been renovated and expanded, and a single entrance and centralized circulation desk have been added. A new parking lot was built off Jersey with access from Fifth Street, and the former annex building was converted into the Children's Department and connected to the main building.
Most of the project's $5.533 million cost was funded through recovery zone economic bonding authority granted to Adams County. The library also was awarded a $125,000 construction grant from the state.
A top priority now is redesigning the library's website.
"We feel like it needs a better design to make it more user-friendly and more accessible for people with special needs," Dolan said.
Funding -- the key to keeping the library's doors open -- also is addressed in the strategic plan. The library has a staff of 26 full-time and 12 part-time employees, and an annual budget of $2.292 million.
"With the economy the way it is, obviously money is always tight, so we will be looking at ways to show our value to the community, (to) the City Council, where we get most of our funding, and we will look at other areas where we might find support," Dolan said.
Ideas include identifying and promoting donor opportunities, exploring possible fees for services, and becoming more proactive on the budgeting side at the city level.
Dolan said the library also will look at improving community relations.
This includes looking at the current patron groups and identifying the best venues for communicating value to each of them, and developing a plan to raise community awareness of the library.
Library services continue to evolve with new technology, including offering books for e-readers.
"Instead of just books, we have all kinds of audiovisual and electronic materials," Dolan said. "It's just changing with the times to continue to provide the information and the materials, but in different formats."
The library staff tries to provide programming for all age groups, and recently started a new series to target fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
"We've added a special program just for them on Thursdays," Dolan said. "It's called ‘Do ... at Your Library,' and they do science, they do Wii, they do reading to therapy dogs, and one of them is learning more about the library."