QUINCY -- Quincy Public Library administrators detailed their vision for the library for the next three years in a 16-page document released last week.
Among items listed in the strategic plan are the implementation of new staffing initiatives, a mentoring program for new staff members, performance evaluations for staff, creating a defined donor development plan, diversifying the library's funding through private giving, exploring the possibility of the library becoming a library district, evaluating ways to expand the homebound delivery service program, and the continuation of two early childhood literacy programs known as 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten and Reach Out For Reading."
Executive Director Kathleen Helsabeck said the items listed in the strategic plan have been discussed for 18 months.
"We have had brainstorming sessions about this with members of the community," Helsabeck said.
She added that the library's strategic plan is "a living document" that frequently is reviewed and used by the library's administration.
Mayor Kyle Moore said he thought the "library was making a wise decision" by treating the strategic plan as a living document. He said he likely would have additional comments after reviewing the plan later this week. The library's administrators are scheduled to present the strategic plan to the City Council on April 8, which coincides with National Library Week.
"I hope the community can get behind this and see that we do have a vision for the future," Helsabeck said. "This is what we hope our future as a library looks like and we hope that everyone can support this vision."
Helsabeck said the vision could be summarized into three key components: continuing literacy initiatives, diversifying funding sources and exploring the possibility of a library district.
Currently, the library offers two childhood literacy programs that Helsabeck said are designed to build vocabulary, increase a child's interaction with family members and prepare children for kindergarten.
Both programs are funded by community grants that expire later this year. Helsabeck said she was optimistic that theywould be renewed.
The first literacy program, 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, is designed for children younger than 5 years old.
There are 35 children enrolled in the program in its first year. Library officials define a child as participating if they have submitted a reading log detailing that a parent, guardian or sibling has read 100 books to the child. Officials say that there could be many more participants in the program who have not turned in a reading log.
"I think we have had a great response to this program," Helsabeck said. "We have several children who have turned in logs of 100, 500 or even 800 books."
Children receive a free book for each log of 100 books submitted. The cost of these books is covered by the grant.
Grants also support Reach Out For Reading, which allows staff members to organize story hour reading events in low-income areas.
Some have suggested that the library impose a monetary fee for access to parts of the library's collection. Helsabeck said it would be highly unusual for a lending library to charge patrons for access.
"Our collection is purchased using taxpayers' money," Helsabeck said. "So in other words, if they pay taxes then we believe they should have access to the materials purchased using a portion of their tax dollars. As a general rule for libraries across the country, libraries are not charging a monetary fee to patrons wanting to use part of the library's collection."
The library charges fees for some services, such as room rental and printing. The library also charges non-Quincy residents $100 annually for access to the library's materials. Helsabeck said the library does not generate much revenue from these fees.
In addition, the library is creating a defined development plan to encourage private giving. Helsabeck said the library conducts three fundraising initiatives as part of a larger annual campaign, which netted roughly $15,000 for the library last year.
"Honestly that is pretty small," Helsabeck said.
With the defined development plan, Helsabeck said she hoped the library would see an uptick in private giving and pledged end of life gifts.
"We are in the very beginning stages of a donor development program," Helsabeck said.
The library's top official says she and her colleagues have had some preliminary discussions on whether to pursue a referendum to make the library a taxing district.
"Specifically, the library district discussion is one that is going to entail a lot of public discussion and awareness about the library," Helsabeck said. The strategic plan lists Summer 2022 for those discussions.
"The foundation of that decision is going to require that the public is aware of what the library does and what the library does to support other parts of the community," Helsabeck said. "If it happens to go to a referendum, then we are going to need all kinds of public support."
Some, like Moore, have said they do not favor that move. Helsabeck said she acknowledges those perspectives.
"This might never happen, but I think it is worth exploring," Helsabeck said. "It is something to keep in the back of our minds and I don't think our minds should be closed to any ideas that might benefit the library."