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Comment period for library plan ends Jan. 31

Want to have a say on the next chapter for the Washington County Library system? Library users still have a few days to share their thoughts on a plan that will guide the system’s future growth.

Washington County is taking comment on a draft of the library strategic plan through the end of the month. The document pulls together months of work, and, if approved, will guide the library system’s future.

In this new, technological age, people do not necessarily use community libraries the way they did in past decades. While the public still uses its local library primarily to check out books, more and more people are using their libraries to rent eBooks and digital content.

At the same time, according to trends listed in the draft strategic plan, patrons look to libraries to fill new needs like providing educational opportunities, programming and cultural events, early literacy advancement, technology training, and more.

So really, the strategic plan will help the library system turn a page in its own history book.

“It’s going to help us set the direction and focus our priorities for the next five years of the Washington County Library system,” Washington County Library Director Keith Ryskoski said.

The entire draft strategic plan is available for viewing and comment on the county’s website. Visitors can also look through summaries of all meetings, assessments and findings related to the strategic planning process.

Now, the draft strategic plan does not, in fact, lay out a future for each of the library sites in Washington County’s system, Ryskoski said. Rather, it provides a broad, higher level overview of the trends, county demographics and input from a community survey. And, it outlines six goals for the future:

- revise and refresh the Library Mission Statement as a foundation for future direction, focus and activity;

- increase and enhance lifelong learning, outreach, youth services and digital resources to meet targeted community needs;

- advance public knowledge of the services available to increase use of the library;

- improve library facilities to better meet the needs of county communities and residents;

- develop additional resources and partnerships to enhance current services and operations;

- and explore new models of management and staffing to better serve patrons.

It’s those goals — and the associated strategies included to achieve those goals — that Ryskoski is hoping library users will find time to weigh in on.

“The goals and strategies are more high level, but that doesn’t mean the comments we receive can’t be put into action. I think that will be valuable information for when we put this to life,” he said.

The comment period is open through Jan. 31. The final version of the library strategic plan document is scheduled to go to the Washington County Board of Commissioners at their Feb. 9 meeting. It will be presented to all of the communities in the county at the 2016 Washington County League of Local Governments meeting on Feb. 29.

Then, Ryskoski said, county library staff will start to develop a five-year plan to address the needs and changes that should be made at Washington County’s libraries. He expects to present that plan to county commissioners in March or April.

Residents who want to participate in the comment period can view the draft library strategic plan on the county’s website, www.co.washington.mn.us/library. Comments should be emailed to june.mathiowetz@co.washington.mn.us.

A copy of the draft is also available for viewing at each of Washington County’s library sites. Comments can also be mailed to June Mathiowetz, Office of Administration, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN 55082.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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