January 23, 2021

Hitting the books

Gibson Memorial Library and Cultural Center reveals draft of 5 year plan; sets patron’s experience at center of priorities

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Gibson Memorial Library and Cultural Center revealed the draft for the 2020-2025 library plan last Monday during the monthly board of trustees meeting.

“This is a long-term plan that is required by the state library of Iowa for our accreditation,” said library director David Hargrove. “We go up for accreditation every five years. That just means we are certified by the state library and that we meet certain standards. Our new plan covers the next five years.”

Community members participated in a study to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the Creston area to identify the types of services that the library could provide to the community. The participants voted for up to three service responses they believe would be the most beneficial: a comfortable and inviting physical and virtual space, public internet access to allow patrons to connect to the online world and satisfying curiosity with lifelong learning.

“Five years ago we had a ‘planning for results’ meeting with our stakeholders,” said Hargrove. “We didn’t feel it was necessary to have another meeting with our stakeholders since we felt we haven’t adequately addressed the service priorities set.”

Comfortable and inviting space

The first area of improvement planned is the physical attributes of the library itself.

“We just had our downstairs children’s area recarpeted here,” said Hargrove.

New carpeting was a goal discussed for the upper level of the library as well as the stairs and the entry way. Other potential improvements inside include updating the library foyer space and partnering with art instructors from area high schools, Southwest Iowa Shutter Bugs and Union County Extension to install regular exhibits of art within the library.

“There’s also some unique book spine designs to paint on the risers,” said Hargrove. “We also want to put a sculpture in the corner once we relocate the sign for the capital campaign.”

As for outside the building, the board discussed completing concrete work, improving paint, adding new seating and working on the roof of the library. All these upgrades are to suit the plight of Update Uptown.

“They’re aesthetic upgrades to keep with the community initiatives that our brothers and sisters at Creston:Arts are taking,” said Hargrove. “We very much feel and identify with the desire to improve the aesthetics of the uptown area that have been championed by Creston:Arts above all.”

The expansion campaign planning to build an addition toward the south of the library and cultural center will receive significant attention. The trustees, capital campaign committee and staff intend to consult with every library.org to improve community support for the library that can be potentially translated to a successful bond election.

“We are the only public library in Union County,” said Hargrove. “It was an uphill battle to get this library established in 1931 and it was an uphill battle to add the elevator here in the ‘90s to make the building ADA compliant. It’s a struggle to raise the fund for our south addition, but we feel like we make good progress.”

July 2021 is the current goal date for raising the $2 million needed to achieve the $3.4 million goal, with the intentions of breaking ground and beginning construction by October 2021. The addition would add space for programming to take place within the library, which Hargrove said is currently an issue.

“We need more space for people,” said Hargrove. “We want to be a hub for activity but we don’t really have any space for children’s programming now. We don’t have a meeting space that isn’t occupied by books and materials. So for us to be able to fill the role that libraries do to stay relevant in so many communities we need to be able to host these programs and meetings. Right now, we can’t do that.”

Digital world

Organizational changes are being made within the virtual space of the library. The Gibson Memorial Library’s website plans to add directories of online resources for patrons seeking jobs, career development, small business development, educational opportunities, eGovernment resources and information on health and wellness.

“In the digital age we provide a range of services that allow access to technology,” said Hargrove. “In Union County, 30% of people don’t have access to internet. We are their only access. We feel like that is vital for addressing the digital divide and keeping people in the workforce since so many people have to come here to apply for jobs. They don’t even have kiosks at Walmart where you can apply anymore.”

The library hopes to double the ICN internet service from 50 mbps to 100 mbps, which is the minimum speed and bandwidth recommended by the FCC for small and rural libraries.

Satisfy curiosity

Lifelong learning is important for people of all ages, said Hargrove. Programming and resources offered are planned to be expanded in order to accommodate the different demographics. Ideas include reviving the teen book club and hosting a monthly adult coloring event.

“In the last year and a half particularly, we have increased our programming for all ages,” said Hargrove. “Programming and outreach doesn’t only have an intrinsic value for the community, but that is our best hope in generating the community support we need.”

Gibson Memorial Library intends to increase communication with local schools and educational organizations by setting an established pattern of bi-annual meetings. The library director and assistant director would meet with school librarians of Creston Community Schools and East Union Schools, as well as the director and/or staff of the Learning Center of Southwest Iowa.

While the goals set are all good ideas, everything else is currently just a draft, said Hargrove. Topics and solutions discussed within the plan are all subject to change as the plan reaches it’s completed form, which is due for submission by Feb. 28.