IMLS staff interviewed state librarians to discuss how their new five-year plans for LSTA Grants to States funds (2013-2017) differ from their past plans (2008-2012) and how they see the needs of library users in their states changing and evolving. This post is part of a series and features IMLS Senior Library Program Officer Timothy Owens interviewing State Librarian Annie Norman. Read more about the Delaware Division of Libraries’ priorities in IMLS’ state profile for Delaware.
Timothy: Looking back at the prior five-year plan, what did you see as the three most important community needs that you were trying to address with library services?
Annie: With a priority of being able to measure outcomes at scale, our main initiative was to develop a statewide catalog. It took eight years to accomplish the statewide Delaware Library Catalog, but one of the points of creating it was to have live data instead of just annual reports. We wanted to make sure that the collection of content could be broad and deep enough to support community needs. Since 1995 or so, we've been conducting self-directed lifelong learning research to better understand community needs and how to address them. Those were the two big objectives: to establish the catalog to enable live data and broad, deep collections, and to be more adept and proactive at lifelong learning. Meanwhile, there were lots of related initiatives and grants such as supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), establishing our Job Centers, and rolling out e-books.
Timothy: How did the evaluation affect the development of your new plan, and what do you see as the three most important community needs for that plan?
Annie: We're evolving iteratively, and we've done a lot with We Geek the Delaware Dream. As part of that project, we held community conversations in six libraries throughout the state with a great facilitator and a visual artist who documented each of the conversations on a visual map. It explored questions like: “what are your passions?”; “what are your dreams for your community?”; and “what are your dreams for Delaware, and how can libraries help achieve that?”
The conversations were amazing and highlighted the need for more community development, additional partnerships, and programs that we could develop for libraries. For one library that desperately needed a new building, the conversation was actually a catalyst for its city manager and city leaders to say, ‘Okay. What do we have to do?’ One of the organizing drivers behind all of this is our Dewey Delaware framework, where we're using Dewey as a match point to not only organize the collections, but to organize the programs. We've been asking the reference librarians to collect questions and sort them by the ten major Dewey categories so we can actually see what the trends are. I saw this furniture ad recently that said, ‘Discover What's You.’ We want to have a menu of different programs that people can explore and ‘discover what's you.’ We also want to make sure we're offering what's new and expand libraries into spaces where people can discover talents that they might not have known they had. To get back to the question of the most important community needs, right now it's still jobs and e-books. But over the next five years, that's going to change, and by collecting statistics in this way and looking at the trends ourselves, we can be on top of what the next need is.
One of the things that we asked John Donato, the Delaware Dream visual artist, to do after his visual maps was to take our Dewey Delaware menu and sort the needs by Dewey for our planning, so that we make sure we're seeking new partners and creating new programs that will support community development in each of those major areas. We also have a futurist under contract to help us identify partners in each of those major categories, especially the sciences. Everything is revolving around this framework. We've got to figure out how we can bundle these library programs so that people will engage with them. So many times, people say, ‘I didn't know libraries did that.’ We have to have a better way of organizing it, and explaining it, and showcasing it, and measuring the results.