Changes coming to Wheaton Library after community needs assessment

Updated 8/7/2014 10:00 AM
  • The Wheaton Public Library will undergo some changes in response to the results of a community needs assessment.

    The Wheaton Public Library will undergo some changes in response to the results of a community needs assessment. Daily Herald file photo

There were a lot of things Betsy Adamowski knew she wanted to change last October when she became director of the Wheaton Public Library.

"We definitely are an excellent library," she said. "There's no doubt about that. But we could do better in some areas."

Since starting her job, Adamowski has been working to create a larger teen section, update technology in the building, increase partnerships with the business community and sort through outdated materials.

So it was a relief -- and not much of a surprise -- for her to see all those improvements and more identified in a community needs assessment of the library recently completed by an outside consultant.

"(The assessment) gives me the vehicle that I need to drive this library into the future and it gives the staff something to work with as well," she said.

In April, nearly 900 residents responded to a survey as part of the assessment process. In addition, the consultant organized 10 focus groups with more than 90 people, from students to local leaders.

Four goals were presented in the assessment. They are:

• Make the library a destination. Updated technology, such as ongoing improvements to the building's Wi-Fi and new equipment in study rooms, will help make the library a place people want to go, Adamowski said. In addition, library officials are taking into consideration the many requests to open a coffee shop or cafe inside the building.

• Increase relevancy to the teen population. When Adamowski took over, no staff members were dedicating all their time to the teen population. That has since changed and she said she is already seeing improvements with the teen book collection and programming, along with the partnership the library has with the area high schools.

• Strengthen community partnerships. Besides schools, Adamowski has been working closely with the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce to learn more about what businesses need from the library. She also wants the library to continue doing what it can to improve the economy by offering programs focused on job training and literary skills.

• Expand existing marketing and communication efforts. That includes updating the website, which the library has budgeted for and hopes complete within the next six months, Adamowski said. In addition, the assessment showed the community needs a better understanding of what the library offers, which can be done partially though an increased social media presence.

"All these things are great," Adamowski said. "You can go into any library in the surrounding area and they will have all that and we don't. It's taking time and planning and some fiscal responsibility, but I really do think we can get there."

Other suggestions included better signage inside the library; extended hours on Friday evenings; and keeping the library open on Sundays in the summer.

The next step, Adamowski said, is to review the goals with staff and outline necessary tasks to accomplish them. Within the next two months, she hopes to have a strategic plan in place, after approval by the library board.

"It's really the first time that staff is having some input into what is going on and how we're going to get there and it's an exciting time for us," she said.

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