By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Library seeks input for strategic planning
Boscobel’s Hildebrand Memorial Library

What are you looking for from your local library? That’s the question Director Janelle Miller hopes to answer from a community survey and a series of listening sessions at Boscobel’s Hildebrand Memorial Library.

The sessions take place this week: Wednesday, 4 to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The survey can be answered through the end of the month in person at the library, or online at the library website.

After hearing from the public, Miller and her staff, along with the library board, will use the information to create a new strategic plan—the library’s first in a decade, according to Miller.

Take two tablets The first libraries, according to the history books, were organized some 4,500 years ago in what is now the Middle East. Their shelves were stocked with clay tablets that had been inscribed with writing, baked in a kiln, and stacked up in rows for future reference.

Our tools have sure changed. Alongside paper books in today’s library, you’re libel to find a different kind of tablet— one powered by a microchip. Still, the basic mission of storing and sharing information still holds true today.

“Any question you might have, we will do our best to answer it,” Miller said. (Her staff’s most fielded question? What’s the phone number for the local post office? Only the national 800 number is listed online.)

Technology plays an increasingly important role in both the types of questions—and the delivery of answers.

“A lot of our questions are technology based,” she explained. That might include helping someone with basic computing skills, fact-checking information from the internet, or even loaning a patron a wi-fi hotspot, which can be checked out from the library for a week at a time.

As technology continues to evolve, Miller imagines the library moving deeper into streaming and e-book territory.

Old-fashioned gatherings Our tools might come and go, but one thing that never goes obsolete is the need for humans to gather socially. As a public space, funded by our tax rolls, the library increasingly serves as a gathering place.

That’s especially true, according to Miller, since the end of pandemic restrictions, as people seek to reinvent social ties after the isolation of the lockdown.

“People seem to need to socialize more since Covid,” she said. “Lately we’ve been seeing families just meeting up with other families. Or Mom has got to get some work done on the computer, and their kid is old enough to play alone in the children’s room.”

The library programming builds on these face-to-face connections with offerings that range from story-hour and homeschool gatherings for kids to crafting, book-club, and financial literacy classes geared for adults.

“It’s a way for people to get together in a safe environment,” Miller said. “The programming is all free, so there’s no pressure to buy anything. I really see it as a community center.”

Set the agenda Miller won’t be attending the listening sessions because she’s afraid it will make people too nice. If you have complaints, she wants to learn about them, too.

“I just want honesty—the good, the bad, the ugly,” she said. “If I don’t know about a problem, I can’t do anything about it.”