St. Albert Public Library is looking to build on past efforts to improve early childhood literacy, community engagement, and reconciliation, according to a new strategic plan.
The plan, in development since early spring, is called “Here for YOU, Here for ALL,” and will guide the St. Albert Public Library (SAPL) over the next five years. It is the result of months of community engagement, research, and focus group sessions.
“It's been very gratifying to see the support for the library through this process, and we're going to work very hard the next five years to continue to earn that support,” SAPL CEO Peter Bailey said, adding he's “really excited” about the new plan, and the library's leadership and staff are looking forward to building on the strategy.
According to the plan, SAPL will focus on creating young readers, supporting early childhood literacy, community engagement, and pursuing truth and reconciliation.
To create young readers, the plan says the library's goal is to ensure “children have the programs, services, collections, space, and staff support they need to develop literacy skills and a positive attitude toward reading.”
The library hopes to see at least 85 per cent of “parents and caregivers indicate early literacy materials and reading supports have helped them support their child's early literacy development.”
Another goal for early literacy over the next five years is to see and hear that youth feel like they belong at the library, the plan says. To achieve this, the library is aiming to increase youth library memberships by 15 per cent by 2028.
“Reading and early literacy are more important than ever coming out of COVID,” Bailey said. “Early literacy is something the library has focused on throughout its life, and we've responded with initiatives (such as summer reading games and the reading buddies mentorship program).”
“It's one of our key strengths, so in a way it's gratifying to see the community saying ‘you're on the right track, keep doing what you're doing, and focus even more strongly on early literacy.’”
To improve community engagement over the next five years, the library's new strategy will include a review of the “barrier-free services plan,” the creation of a new “spaces and facilities plan,” and a push for an overall increase in memberships and in-person visits by 15 per cent.
Bailey said some of the community engagement goals may seem “aspirational,” but staff are working toward them.
“The best thing in the world would be 100 per cent of residents being members of the library,” he said. “We know a lot of people who use the library are not card-carrying members, and that's fine, but membership rising would be a good thing.”
In terms of the prospective spaces and facilities plan identified in the new strategic plan, Bailey said the library identified the need to be forward-thinking.
“We should be forward-looking in terms of facilities planning, ... so planning how the upper floor space would look like, continuing to look at accessibility, and how people coming out of COVID are using the actual physical spaces,” he said.
“We do have the Jensen Lakes library location and it's great, but we have to be thinking about how our facilities will be used in the future.”
For its pursuit of truth and reconciliation, the library's new strategic plan says it will ensure that all library visitors will have “barrier-free access to programs, services, collections, and staff support on their journeys to truth and reconciliation.”
As well, part of the library's work towards truth and reconciliation will be to create a separate truth and reconciliation strategy, an “Indigenous inclusion strategy,” and to consult the Indigenous community on programming, collections, and services moving forward.
“The thing about libraries is traditionally we've wanted to do everything for everyone,” Bailey said. “We don't have the resources to be everything for everyone, so we do have to focus more than ever on what the community wants from us and what the community needs from us.”
Bailey also said the strategic plan will be reviewed annually so the library can respond to any societal or community-based changes.