The Northfield Public Library is a vital cornerstone of a thriving and historic downtown, as well as an essential resource to people who may never set foot in the building. Some may only see staff through outreach visits, by Bookmobile service, or by home delivery. Some may only ever interact with the library online. A library is more than a building, more than books, and more than the technology it provides. A library is about people: the people who make it work and the people for whom it works. People, therefore, should be at the center of every strategic priority for a library.
Northfield Public Library provides access to a vast collection of free resources, both through our local physical and digital collections, and through our membership in Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO), as well as through access to MNLink. The library also provides a wealth of enriching programs and educational opportunities. And at a time when the digital divide persists and grows wider, today’s library is key to supporting a community's resilience, the community's collective ability to recover from setbacks, overcome challenges, and to thrive, together. Libraries support workforce development, public health, and strong families. Libraries do this by providing free and equal access to information, resources, technology, space, and the time, empathy, and expertise of library staff.
A library serves its community most effectively when in a constant, open dialogue with all. This is why we engaged with the community through surveys, interviews, and community conversations to build this plan. Our planning team formed five strategic priorities with the guidance of internal and external stakeholders. We developed this plan to align with the City of Northfield’s strategic plan, and looked to the benchmarks of Northfield Promise and Northfield Public Schools for alignment in our outcomes.
Our goal was to develop a plan rooted in the mission and values of the library which understands that the needs of a community change over time, sometimes gradually and sometimes, as we have seen over the past two years, abruptly and without precedent, creating new and unforeseen challenges. Our strategic plan should have clear outcomes and priorities in mind, but should keep a certain degree of flexibility for those times when we have to pivot. This plan is a living document formed through continual conversations with the entire community. While it is intended to be a five year plan, the initiatives you’ll see listed in this document represent new or continuing initiatives which we will evaluate after the first year.
We are inspired to use the input received from the community to envision public library services that are transformative and tailored to our community’s needs. Thank you to everyone who participated. We look forward to shaping our strategic directions with your voices for the years ahead.
Approved by the Library Board on 2/9/2022
How was this plan built?
Community Conversations: Our Community Conversations are based on tools developed by the American Library Association and the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. This approach is being used by libraries around the country to better understand their communities, be more proactive to community needs and issues, and put community aspirations first. Using the Community Conversations model, libraries authentically engage members of the community and generate “public knowledge” to inform decision-making of all kinds.
Some may wonder why the library concerns itself with what the community considers to be the greatest challenges facing them and what kind of community they aspire to have. Through these conversations we learned a lot about your hopes and values, and the role we play in realizing a vision for a community in which everyone thrives. We spoke with 30 people in 5 different meetings: two conversations were held in Spanish at the library; three were in English, one of which was conducted with youth participants at the Northfield Union of Youth (The Key); two meetings were held at the Depot and were facilitated by Northfield Shares.
The survey: The survey was developed by a 6 person staff committee and circulated in English and Spanish to a broad audience. The committee developed questions which addressed key focus areas for the library, such as how people use the library, what they use it for, and what difficulties they may face in doing so, but also included questions intended to ask people to think outside of the library.
Internal and external stakeholder Workshops: The best strategic plan in the world can’t be carried out without the expertise and support of our dedicated staff and stakeholders. With the help of leadership from our consortium, Southeastern Libraries Cooperating (SELCO), we held a workshop with library staff, and one with Library Board members, Friends of the Library, and community partners present. SELCO Executive Director, Krista Ross, led these conversations.
Data analysis: The St. Olaf College Math Practicum is a January course in which teams of 5 mathematics/statistics students attack problems posed by outside organizations by analyzing their data. Students Catie Rhodes, Abby Halverson, Dominic Bledsoe, and Andrew Noecker, supervised by David Walmsley and Paul Roback, worked with a tremendous amount of our data and our survey results to compile a report on past and projected future use of the Library and its resources.
Community partners: This plan and it’s successful implementation would not be possible without the support, wisdom, and collaborative spirit of our community partners. The library would like to acknowledge the Friends and Foundation of the Northfield Public Library, St. Olaf College, Northfield Promise, Northfield Public Schools, Fifty North, Community Action Center, Healthy Communities Initiative, Northfield Arts Guild, KYMN Radio, Barrio Latino, Neighbors United, Northfield News, YMCA, Northfield Shares, Age Friendly Northfield, Carleton College, the Northfield Chamber of Commerce, Northfield Historical Society, and others.