Guilford Free Library Trustees meeting

March 9, 2022           (on zoom)

Trustees present: Laura Lawson Tucker, Judith Serkin, Sandra Cortes, Richard Wizansky, Nika Fotopulos, Jeannette Tokarz, John Shaw, with Cathi Wilken (librarian)

No trustees absent.

Called to order at 6:30pm.

Trustees offered reactions to the town meeting vote on funding for the library expansion. Takeaways included:

There was a lot of surprise at the harshness and negativity expressed against the library in general, as well as against the addition. All agreed that we need to put effort into reaching out to broader segments of our community who do not know what services the library offers, or who are expressing needs that we are not currently meeting. The library should be a vital part of our community life and is meant to serve everyone in town. We should look for opportunities to add or adjust services and programming to fill the gap. Some specific constituencies that might need improved connection include elders, especially relating to new technology, adults without children, and those with aversions to libraries due to negative past experiences and associations. There is always more demand for children’s programming as well.

Judith offered a moving account of growing up here in town and witnessing the library become more and more of a community resource and a vital part of community life. The impact of the library today is unbelievably greater than during her youth, when it might have been open one or two hours per week. Now it is a welcoming, nourishing, enriching environment, that plays an important role in the lives of residents, especially families with children. It is clear that the library has now outgrown it’s small footprint even to simply continue with what it offers, nevermind expanding services to meet new demands.

Given the above outreach effort, the trustees are committed to moving forward with the expansion. There is not a need to vote on this again, because we have already voted to pursue an expansion after the feasibility study. The biggest questions were with the overall price tag. This unfortunately reflects the real cost of building right now, especially for a public building, but we will also look at ways to minimize the costs wherever possible. Fortunately, there is funding available for public infrastructure projects and for ADA upgrades and compliance. It is important to separate the overall cost from the impact on the town budget and taxes.

Closely related to all of the above is the fundraising campaign. Key to the campaign is creating the case statement, that is, making the case for the benefits of the expansion and of contributing toward its completion. The total budgeted to be raised is very doable, around $70,000 for the Friends of the Library. Richard offered to help, but is not able to lead the fundraising effort. We should form a fundraising committee, to include a couple trustees and a number of other town residents who are enthusiastic about the library and its expansion. Sandra will reach out to Richard and other fundraisers to determine next steps.

The trustees also need to provide feedback on the current state of the architects’ design. The architects are waiting to hear from us before they move into the next phase. Isaac Wagner will attend the upcoming trustee meeting on the 21st to discuss the design and hear feedback to relay to architects. Some immediate thoughts on the design included making sure there are several good reading spaces, something for adults, something for kids, and something for adults with kids.

Cathi reported on her efforts to increase activity through facebook, which is something she had not been doing. There seems to be a number of people there who are not being reached by our traditional routes of the Reformer, Commons, Guilford Gazette, our monthly newsletter, and front porch forum. She has seen the comments on facebook calm down as more information was offered. Cathi plans to continue with regular postings about library services and activities.

Cathi also announced that, after a long delay, that she has finally received word from the state department of libraries that we will shortly have a new service for downloadable ebooks and audio books. Cathi expects to attend a training in the next couple weeks. This service has been missing since last August, but was very popular before that and will help fill in some of the perceived gaps of the library.

Laura recapped our next steps:

1. A “Did You Know?” campaign about what services the library offers.

2. Form fundraising committee, and create the fundraising plan

3. Trustee input on the design ready for next meeting. John will send design info and survey results to trustees.

4. Pull in Friends of the Library to align efforts moving forward.

Judith emphasized:

By our next meeting, we should all look at the designs and have comments ready. Also, bring ideas for outreach and the fundraising case statement.

Sandra offered to reach out to fundraisers, including Richard, to move that part forward.

Cathi offered to remain a part of the PR committee and campaign.

John will ask Isaac what sort of feedback do he is looking for, and also propose that we will set aside 6:45-7:15 of our March 21 meeting for design feedback.

Laura ended with an inspirational story she heard about a library in Maine that was attempting to expand, but it’s proposal was rejected by voters. The library brought in a new designer who simplified the plans somewhat and got community support. After the addition was completed, library patronage doubled. So, the possibilities here are pretty great.

Meeting adjourned: 7:40pm

minutes  submitted by John Shaw, co-secretary

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Guilford Free Library Trustees meeting

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