Jeff Heuchert, Gazette staff
The wheels are in motion at Stratford Public Library on a new strategic direction that CEO Julia Merritt told city council on Monday will produce some tangible results over the following year.
In her first formal address to city officials since taking over the top administrative position at the library from Sam Coghlan in June, Merritt offered a brief history of the strategic planning process that was undertaken over two years leading up to her arrival in Stratford, and the key initiatives she will now oversee.
Merritt said the library, which will soon be launching a rebranding campaign to reflect its new direction, will provide leadership in establishing a community technology commons by expanding its role as a hub for technological access and education.
This will “ensure the opportunities for community members to develop their skills and participate in the digital economy,” she added.
Similarly, the library is focused on creating a culture of continuos improvement and community collaboration.
Lastly, Merritt said the library will address the space limitations at its Carnegie building on St. Andrew Street, acknowledging funding for a new building won’t be available for quite some time.
“Nonetheless, the library is committed to working with the existing space to make it as suitable as possible for the community and plan for future space development.”
In constructing a strategic plan to guide the library over the next six years, Merritt said the focus was to build upon the library’s importance in the community and actively engage the public in that planning process.
The plan was approved by the library’s board of directors in February after an extensive public consultation process that included a visioning forum in 2011 and an online survey and 14 collaboration sessions throughout 2012.
“In those sessions,” said Merritt, “there were conversations about what the library means to people in Stratford and what they want from it in the future.”
That information was collected and distilled, forming the basis for the library’s new mission and vision statements.
The mission statement speaks to an environment that is “equitable, safe and welcoming where anyone can explore, learn, create and connect.”
The vision statement also anticipates the library as a vibrant community hub with knowledgeable and progressive staff that transforms community life by inspiring and enabling literacy, curiosity, creativity, and change.
The statements “demonstrate the library’s renewed commitment to the community,” said Merritt.
The library also adopted values including intellectual freedom, encouraging innovation and personal development, recognizing and valuing contributions of volunteers, and appreciating and responding to the diversity in the community.