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Planning for ‘Digital Natives,’ Rye Library Prepares for Future

The Rye Free Reading Room is holding a series of public meetings to drive its new five-year plan.

Planning for ‘Digital Natives,’ Rye Library Prepares for Future

As the Rye Free Reading Room prepares to celebrate its building’s 100th anniversary, it simultaneously looks to the future to develop a new five-year plan.

Tech-savvy director Kitty Little, who was hired in January 2011, has spent her first 18 months at the library learning the community, library, staff and regulars. Now, she is working with the library board’s planning committee to run a series of strategic planning meetings to develop a 2013-2018 strategic plan that prepares the library to respond to community needs in the digital age.

The Rye Free Reading Room is a private non-profit organization that is 72 percent funded by the city government and relies on gifts and grants to make up the difference, Little said. 

“Like many other libraries, we are financially strapped. We have the same municipal budget as we did in 2006,” Little said. Since 2008, the library has cut hours; it is now closed Sundays and Tuesday mornings and is only open one evening a week.

The strategic plan is an attempt to set priorities and create the most efficient library services based on community needs and wants.

“What used to cost the library $25 now costs $150,” Little said. She explained that with a 300 percent increase in demand for e-books, the demand for hard copy has also increased. In addition, libraries are now expected to have books the day they are released and carry large print, audio, multiple copies and, in some places, copies in other languages. Little said Rye library does meet these expectations but wants to figure out how best to plan for a future where technology will drive community needs.

“Understanding digital natives is very important,” Little said of today’s children. Little has ideas on how to plan for increasingly digital library users, but places a very high value on hearing from current library users and “digital native” parents in order to execute the most effective plan.

“What is it that the community is really looking to us for?” Little asks.

She hopes the public forums, small focus groups with regular library users and strategic planning survey will cover a broad spectrum of the community.

At the library’s first public forum on the plan on Sept. 12, Alan Kirk Gray, chief administrative officer for the Darien Library and the consultant that Rye Free Reading Room board has hired to run the forums, asked participants what the library could do to be better and to change with the community and move into the future.

Only two residents attended the forum but made suggestions like having more copies of popular titles available, a more personal experience with employees, and options for people who work and can’t get to the library during week day hours.

The last two public forums will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 25 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. aiming to attract parents and caregivers, and on Saturday, Oct. 13 from 10-11:30 a.m., aiming to attract those unavailable during the week.

You can also pick up a copy of the survey in the library and it will soon be available on the library's website, ryelibrary.org.

What do you want to see from your library? Please tell us in the comments.

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