The vision of Oswego Public Library District trustees as they plan for the next 20 years is to provide services in all areas of the community, and they are looking to residents to help them figure out how to bring the vision into focus.
Trustees held a special meeting with consultant Craig Rapp of Rapp Consulting Group of Chicago on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at the Montgomery Library Campus to discuss comments made by two focus groups. A survey, which was supposed to have been completed, has been extended so more people can give opinions, Rapp said.
A public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6 in the Montgomery Campus meeting room so that any district residents who would like to give input or fill out a survey anonymously will have a chance.
The Dec. 4 meeting also included a presentation on library design trends and services. The district is planning for a possible doubling of the population they serve over the next 20 years, from 60,000 to 120,000.
Nationally, Rapp told the group, library materials circulation is going down, but visitors and program statistics are going up. That means, he said, that more people are using libraries, “but they are not just checking out materials.
“Things are going digital: streaming, Wi-Fi is very important, new and different uses for technology are occurring. As you think about the library, everything is moving toward more of a digital collection… a lot of what’s happening is happening virtually within the cloud. The library may be the intermediary between people and a collection, but it may be a whole different experience in the future.”
Still, participants in two focus groups that met with Rapp on Nov. 14 and 18 said they go to the library to “meet with people,” with one participant saying it is a “safe place to meet people and also a good place to meet like-minded people.”
One focus group was a book group that meets at the Oswego Campus and the other was a group of public officials.
“We got the user perspective and a partner perspective,” Rapp said, adding that the public officials gave information about growth patterns.
“When we got down to where a new facility, or facilities, could be located, it was very clear that the growth is mostly going to be south, near the police station in Oswego,” Rapp said. “According to them, that will eventually be the literal center of town. That is why it (the police station) was located there. All the directional growth is headed there. They are about one-third built now, and in the very long term, there will be about 100,000 people, whereas Montgomery is only going to add a few thousand more people.”
With that in mind, Board Treasurer Terry Friedman asked, “How imminent is it, for future planning, for the library to start thinking about acquiring a site… you don’t have to actually have a facility but you at least acquire the site for it to be located.”
Vice President Pete Wallers answered that he thinks the board needs to “take in all of this and do a 30,000-foot look at where we want to put these libraries. That’s a likely location, but there are other likely locations we don’t want to rule out yet,” he said.
Rapp said members of both focus groups mentioned more collaboration with the Oswego Senior Center would be a good idea. “There was a fairly strong belief those folks could use some remote presentations or things they are doing that you could do.” Both groups also agreed a bookmobile traveling to the Senior Center would be a good idea.
In his presentation to the board, Rapp said that community gathering spaces are very much in demand right now. “The library of the future, if you are thinking about this and planning for it, will be one of — if not the — community hub. It’s really the evolution of libraries. It’s because you are the perfect option for meeting and convening and creating a natural way for people to get together.”
Library Director Sarah Skilton said the district is looking into how to encourage and enhance reading now and into the future. Some things already are being done, such as providing passive programs and displays, and in the next month or so the library will debut “Subscription Boxes” with selected books for the individual patron – children, teens and adults – inside along with small surprises. “Binge Boxes” will contain DVDs on a theme that are also tailored to the patron.
Library staff already visit restaurants to provide story times, but this could be expanded to places like laundromats, local businesses, parks or Village Hall.
Nontraditional spaces might be places where libraries could move in, Rapp said, naming warehouses and large retail spaces, like malls, as examples. The idea of integrating or being adjacent to coffee shops or cafes provides a reason for library patrons to linger, he added. “When I talked about that with folks in the focus groups, those were Double A-plus ideas in their minds.”
“This came up a lot in focus groups: You want to be business adjacent or business connected, and either way, how are you going to be interfacing more with the world of work – more rooms, business centers, tech centers, technology instruction, all the way up to and including co-working spaces.”
Trustees also discussed the proposed Metra rail extension into Kendall County. Earlier this year, the Metra board of directors awarded a $4.7 million engineering contract to a firm to prepare conceptual designs for a potential extension of Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
“I think we have to think about land acquisition and that we’ve gotten land donated before when developers came in,” Tamblyn said. “There’s the question of placement and sometimes that’s about where all the growth is going to be and sometimes it’s where business or government is located. We are lucky because we don’t have to build. We can extend hours. We could build onto the Montgomery Campus, and we have the same situation in Oswego. We have lots of options. We don’t need to rush into anything, but we need to plan.”