Montclair library
Architect Andrew Berman unveiled the $16 million plan to renovate the Montclair Public Library and the Bellevue Avenue Branch Library on March 29.
PHOTO BY ADAM ANIK

by KELLY NICHOLAIDES
for Montclair Local

The Montclair Library Board of Trustees adopted a 2018-2021 Strategic Plan on May 21, highlighting aggressive social media outreach, $8 million for capital improvements, up to $1.6 million in budget increases and new programming. The mission is to make Montclair a better place to live, learn and work, trustees said.

The budget increase will cover more staff, programs and materials, as well as additional hours — all depending on funding.

“The initiatives in the Strategic Plan include developing new programs in response to community feedback, a survey and community meetings. The program needs include increasing STEAM [science, technology, engineering, and math], closing the educational achievement gap and adding senior programs,” said Peter Coyl, Montclair library director.

In the 21st century, the traditional library used as a place of quiet research and reading is being replaced with a place of collaboration and activity, Coyl explained.

“Our users are looking for flexible spaces that can be used for more than one purpose, including quiet study rooms for tutoring, as well as an Internet conference for a job interview,” he said.

Five objectives include collaborating with schools, families and community organizations, branding the Adult School of Montclair as an extension of the library, strengthening partnerships with educational and cultural institutions, branding a “Make Noise @ Montclair Public Library” program for issue discussion, and enhancing digital literacy.

The $28,500 analysis was completed by the firm Library Development Solutions, a New York City-based consulting company owned by retired Princeton Public Library executive director Leslie Burger. The costs breakdown includes $7,500 for the Strategic Plan, a $1,500 administrative fee, $10,500 for a needs assessment and analysis and $9,000 for assessment of current library services. The latter two were included due to changes with the Montclair Public Library since the last plan, with the Adult School being a big component, Coyl explained after the meeting.

The 10-page summary of the Strategic Plan made public outlines the library’s vision in providing unlimited lifelong learning opportunities, discovery and community engagement. The missions is to “change lives through words, ideas and community building, embrace change and celebrate diversity and talents.”

Some goals for meeting objectives will be measured by metrics:

• Increase library visits, circulation and program attendance.
• Establish a $5 million endowment and library-wide Friends of the Library.
• Launch an $8 million capital campaign to support facilities improvements at both Montclair library branches.
• Increase the library’s budget from $3.4 million to $4.5 to $5 million.
• Increase weekly e-newsletter subscribers, staff engagement and number of followers from hundreds to thousands on four social media platforms.
• Adding to an email database
• Develop stories about the library’s impact on job seekers, career changers, older adults, teens and parents.

“A lot of voices from the community guided aspirations for a plan which is bold and audacious in inclusivity of the Montclair population. The goals are meaningful and impact the lives of residents from children to seniors. It’s a thoughtful document that puts everybody first,” said Claire Walls, vice president of the MPL Board of Trustees.

The $8 million would address the need for more space for classes and programs, as well as ADA accessibility at the Bellevue Avenue Branch. Coyl said the trustees are awaiting information from the state on how to apply for matching funds and for what amount. A feasibility study will determine how much to expect from donors.

Trustee President Wilford Adkins noted that the new plan was a step forward. “The last strategic plan we got updates on, but we didn’t see it evolve,” said Adkins.

“Re-imagining” the library is prompted by the velocity of change. “At the same time the community is has expressed their desire for improved library space, services, resources, and convenient access. There is a growing interest for compelling library-sponsored programs that address topical issues and community interests,” the Strategic Plan Summary goal of modeling innovation details.
Strategic planning partners listed include a Strategic Planning Committee, the Board of Trustees, the Foundation, Focus on the Future Participants committee, and Library staff.

The next steps are to examine the plan and develop steps to accomplish goals. Each department will work closely together to come up with timelines and benchmarks.