HANSON — Job applicants are frequently asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The Hanson Public Library is asking patrons some similar questions about its next 20 years, and is encouraged by the public’s feedback so far.
A survey, now being circulated on the town website and via email to regular patrons as well as on paper at the circulation desk, will soon be mailed out to gather data through March 9 on the library’s future program offerings and expansion needs.
One need not be a Hanson resident, as library patrons from other communities are encouraged to take part in the study.
So far, the online survey has garnered more than 200 responses, according to Library Director Karen Stolfer of the project being conducted concurrently with the state-required strategic plan, which helps the library apply for grants. The aim is to finish both planning efforts by the fall.
“It’s kind of the first step toward expansion,” Stolfer said last week. “Before you can apply for a construction grant, the state requires you to have a building program on file with them.”
The library has contracted with Boston-based independent consultant Ruth Kowal to conduct the online and mailed survey.
“She’s helping us with this first stage in the process,” Stolfer said. “She is [also] looking at our collection, what our statistics show, measurements of the building. … You have to project out for 20 years growth.”
Kowal would be available to help make a presentation to a town meeting either this fall or next spring.
“We’re going to use input I get from the building program to help me write the strategic plan,” said Stolfer, who was aware of a state planning and design grant approved several years ago — as well as the Trustee’s wish to move forward with it — when she came on board as director. “I’ve worked here for 13 years, so I know what some of the deficits of the current facility are. … I just want to compare it to what people say.”
Patrons have also been taking Sharpie in hand to provide some off-the-cuff feedback to a series of four questions on flip charts in the library.
The first question asked patrons to share their favorite things about the library — with responses including kids’ programs, painting classes, story times, the helpful staff and being able to borrow from other libraries through the SAILS network. Follow-up questions involve what the library does for the community; what new services, programs or equipment would prompt greater use of the library; and are there physical changes that would enhance the library’s mission.
Demographic data will be part of the study, and focus groups will also be a part of that research with the Library Trustees slated to take part in one with Kowal on Tuesday, Feb. 27, with later focus groups to include the Library Foundation as well as members of the public to follow in early March. Discussions will also be conducted with town leaders, including Town Administrator Michael McCue — who has already begun doing that — and the Board of Selectmen as well as the School Committee.
“We’re trying to get input from different groups in the community,” she said.
The next steps would include a feasibility study, focusing on possible forms of expansion — adding on to the existing building, new construction and, if the latter, the proper location.
“This first documents helps you with that,” said Stolfer, adding the state requires that three potential locations be submitted for consideration in the case of new construction. She said, if that is the direction sought, the current location, Maquan School or the Plymouth County Hospital site are among the possibilities.
The survey also asks residents and patrons from outside Hanson for their feedback on some possible new directions for the library, such as making workspace available to start-up or home-based businesses as well as small meeting rooms for community groups to use.
“We’re trying to see what people want from the library, compared to what we have currently,” Stolfer said.