Main Library (File photo)

The Santa Monica Public Library Strategic Plan, aimed at guiding future development of library services based on community input, was approved unanimously by the City Council at a Dec. 8 meeting.

Staff reported that this was the first time in 20 years the library had embarked on a strategic planning process and that it was a collaborative effort among library staff, an innovation tech task force, expert guides, the library board and community members.

The staff report stated that the process included 11 community forums with 201 participants, a survey with 1,983 participants and 14 staff sessions. The key findings and recommendations gathered from these endeavors were that the library is a life-long learning and community hub; that books are prized; that collaborative work and meeting spaces improved technology; that maker spaces and art exhibits are desired; and that partnerships with the tech community, schools and community organizations are vital.

The strategic plan was created based on community feedback, best practices and trends, and staff insights with four strategic focus areas for what the library should be within the community: a vibrant learning center, a wellbeing cultivator, a dynamic third place and a community and cultural connector.

A vote was cast by staff on Sept. 10 approving the plan.

Staff reported that their next steps, upon the council’s approval of the plan, were an implementation team, jump start projects and CIP planning.

City Manager Rick Cole’s response to the Library’s plan was very positive.

“The library has always been a more dynamic plan than sometimes we want to think about it; as just a place for books,” Cole said. Cole delved into the history of the earliest library’s in the country and how they once lent out microscopes, telescopes, and other things people could use to enhance their lives and education that they would not otherwise have had access to if it weren’t for the library. “We have a great library system, but it won’t stay great unless it continues to evolve, unless it continues to grow, unless it continues to take cognizance of what’s on around it,” Cole said.

Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich said that she was particularly happy that the plan included creating more free time at the library when kids are out of school.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis spoke about how important the library is, not just to our children’s education, but the city’s education as a whole.

“Now of course we know that the vocabulary that you acquire during your first and second year of life really is what sets you on the path for the remainder of your learning experience,” Davis said. “So if we want people to be life long learners we sure as heck better be exposing them to a lot of vocabulary in their first few years at the library.”

Council unanimously approved the plan to clearly guide future development of library services based on community input and the study of best practices.