Guelph Public Library Strategic Plan: Student Reactions

During the initial class meetings the students reviewed the Guelph Public Library Strategy Plan 2015-2017. Examining the plan gave the students a perspective on the plans and aspirations of the Library. It identified what the Library thinks is important.

Students were asked to identify what they liked about the plan, what was missing, and what was problematic or of concern. Selected comments are quoted and paraphrased below. Opinions differed about the strengths and weaknesses.


– the format and layout of the report wasn’t very appealing; didn’t grab their attention or imagination (“dry”, “boring”). “Has all necessary information but lacks a Wow factor.”

– more a business plan (“sales pitch”) than a strategy plan; lots of incremental projects but lacks many “visionary” items or longer term goals. Where, for example, was any talk or mention of the new downtown library?

– the “customers” in Customers First (the title of the strategic plan) received a lot of negative feedback; should be “community first” or “people first.” The “customer” language made the Library sound like a business transaction.

– targeting 20-35 year old demographic was seen as very astute; bring this group back into active library use. However, short on details about how this would happen. “The choice to segment the libraries’ users was clever, and would aid in targeting certain demographics in order to better serve them.”

– “community services department showed vision, new way of engaging the community.”

– the ROI data (i.e. a $5.42 return for every $1 spent) dramatically and clearly showed value to community.

– “they want to use this library as a community center (e.g. events, celebrations…) If so, they should just expand it into a community center with a swimming pool and other exercise equipment.”

– “a lot of this is what we’re going to do not enough this is why/how we’re going to do it

– “transitioning the bookmobile service into a community outreach service so that the needs of seniors and others are met, allowing people who cannot go to the library still be able to access its resources.”

– “an amazing job of giving relevant statistics that could be used to give a strong argument for building the library; all stats come with a description of why they are important and relevant.”

– “the text should have included less incremental changes and specify the library’s overall vision, while prioritizing how they plan on reinventing themselves to better serve in the 21st century (i.e. less about its resources and more about connecting the community)”


And So We Begin….

The Guelph Library Project class has met twice now and the students are ready to start thinking about libraries and specifically about the new downtown public library.

Today I asked them:

“What was important to you about your hometown public library?”

The students are going to post short answers to this blog over the next few days [Update: here are their posts]

Some used their local library, others not so much. Some of their uses were similar, others quite different. With their posts we are building up a matrix of what libraries mean to them.

One perceptive student asked me:

“Is there an opinion about libraries and the new library that you would like us to agree with?”

The answer is NO!

This course is all about the student’s analysis and their recommendations. They will, I hope, be informed by the research and their interactions with the community. However, it is not about my ideas (biased though I may be).

I hope you enjoy the observations. And please join in the discussion at any time by commenting on the posts or using the hashtag #GuelphLibProject on social media.


The Guelph Library Project: An Introduction

Are public libraries relevant in the 21st century? How much do they matter and will communities pay for them? Does Guelph need or want a new downtown public library?

Let’s find out.

The Guelph Library Project explores the initiative pursued over many years (and still unresolved) to build a new public library in downtown Guelph.

Carnegie GPL Street Scene
The old Carnegie Library in Guelph

Attitudes have certainly changed.

In 2002 Monteith Planning Consultants asked if: “A new downtown Main Library should be a high priority in the City.” The results:

Library Users: 66% (agree or strongly agree)
Non-Library Users: 56% (agree or strongly agree)

Twelve years later in 2014, Forum Research asked: “Do you Support a New Main Library?” The results are very different:

Yes: 36%
No: 58%
Undecided: 6%

This project is also an integral part of a First Year Seminar course being taught at the University of Guelph. The research, interviews, and most of the postings on this site will be done by those students.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie has posed the essential question:

“What is the future of libraries and how is it [the current plan for a new library] going to best fit into that future?”

Guelph Public Library
The current Guelph Public Library (Main Branch)

The course begins on Thursday September 10th and runs until Thursday December 3rd. You are encouraged to not just read about it but to actively participate by commenting on this site and using the hashtag #GuelphLibProject on Twitter and other social media.

…Mike (course instructor & librarian)