The Timberland Regional Library system continued its reconciliation tour with a stop Wednesday night at its Hoquiam branch.
Timberland’s series of Community Check-in meetings around the five counties served by the system are meant to receive feedback on the 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. They also are opportunities for TRL leadership to re-establish trust with patrons after last year’s flubbed rollout of its facilities plan that threatened to close several rural libraries — including Amanda Park, Hoquiam and Montesano — while securing new buildings for libraries in Lacey, Olympia and Raymond.
Sarah Ogden, TRL’s district manager for innovation and user experience, stood for more than an hour in front of the crowd of about 30 people. There was plenty of criticism about past efforts and she handled it with humor and grace while taking input on the strategic plan.
“I believe that we have learned from our mistake. Especially with the strategic planning process, the way I’m trying to do it is very open, very much engaging you folks in the process,” she told the crowd gathered in the former children’s library room at the library. The library, which is owned by the City of Hoquiam, has just gone through a major remodel. It would have been closed in the plan Timberland initially rolled out. “(The strategic plan) is going to be our aspirational document, our hopes and dreams. And then, when the next document comes out, which is actually the implementation plan, how do we do that over the next three years? What does our budget look like over the next three years? That will be, similarly, a very open, very public process.”
The strategic plan defines the vision (“Our communities connected”), mission (“Connecting people, places and things”), values and focus for TRL.
As the discussion progressed, several points became clear — that the rural libraries were to be protected and their collections maintained, if not expanded.
”One of the things that this vision statement has to really emphasize is that in the beginning, the Timberland Regional Library demonstration project was designed by (late longtime Aberdeen librarian) Rosalie Spellman and others to make certain that rural libraries were not short changed in the growth of the urban system,” said John Hughes, former editor and publisher of The Daily World. “And the unpleasantness (of the facilities plan rollout) that we will try to avoid talking about tonight evolved from the fact that rural libraries, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Montesano to name three, were being short changed by the shortsightedness of it. And we can’t forget that because we’ll be doomed to revisit that unless we remember that.”
“It’s about books,” former librarian Christine Peck of Aberdeen said.
Other topics of discussion included working with schools, having a safe place to gather and increasing access.
“I feel that the rural libraries are not getting enough evening hours,” Kathryn Myrsell of Westport said. “… We have a lot of families that are working really long hours during the day, and honestly, I think it would be worth it to bump (opening) up an hour to noon or one, one or two days a week, and stay open till seven. Evening hours are so useful for me and for business people who need to do research after hours.”
To which, Ogden replied, “I’ve often said that if I didn’t work for the library, I wouldn’t be able to visit the library.”
There are three more Community Check-in meetings:6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Ilwaco Timberland Library (Pacific County).
6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Chehalis Timberland Library (Lewis County).
6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29, at Lacey Timberland Library (Thurston County).
After those, the information will be gathered and presented to the Strategic Planning committee during an October meeting. That meeting, from 1-5 p.m. Oct. 3 at TRL headquarters at 415 Tumwater Blvd. SW in Tumwater, is open to the public. The collected information also will be placed on the TRL website.
Surveys will be conducted via email and online during September. A link to the survey was not available when this paper went to press, but Ogden said a link to the Strategic Plan survey will be at trl.org/about-timberland-regional-library.
Reach Michael Lang at 360-537-3936 or send an email to email@example.com.