The mission of the Towanda Public Library is to maintain a free, public, non sectarian library which serves community members equally according to need regardless of age, sex, race, educational background or intellectual capability, economic or educational status.
The Library will provide informational, educational and recreational materials to meet the needs of the community.
The Towanda Public Library shall provide enrichment and promote an appreciation of reading, thereby being an invaluable source for the community.
A tiny musical library created for the benefit of the Towanda Musical Society began in 1879 in Miss Helen Carter’s parlor. It soon became a subscription library. An autonomous library committee was in charge but the Musical Society continued to support it through dues and fundraisers. In 1897, the Musical Society agreed to put their collection in a new library building, a gift to the town from Frank R. Welles. At that time their books numbered 2,143. Miss Helen Carter was the first librarian. In the first 15 days after opening, 455 borrowers took out 1,033 books.
Funding was a problem. In 1920, public pressure forced the borough council to put to referendum the proposal of a 1.5 mill tax levy for library support and the voters of Towanda approved.
The library building is quite unusual. Architect Henry Chapman of New York City designed the Flemish Renaissance building made from red pressed brick with terra cotta decorations. The library’s high pitched roof is made from slate with copper cresting and finials. The building remains much the same except that a room was added to house a children’s collection in the 1950’s.
Today the library has over 30,000 items, and over 6,000 borrowers. The library is open 54 hours in a typical week and the average circulation is nearly 4,000 per month. Computers are used at least 600 times per month.
Use of the Towanda Public Library continues to grow despite the fear that the Internet would make libraries obsolete. It has, in fact, done quite the opposite. Users come to the library to use high speed Internet connections; for some the library is their only source of Internet access. Travelers use the library’s computers to check email etc.
Although the proliferation of technology has changed the way some use the library, others continue to use the library in more traditional ways. A five year usage study confirmed that the circulation of fiction is up 43%. Books on tape and CD have seen an increase of 29%. The circulation of videos and DVDs has risen 315%. Children’s fiction has increased by 88%.
As stated earlier perhaps the biggest change in library use is caused by the prevalence of the Internet. Both adult and juvenile non fiction circulation has declined by 20% since 2000, probably due to increased use of electronic databases and resources. Computer use has increased by 35%.
To sum it up, the use of non fiction materials has declined but we have seen a sharp increase in recreational reading and the demand for audio visual materials.
Creating the Plan:
A number of factors have been considered in developing a plan for the Towanda Public Library. Demographic trends and projections, outcomes from community focus groups, and input from staff all helped to make informed decisions about the library’s future.
- The library’s service population is 10,839 which include 9 townships and boroughs in Bradford County.
- 28% of the population is under the age of 19.
- 52% between the ages of 25 and 65.
- 15% is 66 or older.
The percentages above reflect statewide averages.
- Median family income: $40,664, slightly less than the statewide average of $42,952.
- 81.7% of the population 25 and older have at least a high school diploma / GED.
With the proliferation of portable computing devices and a generation of new library users who have never known a world without computers, libraries are offering more remote services. Electronic databases have become commonplace but more and more libraries are offering subscriptions to music and audio books.
Libraries have offered story hours and programs for children for many years but recent trends indicate that parents are looking to libraries to help them teach emergent literacy skills to their children. Emergent literacy is defined as what a child knows about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. These skills are the building blocks for later literacy.
Libraries are learning an important lesson from businesses such as Barnes and Noble and Borders Books, which have successfully employed attractive store displays, programs, cafes and other features that are appealing to the public. This is an idea that has been implemented in many libraries nationally. Adding Internet PC’s and wireless access to the mix makes a true Internet Café concept.
RFID is shorthand for Radio Frequency Identification. Libraries are using this technology to increase efficiency. RFID involves the implanting of a radio frequency chip in library materials, which allows check in and check out of library materials without the need for staff interaction, commonly called “self checkout”.
Tricia Ulmer, North Central Library District Consultant, conducted three focus group discussions. The SWOT method was employed. Community strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats were discussed. Library planners were given some valuable insights into the community and the role of the library. Some of the comments are listed here:
- The library is not competitive / many don’t know all that the library has to offer.
- The Library is centrally located within walking distance for many borough residents but the library lacks adequate parking for its service area.
- The community expects adequate number of up to date computers for children and adults.
- Our educators would like to see an increase in homework help and family centered assistance in how to use the library.
- Library programs to address emergent literacy / school readiness.
- Increase community partnerships for sharing skills and funding.
- Nowhere for teens to socialize in community.
- State mandates are not backed with money.
Long Range Plan for Towanda Public Library:
The Library hopes to achieve the following during this five year planning cycle:
- Attract a diverse group of people of all ages.
- Be an invaluable resource to families.
- Offer a comfortable, easy to use facility that provides flexibility for the community’s changing needs.
- Work in partnership with other area agencies.
Goals and objectives to help achieve the vision:
1. Create a positive library experience.
2. Expand customer base.
3. Support lifelong learning.
4. Provide flexible space for changing needs.
5. Continue to build library organization.
Goal One: Create a positive library experience.
1.1 Everyone using the library has a positive experience.
- Provide staff training in customer service.
- Develop surveys and focus groups to assess customer satisfaction annually.
- Review patron policies, paying close attention to policies limiting access to materials or technology.
1.2 Provide convenient and easy access to facilities.
- Explore possibilities for library parking.
- Provide an outside drop box for audiobooks, VHS tapes and DVDs.
1.3 Provide convenient and easy access to technology for all library customers.
- Increase the number of public access computers available to children.
- Add online databases, train staff and customers.
- Promote existing databases and provide training for customers.
- Evaluate new technologies and provide access to our customers.
Goal Two: Expand customer base
2.1 Develop marketing strategy – ensuring everyone in service area knows about library services, both in house and electronic.
- Develop cooperative relationships with schools and area organizations to promote programs and services.
- Conduct library card sign-ups in elementary and secondary schools.
- Identify publicity sources. Make sure that the library is mentioned in one of them at least once a week.
- Merchandise and display library materials more effectively.
2.2 Offer materials on a wide variety of subjects and in different formats.
- Evaluate collections. Identify weaknesses and allocate funds accordingly.
- Evaluate web site.
2.3 Create informal gathering space.
- Area where cell phones, food and drink are permitted.
Goal Three: Support Lifelong learning.
3.1 Provide programming to promote a lifelong love of reading for children.
- Continue to offer childrens programs both in house and in child care centers. Participate in state and national initiatives to promote emergent literacy.
- Create a listening center for children with audio kits and equipment.
3.2 Expand programming for teens and adults.
- Offer a variety of programs including lectures, book discussion groups, and computer instruction.
- Create a library space specifically for teens.
- Work with a teen advisory board to develop programs for teens.
Goal Four: Provide flexible space for changing needs.
4.1 Conclude the renovation of the library annex.
- Develop “master plan”.
- Work with building professionals to organize renovated space to reflect community needs.
- Secure necessary funding.
Goal Five: Library Organization and Infrastructure:
5.1 Identify library staff needs.
- Review job descriptions.
- If necessary, hire additional staff to meet programming needs.
- Discuss benefits offered.
5.2 Library Board development.
- Provide regular orientation sessions for new and prospective trustees with prepared library packets.
- Review by-laws and policies.