Northville used its strategic planning process to discern needs, explore ways to improve Library access for its growing Township population, and chart a course to better services—all while maintaining high staff morale and improving internal operations.
- The last Library strategic plan was completed 12 years before, and the community had undergone significant changes since then.
- Users were asking for more from the Library, and it wasn't clear which changes were most widely desired, nor how to best prioritize and address them.
- The Library had a large proportion of new staff members, creating extra challenges in terms of internal development and coordination.
- Create a detailed, multi-layered picture of the community through an environmental snapshot, surveys, interviews, benchmarking, and market segmentation.
- Analyze the research to determine which offerings and services should be expanded or realigned to better serve the community.
- Use the planning process to bring staff and stakeholders together and ensure that their energy and effort is coordinated toward clear, shared targets.
- Community engagement helped to support the 10-year millage renewal—which was approved during the planning process.
- The research suggested some user requests were for existing services (thus requiring better marketing and outreach) and revealed other services which should be expanded to meet rising demand from a community that loves its Library.
- The Library staff and leadership came together to make quick progress on several issues and to establish a process for prioritizing goals and tactics.
The Library faced changing demographics, increased user requests for expanded services, and the uncertain effects of the pandemic.
Northville District Library (NDL) knew its resident population was growing, and it wanted the details. Who are the new residents, what are their challenges and preferences, and how can the Library best serve them?
Users were also making a growing number of requests—for more materials, more programs, longer hours, more meeting space. This, too, called for research. Which desires are most widely held, most valued, and most promising?
Lastly, NDL had gone through the pandemic, with its dramatic changes in user preferences and behaviors, and now needed to assess any lasting shifts from pre-pandemic norms.
The Library selected Ivy Group to help dig into these issues. Ivy conducted research and analysis, and then facilitated working sessions with the Library. Together, we produced a strategic plan organized around four focus areas.
Programs & Collections
Promote materials and connections that meet the evolving needs of the community.
Reconfigure to align space allocation with user needs.
Convenience & Access
Attract and retain users through services and locations that meet people where they are.
Communicate the irreplaceable roles NDL serves, from a gathering place to a 21st century portal to knowledge and imagination.
Northville District Library By the Numbers
Service Area Population
Data reported to IMLS, 2020
1 | Programs & Collections
Expand the digital collection and in-person programming
Telephone survey, online survey, and staff survey respondents all picked out digital materials as the top choice for future expansion of the Library's collection.
Meanwhile, peer benchmarking revealed that NDL offered the fewest programs in its peer set, despite ranking 2nd in attendance for its programming. This suggests significant demand, which the Library could meet by increasing the frequency of its most popular programs and/or by offering new programming.
Ivy advised NDL that peer set data indicated it already had the staffing necessary to support this. Furthermore, the cost expenditure per program would decrease as programming expanded.
Choosing priorities can be a challenging process. Luckily, the research findings made increasing programming and expanding the digital collection easy decisions.
Align offerings with the community’s changing demographics
15% of the Library's resident population is now of Asian descent—a percentage projected to continue rising. This demographic data suggests that the Library consider expanding and highlighting its world languages collection, along with increasing its cultural events to align with community's growing diversity.
For the increasing share of seniors in the population, the plan offers several recommendations, including partnering with the Northville Senior Center to expand programs that support healthy aging.
Hold programs at times and locations convenient for residents
According to our research, the Library can improve program timing as well as frequency. For instance, it could hold more children's programs on the weekends and more adult programs in the evenings.
Location matters, too. The Township, which already accounts for 80% of the resident population, will see most of the area’s projected growth. Some Township residents, especially those further from the city, make use of neighboring library systems in addition to Northville. Both of these data points indicate room for NDL to improve in terms of convenience and access, as well as offerings.
In the strategic planning sessions, the Library arrived at a key goal: hold programs in locations throughout the Township. The final plan outlines the need to identify outreach and collaboration spaces and points to several potential spaces and partners in the community.
2 | Space
Develop a facilities master plan to determine space and location needs for the next decade
Several space-related issues emerged from the planning process. Demand for meeting space outstripped available rooms, and township residents wanted easier access to library services, as well as to events and programming. Alternate spaces in the township could help to reduce competition for limited space, as program expansion needs to be balanced with high community demand for existing, and limited, meeting and collaboration spaces.
Because of the importance and complexity of these issues, NDL would benefit from developing a facilities master plan to guide the Library's attention to them over the next decade.
Improve traffic flow and create more flexibility for meeting spaces
The plan also pointed to discrete opportunities for improving the Library's main facility, such as the suggestion that the Library reduce the size of the information and reference desks and improve directional signage to improve traffic flow in the main floor.
On a slightly larger scale, the plan targets adding flexible workspaces to better accommodate students and remote workers, and offers ideas for better meeting user demands for study and meeting space:
- Flexible and moveable furniture
- A greater number of electrical outlets and collaboration tools
- Converting the recently vacated gift shop space into meeting and/or study space
3 | Convenience & Access
Provide express library services at convenient, high-traffic locations
While the development of the facilities master plan would address whether to take a big step like adding a township location or a bookmobile, several smaller steps could improve convenience and access in the near term.
This could include temporary pop-up locations at high-traffic locations and times, such as during the farmer's market. It might also come in the form of smaller, more permanent fixtures like remote book drops and lockers. The strategic plan outlines many potential presences, locations, and partnerships, and the Library will explore the feasibility, costs, and benefits of each.
At the time of planning, benchmarking revealed that the Library offered fewer hours than its peers. By expanding hours, NDL could increase visits while reducing cost per visit. Current staffing levels, along with NDL's current high expenditures per visit, suggest no need for increased staffing. Shifting staff hours to accommodate more evening or weekend library access creates substantial benefit for residents, with minimal increase in cost.
This would also help the Library offer more programming. More operating hours open up more availability for program sessions.
Since evening and weekend hours can be a bigger burden for staff, NDL aims to be thoughtful in its approach, implementing extra hours in a way that accounts for staff morale and input.
4 | Unique Identity
Spotlight unique location and offerings
The Library values its status as a destination. Nestled in the heart of Northville, it's a key attraction within the charming historic downtown.
Even as NDL expands its presence to other locations, it will also seek to communicate and broaden the appeal of its central location.
NDL also wants to better publicize its many unique and attractive services, which include:
- Themed book boxes
- Book club kits
- Book match requests
- 1-on-1 tech assistance
- Local resource referral
- An array of communication tools available for in-library use
- A growing a Library of Things, with a unique telescope collection in addition to mobile WiFi hotspots and webcams
As is often the case for libraries, many residents aren't taking advantage of these services simply because they're not aware of them!
Among other recommendations, the plan suggests hosting Open House events to demonstrate unique collections and offerings, as well as spotlighting exceptional products in the Library's building and communications.
Adopt a brand and tagline
We're a marketing agency (in addition to a library consultancy) so we know the importance of brand identity for clear communication. A brand and tagline have two main jobs:
- Be memorable
- Communicate the personality and value of your organization
Branding can seem like a simple or even superficial thing, but a strong brand identity attracts more users and improves user perceptions and experiences. In short, it will help the Library more fully realize its mission to be "a fun, exciting community destination that warmly welcomes residents from all backgrounds and age groups."
Create a marketing plan and marketing committee
Like with space planning, it’ll help to have Library insiders dedicated to creating a long-term plan for cohesively promoting the Library's collections, services, programs, and unique identity.
The committee and plan can organize the activities we've already discussed and can explore the best uses of NDL's automated marketing platforms for tailoring and targeting communications
They would also help organize efforts to improve internal communication, so that the Library operates efficiently and empowers its staff to share valuable ideas.
Bringing Staff Onto the Same Page
We're always thrilled to hear clients tell us how much they learned. During the library strategic planning process, even experienced staff and leadership engage with information and perspectives beyond what they can normally collect, deepening their knowledge about their patrons and community residents.
Working with experienced consultants, they learn more about best practices and possibilities. And they practice long-term thinking and goal-setting, in collaboration with their fellow Library insiders.
Every engagement holds high potential for internal development.
When a library has many new staff members, as Northville did at the start of this project, there's even more potential for internal development and benefit. For NDL, the planning process served the internal need to get all those new staff on the same page. It accelerated their working knowledge and helped to align them with one another, through the sessions' deliberations and collaborations.
Best of all, everyone came out of the process energized about achieving the outcomes they helped to shape.
NDL, Making Progress
By Ivy's final presentation to the Board, NDL had already implemented several high-priority tactics, like securing increased funding for digital materials. Soon after the plan's completion, the Library took two other big steps: going fine free and commencing a big weeding project to expand collections based on user input.
Before the end of the year, the Library set up a committee to make decisions about expanding hours. Last and certainly not least, leadership got busy filling out the framework for priority setting. Their intention is to identify a top 4-5 initiatives at a time, so that each will receive focused attention.
While eager to make progress, the Library is determined above all to enact changes in the most thoughtful and sustainable way.