HEPL Strategic Plan: Where is the Fishers Public Library Headed?

At the December 21st, 2023 meeting of the Hamilton East Public Library (HEPL) board meeting, a draft strategic plan was presented. This was a look forward to the library’s plans for 2024 to 2028.

The plan started with a few general statements about the library and then honed in on four strategic priorities. The general statements included the library’s mission statement, which is:

To be our community’s essential connector to information and ideas.

Not that his mission is not just to provide books, magazines and media, which is what many think of when picturing a public library. Rather it is to be a connector to information and ideas. With recent state legislation looking to possibly restrict what libraries can do, this mission of connection beyond just media to ideas could run into trouble in the future.

To keep things focused, the library has a few guiding principles. These are Innovation, discovery, equity, and access. These guiding principles are not defined on the draft strategic document that was posted on the library site, so I won’t attempt to define them here. Innovation, discovery, and access should be relatively clear.

Using the mission, a vision of making the library connected in a connected community, and using the guided principles, the library listed their four priorities.

Priority 1: Access.

The first priority is access. This includes removing barriers to accessing not only the materials at the library, but the access to get to materials in a digital space. The intent is to provide a clean, safe, and functional public space with increased availability and use of library resources. If you’ve used the Fishers (or Noblesville ) libraries, you know they are open with easily accessible media and services. With the renovations that are nearing completion, the spaces have a fresh, modern feel with more open areas.

Priority 2: Community

A second priority for the library is to make sure the library is accessible and appealing for all members of the community. This includes making sure that a broad range of services, resources, and people are available. The community has a diverse set of people with a diverse range of interests. The library’s strategic goal is to cater to that breadth. This includes providing events and services that reflect the needs of the community’s breadth as well. Not all programs, materials, or events will be of interest to all people, but the intent is to make sure that all people can find something that does reflect their interests.

This priority also includes making sure that the library staff is cognizant of the community and their needs. This will position them to be more informed and compassionate when serving those using the library.

Priority 3: Engagement

Like any organization, the library also has a strategic goal to grow the number of library users. As the Cities of Fishers and Noblesville grow, it is only fitting that the number of people using the public library should grow as well.

In addition to growing the number of library users, the goal is to increase the engagement those users have with the library and its services and resources. This will be accomplished by improving the awareness of these as well as the awareness of the library’s mission. This increased awareness will be accomplished by prioritizing opportunities to connect both in and out of the library.

One way this library will be fulfilling this goal is with the recent approval of a mobile library unit. The library will be adding a mobile “book mobile” that will be able to travel throughout the community bringing library services and programs to places outside of the two library buildings.

The library also work towards increasing engagement by building on its reputation to be a place where accurate information can be found from trusted sources. The library will focus on offering and receive accurate information about library services in places where people in the community frequent and within trusted sources around the community.

Priority 4: Capacity

If a growth in access and a growth in engagement are both targeted, then it makes sense that a growth in capacity will also be needed. As part of this goal, the library will need to develop and implement a strategy for evaluating capacity. In addition to that, there are two areas that were highlighted within this goal that are among the most interesting things stated in the strategic plan.

First, the library will look to establish a Foundation. This is a topic one of the previous members of the administration team brought to the board. At that time a couple of the board members dismissed the idea of a foundation because they wouldn’t be able to have control of its operations. With a newly structured board due to changes in leadership, if the community is still open to supporting a foundation, this strategic goal could be hugely beneficial.

A foundation would be able to independently raise funds that could then be used to cover the cost of special programs or projects the library might be interested in doing without the need to worry about regular funding. This opens opportunities for special and unique things to happen at the library.

The second area that is even more interesting is the establishment of a third library location. This would likely be on the East side of the area that HEPL serves. More specifically, that would be on the east side of Noblesville and Fishers. The library already has a piece of land in the area of Olio Road between 146th and 151st Street, so that is a possible location. A third branch would increase capacity as well as likely increase engagement from those on the east side. A part of the strategic plan is to do a feasibility study regarding this third branch.

The Strategic Future of HEPL

The overall details of the strategic plan were limited; however, it set the groundwork for looking forward at what 2024 to 2028 could bring. With the recent resignation of the library director, the first strategic priority is to rebuild the leadership of the library. Once that is in place, it will be interesting to see what new things HEPL brings to the community.

To see the strategic plan that was created based on community feedback and data, you can go to hepl.diligent.community/document/10ea47ea-0636-4bd6-bd2a-f5a1214f38bc/. The plan at this link was approved at the December HEPL board meeting.

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