Fontana Public Library Strategic Plan
2022 – 2027
Introduction to Fontana
Fontana-on-Geneva Lake is located on the western shore of Geneva Lake in Walworth County, with a year-round population of 1,674 residents. The village provides a weekend and holiday destination for another 3,500 to 5,000 property owners and guests primarily from the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford metropolitan areas. Our small village has a rich history including the indigenous Potawatomi peoples, led by Chief Big Foot, and early explorers and settlers of European descent.
Strategic Plan Background & Introduction
Fontana Public Library started a strategic planning process in the spring of 2021. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the planning team of library staff and board members gathered input and ideas from nearly two hundred community members to inform the library’s five-year plan.
A number of strong, high-level themes emerged during the data and information gathering phase of the planning process: the need for a coordinated communication plan; the many opportunities for connection and engagement with the community; and intentional, creative approaches to the use of spaces both within and outside of the library.
These themes informed the development of a strategic framework composed of high-level goals and measurable objectives. The goals and objectives will be implemented through specific activities, many of which will change year to year. Community priorities and other factors will be considered throughout the plan period to ensure that activities are appropriate and responsive to the needs of the community.
The village includes a lively and engaged year-round and part-time base of retirees and senior community members with know-how and expertise to share. The school district is also a good community partner, and there is an opportunity to deepen that relationship. A unique feature of the surrounding area is the number of libraries that residents and visitors can use. This is an exciting moment to engage more intentionally with nearby libraries and collaborate in support of the entire Lake community.
Goals and objectives
The following framework provides direction while remaining broad enough to offer flexibility in the coming five years. Each goal was developed from big-picture themes that emerged from the period of data and information gathering. The measurable objectives offer a way to assess whether the goals are achieved during the plan timeframe.
Goal: Share the library story
The community will be aware of the many resources and services the library offers. It will be easy to find out what is happening at the library.
Why: The reasoning for a goal dedicated to marketing and communications emerged from the information gathered in two key areas: community awareness of library resources, and use or non-use of those resources, indicating that there is room for growth in spreading the word about the library and all it has to offer. For example, in a survey question related to their use of ebooks or other downloadable library materials, 44% of all survey respondents to this question said that they never use these materials.
There are some library resources that survey respondents simply aren’t aware of, including local history resources (45% of question respondents said they’re aware) and online databases (19% of question respondents said they’re aware). The survey indicated that there is an opportunity for the library to be more visible in communication channels that are not published or distributed by the library (for example, community newspapers or local radio stations).
- Increase awareness of library services and resources by utilizing a variety of communication channels
- Increase reach of library communications through targeted outreach
Goal: Connect and engage the community
The library will be a community hub where connections between people are made possible. The library will proactively connect the community to high-quality and timely information, services, and resources.
Why: This goal emerged from survey data suggesting that we could do more to serve the needs of the community.
A third of infrequent library users said that “programming that’s of interest to me or my family” would make them use the library more. Survey respondents ranked “programming or resources related to technology help for all ages” as their second choice of changes the library could make. Partnerships, particularly with the school district, emerged as a key community priority through a ranking question in the survey. Finally, among infrequent library users who responded to the survey, 23% said that they would be more likely to use the library if the open hours worked better for their schedule.
Community strengths and skill sets can contribute to library programming that is inclusive, accessible, and does not create capacity issues for library staff. Demographics information, available from the US Census and other sources such as the American Community Survey, show that the population of Fontana is older than average as compared to Walworth County and the state of Wisconsin. The village includes a lively and engaged year-round and part-time base of retirees and seniors with know-how and expertise to share.
Partnerships can help us to serve the community. Given the proximity of neighboring libraries, we can collaborate to leverage the different strengths of each to better serve all our communities. We can coordinate our evening hours so that we complement the efforts of other libraries rather than competing. We can cross-promote our programming. We can also strengthen our partnership with Fontana Elementary School, filling the gaps when the school library is closed.
- Grow existing community partnerships and lay the groundwork for new ones
- Increase library visits and use by hosting events and activities that promote community connection
- Increase use of library resources including print collections and digital resources
- Increase commitment to collaboration to build capacity / strengthen relationship with surrounding libraries
Goal: Create intentional library spaces
The library will make creative use of spaces in a way that is responsive to the priorities of the community.
Why: Community priorities call for creative approaches to library spaces, both in the current building and outside of it. The community survey results indicated a desire for multi-use public spaces — where people can host or attend events or meetings, and where people can feel comfortable reading and working solo or in small groups without disturbing others.
Given the limitations imposed by the library’s location within the village hall building, there is the opportunity for the library to expand access to community spaces through creative partnering, exploration of outdoor resources, and reconfiguration of the library’s current layout. This goal also makes clear the need for ongoing conversations with the community, to hear about their ideas for refreshing the current library space to ensure that the changes are indeed responsive to community needs.
- Increase community access to public meeting and program spaces
- Improve public spaces within the existing library building
Strategic Planning Process
Fontana Public Library’s strategic planning process began in June 2021. A strategic planning committee composed of library staff and library board members undertook project coordination in consultation with WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services), a non-profit membership organization serving libraries and communities across the state.
The strategic planning process included a period of information gathering over the summer to capture data about year-round and part-time and summer visitors. The following data sets were reviewed by the strategic planning committee:
- A community survey, which was made available online and in hard copy. 198 responses to the survey were collected.
- Demographic information about the community of Fontana-on-Geneva Lake. Information was pulled from sources that included the US Census and the American Community Survey (ACS).
- Annual Report information is collected each year by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This information provides trend data and other kinds of information about Fontana Public Library and situates it within a comparison cohort of similar libraries and communities, as well as offering standalone data about the library.
The strategic planning committee utilized a theming tool to discover big-picture concepts emerging from the data sets. Strategic goals were developed from the themes. Goals, measurable objectives, and the activities were refined during a plan development meeting, after which there was a drafting process to arrive at the current version of the plan document.
As noted previously, while the framework developed during this process will be in place for the next five years, activities will be added, reprioritized, and refined to ensure that the plan is nimble and makes sense given the local and national contexts.
The Fontana Public Library director and staff, in consultation with members of the Fontana Public Library Board, will determine a list of activities to support the goals and objectives outlined in this plan. Activities will be selected based on potential impact; available resources, including funding and staff time; and changing community needs.
Communication & Accountability
To ensure that it is a dynamic tool to shape the services and resources of the library, the strategic plan will be reviewed and updated regularly. The Library Board will be updated on the progress of implementation according to the following schedule:
The library director will provide a summation of the prior year’s progress on the strategic planning activities to the Library Board by March of each year. This information will also be shared with the Village Administrator.
Prior to the meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee Library Staff will review data from the previous year and discuss implementation ideas, goals and benchmarks for the coming year. These ideas will be shared with the committee.
In April or May, the Strategic Planning Committee will meet to assess the implementation of the plan. The committee will determine progress on the plan’s goals, determine if there is need for adjustments to the plan based on changing conditions or new challenges and opportunities, and will identify and prioritize the activities that will be the focus of the library’s efforts in the following year.
In June, the recommendations of the Planning Committee will be shared with the Library Board and if necessary will be included in the library’s budget planning process.
The library would like to extend a sincere thank you to the nearly two hundred community members who participated in the community survey and helped inform this strategic plan. In addition, the support and work done by the Strategic Planning Committee was invaluable and will ensure that the library has a solid strategic direction for the coming years.
Members of the Strategic Planning Committee:
Ann Barth, Library Board of Trustees
Walter Burkhalter, Library Director
Lisa Laing, Library Board of Trustees
Theresa Loomer, Village Administrator/Clerk
Margaret Reuland, Library Board of Trustees
Members of the Library Board of Trustees:
Tom Whowell, President
Lisa Laing, Secretary
Dolly Schneidwind, Vice President
Margaret Reuland, Treasurer
Laura Damon-Moore, WiLS
Melissa McLimans, WiLS