Library officials are seeking the public’s input on future programming and features through a survey and upcoming community conversations.

Library officials are seeking the public’s input on future programming and features through a survey and upcoming community conversations.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Library seeks public input for new strategic plan

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published February 19, 2020


SOUTHFIELD — In order to stay on top of what residents want in their local library, Southfield Public Library officials are seeking the public’s input to help them put together a new strategic plan.

From March 1-14, the public is invited to take a survey on the programs and services at the library.

Library officials said the goal is to find out what people want and need in a library, so officials can base their plan around that.

“We are putting together our first strategic plan in a long time. Part of the process is to get community input from a survey. We will have a link on the library’s website and also paper copies in the library,” Outreach Librarian Kelly Rembert said in an email.

In addition to the survey, City Librarian Dave Ewick said, library staff will be working with officials from Midwest Collaborative Library Services to administer community conversations.

Midwest Collaborative Library Services, based in Lansing, is a nonprofit organization that aims to facilitate “sharing resources and to collaborate with other organizations to benefit Michigan and Indiana libraries,” according to its website.

“Every so often, we like to take the pulse of the community,” Ewick said. “Instead of us blindly doing things for the future, we try and find out what it is our community wants and then use that as a guide of where we put our money.”

For example, Ewick said, library officials have discovered that desktop computers are not as popular a resource as they used to be.

“People are using their phones, tablets and laptops. We don’t need them. That’s a simple one,” he said. “We want to find out what kinds of things our community is interested in.”

Ewick said that, on top of the survey, community conversations will be planned. The conversations are based on the work of Richard Harwood, of the Harwood Institute, which pioneered the use of community conversations.

“His whole thinking is to talk to communities about what is good in their community instead of what is wrong. So many times, we get together and we talk about what is wrong with our community,” Ewick said.

Ewick said that, by hosting the community conversations, officials might also be able to address issues that are not related to the library.

“Things may come up that are not really even library related. We really feel — and I think Harwood does, too — that libraries are the center of the community,” Ewick said. “If somebody says we need more walkable neighborhoods, that’s not something the library would do, but we have connections.”

Starting June 3, the library added 10 hours back into its schedule.

In 2011, the budget for the library was cut, leaving officials with the task of cutting hours, programs and salaries. Hours were reduced by 30%, Ewick said in an earlier report.

Southfield overwhelmingly approved a 4.9183 mill tax increase in May 2011, awarding $1.1 million in funds to the Southfield Public Library and balancing the 2011-12 budget. With revenues down 30% from the peak year of 2008, though, Ewick said, the numbers still sank for them. Not being able to operate with the $7.84 million budget, they dipped into the $4.8 million fund balance to the tune of $708,270 to compensate for a shortfall in 2012.

To take the survey or for more information about the library, visit