Author Jean Alicia Elster gives a reading and talk about her book “How It Happens” at the Sterling Heights Public Library Feb. 15. The event was part of the library’s Black History Month programming.

Author Jean Alicia Elster gives a reading and talk about her book “How It Happens” at the Sterling Heights Public Library Feb. 15. The event was part of the library’s Black History Month programming.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Library takes a reading of its future

New millage, forming district library could be options to increase funding

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 22, 2023


STERLING HEIGHTS — The Sterling Heights Public Library is ready to start a new chapter in its history with a five-year strategic plan, and some possible courses of action could eventually mean raising new revenue or even transitioning into a district library, according to the library’s director.

According to Library Director Tammy Turgeon, last year, the city hired the firm ReThinking Libraries to help out with the strategizing process. The process included stakeholder sessions, a retreat, and a survey of 658 responding patrons and nonpatrons. The consultant and strategic plan had $9,500 allocated toward it in the 2021-22 proposed city budget and $10,590 in continued funding in the 2022-23 budget.

After the process, the library’s board approved a 2023-27 “High Level Strategic Plan,” and Turgeon said a newly declared mission and vision arose.

“A vision is not a forecast, but a version of the world we want to create,” Turgeon said. “It’s created in concert with the values of the stakeholders, both residents and staff. The vision statement unites everyone around one vision and then drives the strategic plan.”

The library’s new mission is “encouraging innovative living through literacy, discovery and community.” Its new vision is “an engaged community where all can discover, learn and grow.” Core values are a community focus, continuous improvement, forward thinking, inclusion, learning, being open-minded and being welcoming,

Turgeon also explained five focus areas in the strategic plan. One, called “elevated resources,” is about pleasing patrons via improved library offerings. She said that this year, that could mean acquiring a collection of video games as well as a “library of things.” Library officials said the latter could involve checking out items such as crafting or building tools.

Another goal, “supported staff,” aspires to make staff happier, more efficient and more effective. Turgeon said the library hopes to soon offer more training opportunities with state library groups.

Meanwhile, “outreach and partnerships” aims to build alliances with groups such as businesses and educational entities to build “a more robust ecosystem of connection and support to the community,” she explained. She said a new outreach committee will look for such partners.

“Aware community” strives to make the community more cognizant of and supportive of the library’s offerings and impact.

“One initiative we’ll be looking at is developing a marketing plan for our youth department this first year and then, each year, expanding (it) to other service areas of the library,” she said.

Lastly, Turgeon explained the library’s focus on “adequate funding,” which she said means increasing it to state averages.

“One of our top potential initiatives is to work with both city leadership and grassroots efforts to move funding improvements forward,” she said.

She said that, based on Institute of Museum and Library Services 2019 stats, the Sterling Heights library lags behind in per-capita benchmarks for spending, visits, materials, circulation, full-time librarians and overall full-time workers.

The data compared Sterling Heights to a sample of libraries of roughly similar size in Michigan, the Midwest, the rest of the country and aspirational “star libraries,” Turgeon said.

Turgeon said the library has multiple budget-boosting options. One option is levying a millage via a ballot referendum or through the City Council, she said.

“The library can also form a district library with neighboring communities or join an existing district library,” she added. “These options would involve ballot proposals and would move the library out of the city department structure, and the new library would become a separate taxing authority.”

Turgeon said the new strategic planning will ultimately position the library for the next 25 years.

“I know we’ll need to do some brainstorming, and increasing costs to residents is difficult,” she said.

“However, I’m open to working with City Council, city management, the library board and residents on how to tackle the funding issues for the library so that we can implement many of the enhancements that residents requested, including additional library locations, additional full-time staff and increased hours of operation.”

The Sterling Heights 2022-23 budget expects the Library Department to spend around $2.95 million. The library itself spends an estimated $2.94 million of that, and the Historical Commission is tacked on at $6,830.

In the latest budget, personnel make up the highest library cost at $2.35 million, followed by almost $259,000 for supplies and almost $339,000 in other charges.

The Library Department has overall spent between roughly $2.81 million and $3.02 million annually over the prior three budgets, according to the city.

Another chart in the latest budget puts current library spending per resident at $21 compared to $26 for Warren and $36 for Troy. The average residential tax paid toward library services was estimated at $28.

City Manager Mark Vanderpool praised Turgeon as a strong, humble leader in the state’s library culture. He added that he welcomes the City Council’s continued input on the library strategic plan and called some of its initiatives, like a possible library district, “bold.”

“That’s going to require some, a lot of, engagement with the stakeholders and certainly be incorporated into our Visioning 2040 process,” Vanderpool said.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Public Library by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2665.