The Novi Public Library’s strategic planning survey received more than 2,000 responses.

The Novi Public Library’s strategic planning survey received more than 2,000 responses.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Novi library receives unprecedented participation in strategic planning survey

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published April 7, 2023


NOVI — The Novi Public Library received an unprecedented amount of participation in its online strategic planning survey, according to preliminary results facilitated by ReThinking Libraries LLC.

“The results were awesome because, first off, we got a great response. We had over 2,000 responses, which the consultant that we’re working with said was the largest they’d ever worked with,” said Library Director Julie Farkas. “That says a lot to me. I appreciate when our community weighs in.”

According to the results posted on the library’s website, 2,198 people started the survey, and 69% completed it. Janet Nelson, a principal and an owner of ReThinking Libraries LLC, said typically they only receive 500 to 800 responses for a library comparable to Novi’s. She said the Novi Public Library not only had a great turnout online but in person as well. She said that 32 people attended the library’s strategic planning retreat, which was held March 21-22. Typically, there are 15 to 25 people in attendance.

“They had a large response — one of the larger ones that we’ve seen,” said Nelson. “So it was great. It shows the people are very engaged around your library.”

The survey covered topics including things people want in a library. The results indicated that having adequate quiet-study spaces and appropriate spaces for children and teens was often mentioned, along with many specific furniture suggestions. The safety of the parking area was also a major concern for library patrons, according to the preliminary findings.

There were many positive comments about the staff, the library and how it is appreciated as a community resource, according to the findings.

“This just pulls forward a lot of the key things that were seen as important to the community,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that the Novi Public Library functions as an aspirational library, but it is far from funded as such.

“They’re performing on the level of the aspirational libraries, but they’re doing it on a fraction of the money, so that is kind of where the trouble comes in,” Nelson said.

She said many survey participants were surprised at the NPL’s funding compared to aspirational libraries such as the Downers Grove Public Library and St. Charles Public Library in Illinois or neighboring libraries such as those serving West Bloomfield, Northville, Salem and South Lyon. According to Nelson, aspirational libraries typically receive around $134 per capita and neighboring libraries average $82 per capita, while the Novi Public Library receives $52 per capita. Nelson said this is causing a disconnect because residents are expecting the Novi Public Library to perform on the levels they see at the neighboring libraries that they visit.

“The Novi library is a very, very busy library, and the funding isn’t at a level that you typically see for libraries that are as busy and active and as well used as this library is, so that is a lot of stress on the library (staff),” said Nelson. “That was one thing that I think a lot of community members were surprised to hear about, was the fact that the library maybe isn’t funded at the level that other libraries might be. So that is something that probably needs to be worked on a little bit — just making sure that that staff can be compensated to the level that they need to be compensated and also just having enough staff in order to be able to meet the needs.”

According to the preliminary results of the survey and the retreat, hiring practices at the library are a challenge, and filling open positions takes a long time. The staff is overextended, and it is recommended that the library should look to other means of funding other than millage.

Other issues included the doorway not being well designed and the staff being exposed to the wind and cold. There were also concerns about the behavior of teens and unattended young children, according to the survey results.

Nelson said the next step will be to come up with an initial plan and for the library to decide what it would like to do going forward in the years to come. Nelson said her firm typically works with a library on its strategic planning for four to six months, and she said the Novi Public Library will probably take the full six months to complete. This means ReThinking Libraries LLC will be working with the library for at least another two to three months.

Farkas said they received a lot of great feedback from the community and they are looking at spaces and programming as well to better serve the diverse community and to come up with better policies.

“I look forward to seeing what areas of focus will come from the data itself,” said Farkas.

She said she is being told that the library will have the complete results by early May. Preliminary results are available on the library’s website,