New Plan for the Library

The Mt. Lebanon Public Library has adopted a new strategic plan that will shape future operations.

Mt. Lebanon Public Library Director Robyn Vittek has been wanting to take a fresh look at the library’s strategic plan—the blueprint for daily and long-term operations—for some time now. The previous plan was done before she took over in 2015. “We were well overdue,” she said.

She was planning on a board retreat, with the ideas stemming from the retreat serving as the framework for the plan.

“The pandemic made that impractical,” said library board president Evan Jones. “So that allowed us to hone in and focus just on the strategic plan.”

Jones credits Vittek with taking the lead on the project and working with consultant Rex Gatto to solidify the ideas into the final product. The board received the first draft of the plan at its January, 2021, meeting.

“We had some healthy discussion on it,” Jones said, adding that Vittek kept the plan front of mind for the board in each of the following months’ meetings.

“She continued to revise and hone the strategic plan, bringing in fresh ideas not just from the board, but from the staff, from results of a 2018 series of community conversations, and a questionnaire that was sent to library staff and board members, to commissioners and to other area library directors and other library stakeholders.”

The board adopted the four-part plan, which addresses programming, materials, service and community, in June.

“It was truly a collaborative effort to reach the final product,” said Jones. “It’s a dynamic plan that we will review and revise on a regular basis.”

“I’ve been really impressed with the process that Robyn and the board have taken to put this plan together,” said Commissioner Leeann Foster, liaison to the library board. “It’s been a very organic process, very much rooted in the community.”

Concrete actions include seeking out and applying for three to five new grant opportunities to enhance programming; providing programs and resources designed to improve DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) education; increasing the number of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs, with a focus on coding and technology; increasing program accessibility through the use of closed captioning and more virtual programming; providing programs that go beyond basic literacy to include civic, financial, health and information literacy.

The plan also calls for a study of the library’s physical space, a redesign of the library’s website and retaining some measures adopted during the pandemic, such as contact-free pickup.

As part of the commitment to community, the library will work with the municipality to ensure that the makeup of the library board is reflective of the entire community, and provide more outreach services to senior living communities, churches and schools. The library is also  exploring the possibility of creating a committee that includes representatives of the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, Outreach Teen and Family Services, the Mt. Lebanon School District and recreation department and public safety employees, to share resources and discuss community needs and concerns.

“We wanted the goals to be patron friendly and support the needs of the community; to embrace the DEI efforts of the municipality and residents, and to improve the communication between staff departments in the municipality and the library as well as between the library and the community.”

Vittek plans to do a quarterly check-in with library staff and a twice-yearly review with the board, to evaluate the progress of the strategic plan goals, and add new and modify existing action items.

Next up is a patron survey, electronic, paper and possibly in-person focus groups, to reach out to traditionally underrepresented members of the community.

“We want to contribute to the quality of life for our patrons and residents, and not necessarily bombard them with more programs, more books, more than everybody else,” said Vittek. “We’re trying to be better qualitatively, and do our part to make Mt. Lebanon a wonderful place to live.”

“Robyn kept me very much in the loop as they went through the process,” said Municipal Manager Keith McGill.

“I think the timing is great, because next year we will begin to discuss the comprehensive plan process for the municipality. This is a natural tie-in, and we will look at ways we can support the library in helping to move their strategic plan forward,” he said.