WCS Engagement + Planning has been assisting various public libraries with strategic planning. At the core of the strategic planning process is developing a shared vision and mission for the library, including the unique role it plays in the community it serves.  

ChatGPT perspective

Out of curiosity, we asked ChatGPT, “what is the role of public libraries in the community?” Its response was:  

Public libraries play an essential role in the community by providing access to information, resources, and educational opportunities for everyone. They offer a variety of services, including lending books, audiobooks, and digital resources, providing computer access and internet connectivity, hosting events and workshops, offering research assistance, and much more. Public libraries serve as a hub for community engagement, promoting literacy, lifelong learning, and cultural enrichment. They are a valuable resource for people of all ages and backgrounds and contribute to the social and economic well-being of the community they serve.  

Changing role of libraries

Okay, so Chat GPT’s explanation is a little more traditional than what we expected. We are seeing that public libraries are increasingly playing a more progressive and proactive role in providing crucial social infrastructure and in facilitating challenging and timely conversations around issues of equity, reconciliation and social justice. For example, one of the New Westminster’s Public Library’s goals is to “advance and advocate for social justice in our organization and in the community.” The Nelson Public Library’s values-based strategic plan articulates one of their goals as “We embrace and advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” the meaning of which includes “truth, reconciliation, indigenization and decolonization inform our programs, services and policies.” The Surrey Public Library has a strategic objective “Enhancing efforts to support reconciliation with Indigenous communities,” and the Vancouver Public Library has goals that include “Engage and celebrate the diverse cultures and languages of Vancouver,” and “Enhance understanding and appreciation of Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing.” 

It begs the question, is the role of public libraries changing? Do all communities expect and want the library to play a more pro-active role in communities around these timely and pressing issues? Is the borrowing/lending of physical books moving in a downward trend, and if so, how can library spaces be re-envisioned to provide new programs and services to meet evolving community needs?  

Our work with Okanagan Regional Library (ORL)

As we embark on a strategic planning process with the Okanagan Regional Library (ORL), a regional library system comprising 30 unique branches in distinct communities from Osoyoos to Cherryville to Golden, we’re excited to engage the diverse communities the ORL serves in conversations regarding the above issues. We’re particularly interested in gaining the perspectives of patrons, staff and board members. Together, we’ll deepen our understanding of what libraries can do to better serve and enhance communities.  

We are looking forward to what promises to be an exciting and inspiring process. 

Want to know more about our work with libraries? Contact Cheeying (cho [AT] whistlercentre.ca).