Mount Laurel library seeks input

The Mount Laurel Public Library is looking at remaking itself.

That’s why it will hold a town meeting to hear from residents about what they like and what they’d like to see at the library.

The meeting will be held Nov. 2, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the library.

Kathy Schalk-Greene, director of the library, said the administration is putting together a three-year strategic plan. It is for that reason that the library is soliciting input from residents.

Along with the town meeting, the library has created focus groups as well as a survey which can be found online at: www.mtlaurel.lib.nj.us/survey.

Greene said participants reveal how they use the library now and what they would like to do there in the future.

They have put together several focus groups so far: one with parents with young children, another for senior citizens, one for community leaders, and one for library staff. There will also be a focus group during the day on Nov. 2 for educators and home schoolers.

Greene said a library consulting group said the library should aim for 500 survey responses but it got more than 1,000.

“We’re very excited about that,” she said.

Aside from the usual books and DVDs, people are looking for ebooks and audiobooks.

“They’re looking definitely to expand kind of the range of available formats that we can offer material in,” Greene said. “So far overwhelmingly they’ve been very positive about what the library has been doing.”

Many respondents said they want more parking and more copies of extremely popular materials.

Funded primarily by the township, the library’s budget has been going down over the last several years. This year for the first time tax payers can see the amount of the tax that goes to the library broken out on their tax bill.

“What’s been very pleasant for us is a lot of people have come into the library and say, ‘That’s all we spend on the library?’” Greene said. “We were wondering if people would be outraged or think it was too much where actually just the opposite has happened.”

Greene said that, for every tax dollar spent, $6.50 is returned. In part that is measured by the cost of borrowing a book or DVD instead of buying it.

“It’s a very high return on investment,” she said.

“We’re looking for more community feedback in a very open forum,” Greene said. “We’re interested in developing a plan that really responds to community needs.”

On the library staff for 10 years, Greene has been director for one and a half years.

“I’m going into those meeting with an open mind and open ear,” she said.