Brownell Library Strategic Plan:
July 2020-June 2025
Brownell Library: expanding horizons since 1926. A place to connect, learn, and discover.
Every five years, the Brownell Library Strategic Committee convenes to write the Strategic Plan, a document that reflects community priorities and, so, aims to help library staff and trustees identify and implement the library’s Service Responses and Goals for the next five years. That Brownell Library remains a vibrant and responsive part of Essex Junction’s social infrastructure is the primary goal of the plan.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates from 2013 to 2017, the Village of Essex Junction’s population is 10,132, an increase of about 9% since the 2010 census. The median age of residents is 38 years of age (compared to the statewide median age of nearly 43 years of age). The U.S. Census Bureau’s QuickFacts estimates that 5.4% of village residents are under the age of 5, and 21.3% are under the age of 18. Moreover, 13.2% of residents are over the age of 65.
The median household income is $63,948. While this is higher than the statewide median household income of $57,808, a more fine-grained inspection of data supplied by the Vermont Agency of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs: 2018-2019 reveals that a significant subset of the Village population is financially insecure. Nearly 27% of Village elementary school students are eligible for free or reduced school lunches, while about 29% of middle school students and around 28% of high school students are eligible for aid.
12.5% of Village residents speak a language other than English at home. This rate marks a 2.1% increase since the 2010 census and is higher than the statewide rate of 5.6%.
Brownell Library employs 6 full-time staff and 7 part-time staff. This is equivalent to 9.125 FTE. Dedicated community volunteers collectively work an average of 34 hours per week. Their contributions are appreciated.
According to Vermont Public Library Statistics: FY 2018, which is published by the Vermont Department of Libraries, Brownell Library has a collection of 79,188 items. These include books—both print and electronic—for adults, young adults, and children as well as audio-visual materials. The library subscribes to 151 periodicals. In addition to traditional media, attraction passes, portable CD and DVD players, a disc golf kit, a bird watching kit, a badge making kit, craft looms and knitting kits, Launchpad tablets, gardening and Dremel tools, bike locks, 2-way radios (walkie talkies), a laminator, puzzles, games, ukuleles, a microscope, and even a telescope can be checked out. In FY2018, the library had a total circulation of 117,531 physical items, and a total of 5,238 audiobooks were downloaded. In the same year, the library had 5039 registered borrowers; it recorded 105,827 visits; it offered 681 programs for adults, young adults, and children with an overall attendance of 11,316.
In January of 2019, the Strategic Planning Committee first met to begin the development of the Strategic Plan. The principal instrument of the committee was a survey that was designed to discover what the community needs and wants from the library. In addition to being made available at Brownell Library, the Village Offices, and online, surveys were distributed at public events such as the Village of Essex Junction Annual Meeting, the Memorial Day Parade, and the Essex Junction Block Party and Street Dance. Placards that encouraged community members to complete the survey were placed in local businesses, and a public notice of the strategic planning process was posted on the Brownell Library website as well as in social media outlets. By the end of July, 515 surveys were collected.
The survey gathered a variety of information, which ran the gamut from patron demographics to how frequently patrons and members of their household visit the library. Two questions were instrumental in helping the Strategic Planning Committee write the Service Responses and Goals. They were:
- Which of the following do you think should be priorities for Brownell? Please select your top five choices.
- What brings you and your household members to the library? Select all that apply.
In response to (1), community members identified as top priorities for Brownell Library the following:
- To curate robust and varied collections of books, periodicals, and other media
- To offer programs for children
- To provide access to the Internet and online resources
- To organize and sponsor community-oriented events—especially cultural and literary events
- To provide technology support and training
In response to (2), community members identified as the top reasons they come to the library the following:
- To borrow media
- To enjoy a quiet place
- To attend programs
- To read
- To feel connected to the community
For complete survey results, see Appendix.
In August, the survey results were compiled and distributed to members of the Strategic Planning Committee, and over the course of September and October, the committee met twice to articulate the Service Responses and Goals that will help guide Brownell Library staff and trustees for the next five years. Committee members worked in good faith to insure the Services Responses and Goals reflected the community input gathered by the surveys. Moreover, the expertise, experience, and insights of Megan Allison, Youth Services Librarian, Wendy Hysko, Library Director, and Hannah Tracy, Library Assistant Director were invaluable: their perspective as professionals working daily on the front lines complemented community input. In November, a rough draft of the Strategic Plan was distributed to committee members for comment; in December, the Strategic Plan was finalized.
Service Responses and Goals
It is noteworthy that many respondents said they come to Brownell Library to feel connected to the community. One respondent’s claim—that the library is “an integral part of our lives … in Essex [Junction]”—encapsulates a conspicuous theme of the comment section of the survey. This view that the library stitches together the community reflects a wider, nationwide trend. A 2016 Pew Research Center study reports that a
majority of Americans feel libraries are doing a good job of providing a safe place for people to hang out or spend time (69% feel libraries contribute “a lot” to their communities in this regard) as well as opening up educational opportunities for people of all ages (58%). … [R]oughly half think their libraries contribute “a lot” to their communities in terms of helping spark creativity among young people (49%) and providing a trusted place for people to learn about new technologies (47%).
Libraries are not simply purveyors of goods and services. As Eric Klinenberg argues in Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, libraries and other shared public spaces like parks and community centers provide a safe place for all community members to gather and to form the stable relationships necessary for the development of social infrastructure, an intrinsic good that Klinenberg identifies with a sense of community. To promote the library’s ability to develop social infrastructure, the Strategic Planning Committee identified five sets of Service Responses and Goals. They are: (1) Collections; (2) Community Connections; (3) Education and Entertainment; (4) Infrastructure; and (5) Technology.
- Maintain a robust, up-to-date collections policy.
- Develop and maintain a collection that reflects community interests and needs.
- Develop and maintain a varied collection of media.
- Develop and maintain a collection that offers “mirrors and windows” into the growing diversity of our community and world.
- Community Connections
- Connect with local social service organizations to support staff and patrons.
- Partner with community organizations to enhance library services.
- Collaborate with other libraries in all aspects of library services.
- Work with local education institutions to support community needs.
- Continue to provide space for formal and informal community gatherings.
- Increase awareness of library services and programming in underserved populations.
- Work with Village Departments to find opportunities for cultural enrichment.
3. Education and Entertainment
- Provide more programming and collections related to Essex Junction.
- Facilitate access to educational opportunities outside the library, including increasing remote access to digital services.
- Create opportunities for entertainment, leisure, and lifelong learning for our diverse population.
- Provide free and open access to library services to all members of our community.
- Provide a forum for an open exchange of ideas.
- Create a welcoming environment for all library patrons.
- Train and support a knowledgeable, professional, and creative staff, and provide opportunities for professional development.
- Maintain a safe and healthy environment for staff and patrons.
- Promote civility in our shared space.
- Explore ways to foster sustainability.
- Improve the space to meet the needs of the library population.
- Develop inclusive policies.
- Engage the skills of the community to enhance library services.
- Increase access and use.
- Develop a library technology best practices plan in coordination with Essex Free Library to support our communities.
- Provide training and learning opportunities for staff.
- Provide evolving technology infrastructure and support for our library population.
- Prioritize privacy.
- Include accessibility needs in planning.
A formal review of the current Strategic Plan is scheduled to begin at the outset of 2024 so that a new plan can be finalized in time for implementation on 1 July 2025. Of course, if appropriate or necessary, it can be amended prior to the end of its term. The Strategic Plan is a living document; as such, it reflects the evolving needs of the library and the community it serves.
Action Steps, or concrete policies that realize the ideals expressed by the five Service Responses and Goals, are to be created and reviewed on a yearly basis. Since they must be developed in concert with the budgetary process, work on the Action Steps should begin no later than October 1st of each year so that they can be implemented at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1st.
Strategic Planning Committee Membership
Megan Allison, Brownell Youth Services Librarian
Kristin Ballif, Community Member
Alex Carmical, Community Member
Beth Custer, Brownell Library Trustee
Wendy Hysko, Brownell Library Director
Andy Kolovos, Brownell Library Trustee
Christine Packard, Chair of Brownell Library Trustees
Sheila Porter, Brownell Library Trustee
Lorna Swerhone, Essex Free Library Trustee
Hannah Tracy, Brownell Library Assistant Director
Klinenberg, Eric. 2018. Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. New York: Crown.
Pew Research Center. 2016. Libraries 2016. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/
U.S. Census Bureau. 2018. 2013-2017: American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/community_facts.xhtml
U.S. Census Bureau. 2018. QuickFacts: Essex Junction Village. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/essexjunctionvillagevermont
Vermont Agency of Education. 2019. Child Nutrition Programs: 2018-2019. Retrieved from
Vermont Department of Libraries. 2019. Vermont Public Library Statistics: FY2018. Retrieved from https://libraries.vermont.gov/services/news/public_statistics
Brownell Library Strategic Plan: July 2020-June 2025 was finalized on Friday, 13 December 2019.