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Public input sought for Athenaeum strategic plan

Date: 6/13/2012

June 13, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

WESTFIELD — Residents will have one last chance to weigh in on the types of information, programs and other offerings they would like to see available at the Westfield Athenaeum during the second of two Community Forums slated for June 16 at 2 p.m.

The forum is expected to last about 90 minutes, and refreshments will be served. Attendees need not stay for the entire session.

"We're interested in hearing from those who use the Athenaeum, and those who don't use it," Director Christopher Lindquist said. "We're really interested in feedback on how we can meet the needs of the community."

The first forum took place on June 12. Lindquist said ideas and suggestions gathered during the two forums will be combined with the results of an online services survey the Athenaeum has been conducting on its website,, since January. Information and suggestions will also be collected through that venue, as well as through paper survey forms available to Athenaeum patrons, through June 16.

Lindquist said that, as of June 7, the Athenaeum had received a combined total of 700 electronic and paper surveys.

The feedback so far has been "very positive," Lindquist said, adding that what the Athenaeum is hoping to garner from public input is how it can tailor its offerings to meet patrons changing needs.

"Because of the [increase] in technology, we're hearing that people want us to provide more technology programming," Lindquist said, adding that he has seen suggestions for programs on how to use devices such as e-readers and download e-books.

He said beyond technology help, the Athenaeum is interested in what other types of offerings patrons want and need — from lectures to discussion groups to book groups.

"We're also interested in finding out how people use the Athenaeum as part of their daily lives," Lindquist noted. "Do they come in through our website, do they use [the Athenaeum] remotely by downloading material, or do they come in to the building and use our meeting rooms or special programming?"

Lindquist said the information collected from all sources would be used during the next two months to shape the Athenaeum's strategic planning goals for the next three to five years. Those plans will be presented to the Athenaeum's Board of Directors on Aug. 14, and then submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for approval.

And even after the new strategic plan is drawn up, Lindquist said it won't be set in stone.

"Once we have an approved plan we will continue to update and revise [it] every year," he said. "We anticipate we will be doing a community survey annually."

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