Library Trustees Give Their 2 Cents

Following a call to order, Chair Kevin Robert Malone turned the meeting over to Mary E. Braney, Library Consultant, who guided the Trustees through an information-gathering session with use of a strategy entitled SOAR.   Information gathered during this meeting would soon be merged with that of recent forums and collection means as a way to construct a vision of the future Holliston Library. 

Director Leslie McDonnell recapped the process to this point.  Two public forums, each attracting an audience of 25-30 residents of all ages, have been held over the past two weeks.  Each audience, led by Braney, shared information about the library using the same process the Trustees followed Wednesday.  Over 100 personal emails of invitation to these forums had been sent by McDonnell to town officials, Holliston groups and organizations, and encompassed all ages. 

The stage was set for Braney.  Armed with a flip chart and a Sharpie, she reiterated the stages of the process known as SOAR:  What are our greatest STRENGTHS?  What are the greatest and best OPPORTUNITIES?  What is our preferred future (ASPIRATIONS)? And what are the measurable results that will tell us we’ve achieved that preferred future (RESULTS)?

Trustees immediately began enumerating their perceptions of the present strengths of the Library.

Strengths seemed to fall into three categories:  the people, the building and its resources, and the programs.  From “fantastic staff” to a great patron base, as well as relationships between the two; great cooperation between the Friends of the Library and the Trustees and staff, and the good reputation that the Library enjoys within the greater community–people were obviously a plus!

The historic building, in a central and convenient location (“part of the fabric of downtown”) was echoed by everyone; as well, they mentioned that audience members of the two prior forums had highlighted this as a strength. Additionally, the collection within the building was seen as a plus, and the Library’s participation with the Minuteman Network that extends its reach.  Programming for both children and adults made the Strengths list, and they spoke of the reputation they enjoy in town, evidenced by the cooperation shown when relocating programs during the recent repair work of the roof.

Opportunities for the Library began with the physical plant:  they saw the need for more parking and some needed updates to the building.  Other opportunities included more room for children, a place for events, more room for storage, and a meeting space outfitted with a kitchenette area.  Also of note was a desire for stronger cooperation with other town organizations including the schools, and an improved town management system.

Prior to brainstorming ideas about their aspirations, Braney asked the group to imagine what the Library might look like in 20 or so years.  McDonnell said predicted e-book use will continue to grow, and non-fiction will continue to shrink.  She mentioned recent limitations proposed by publishers to increase costs.  As DVDs and CDs fade in popularity, more space becomes available.  The research areas are gone as research is completed on-line.  “The format may change, but the needs don’t,” said McDonnell.  People will always need the guidance of the professional staff.  As technology is isolating, the need for a place where people can work together was noted.  There may be a need for more of a community-gathering place:  comfortable seating for all, a digitally and electrically sound building with the capacity for future growth.  Other items included a change to the budgeting process for and attention to building upkeep, continued education for librarians, and a greater attraction for increased family use.

Moving to results that can be measured, the Trustees offered (once again) more parking and space issues.  A rise in attendance at programs, and the inclusion of families whose 1st language may not be English were also listed under results.  Yet another measureable result given was the time spent on library business versus time on building maintenance issues. 

Braney wrapped up the information gathering session with a short segment entitled “If money were no object.”  Among the very interesting offerings of the Trustees, this writer found the ideas of a revenue-producing café and “greening” up the Holliston library experience most enticing.  If only…

And, back to reality, the meeting concluded with McDonnell’s update on the cleaning of the building, and the successes of some recent programs, most notably the children’s cooking program (ages 7-10), and a non-violent gaming program, also for children.

Trustees will meet next on January 8, 2020.

Yvette Cain


  1. john Losch on December 6, 2019 at 9:38 am

    I will repeat my suggestion that the town consider acquiring the properties either side of the library by either purchase or eminent domain. Both properties are essentially vacant, neither is architecturally significant, and the area would provide sufficient room for both parking and library expansion. And it would mean that the library stays in the center of town where it belongs.

    • Karla Alfred on December 6, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      Hi John, I’m one of the board of trustees members and it is no secret that we have tried for many many years to acquire the empty building next to us. TD Bank is a new opportunity, and we are actively pursuing it. However, the owner of the small white building to the other side absolutely will not sell it to the town or the library. He also owns the Fiske’s building.

      • john Losch on December 10, 2019 at 9:56 am

        According to the dictionary in my computer:
        eminent domain |ˈɛmənənt doʊˈmeɪn|
        the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.

        Is the owner of the property in question is unwilling to sell, and it can be shown that the public good can be served with taking of the property, the law of eminent domain allows this to happen.

  2. Anne-Marie Dorning on December 9, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Is there an online way to post comments on the survey? Calling in to the Library is not a very tech-friendly way to add thoughts and opinions. I am going to guess that many, many, many more people would want an easy way of sharing their thoughts via a quick shareable link. Google form could be set up in minutes. Is that possible?
    If I’ve missed one, my apologies.

    • Kara Peterson on December 13, 2019 at 7:36 pm

      Hi, another Board of Trustees member here! Great question. There will be a paper version of the survey included with the town census that will be sent to all town residents, which will also include information about the online version of the survey. I believe the online version will be available around the same time that the paper version is sent out. Once the online version is ready, there will be a link on the library homepage. We hope most people will make use of the online version but wanted to be sure that everyone in town, even those who may not be technologically inclined, had the opportunity to participate.

  3. Kara Peterson on January 4, 2020 at 10:21 am

    The online survey is now available! It can be found on the library’s homepage- . Please spread the word! For those who prefer the pen and paper method, the paper version will be arriving in the town census.

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