District residents may see changes at their neighborhood library over the next few years. The DC Public Library released its new “Know Your Neighborhood” five-year strategic plan that aims to increase usage by customizing services at the city’s 26 locations.

Overall, the vision for the plan is for each neighborhood library to offer programs, services, and resources that respond to and reflect its distinctive community. The library will focus on inclusion and equity while advancing four priorities that will improve the lives and well-being of District residents.

“Despite the library’s success over the last decade, there are still residents who can benefit from the Library’s services who are not using us at all or only seldomly,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library. “While the library is proud of the all that it has accomplished over the last 10 years, we can do more to make it indispensable to more residents. As one of the few institutions that has the capability to serve all District residents, we are uniquely positioned to provide the services they need to be successful readers, students, and learners for their entire lives.”

The library believes that increased participation and satisfaction will serve as the best indicators of how it has improved the value it offers District residents. As a result, it aims to ensure that 75% of the city’s residents have active library cards, five million visits occur every year at its facilities and library events, and five million books and other items are borrowed annually.

“Since 2006, District taxpayers have reaped the benefits of investing in new library buildings, new technologies, more books, and longer hours,” says Gregory McCarthy, president of the DC Public Library Board of Trustees. “When the library successfully completes the Know Your Neighborhood plan, more District residents will be job-ready, literacy rates will rise, and residents across the city will gain a greater appreciation for the rich history and culture of our communities.”

Each priority area in the strategic plan includes initiatives that are in progress or planned. While the initiatives may evolve or change in the coming years, they will relate to one of the library’s four priority areas:

  • Creating a Love of Reading Amongst Residents: The library will provide services and programs that build and cultivate literacy and a love of reading.
  • Developing Digital Citizenship: The library will help prepare residents for life online by providing technology and internet access and training.
  • Building Stronger Communities: The library will ensure neighborhood libraries are vital centers of community learning and civic engagement through services, programs, outreach, and increased use of the library’s physical campus.
  • Embracing and Celebrating Local History & Culture: The library will foster understanding and appreciation of what makes DC unique by connecting residents to the District’s past and present as well as providing access to, experiences in, and support for local history and culture.

A Road Map for Improving Service by Neighborhood

The Know Your Neighborhood plan was developed after engaging 2,200 individuals across the District on the future of the library system. Overall, District residents said that they see the library of the future as a community learning hub with branches serving their community in unique ways. Quality books ranked as one of the top services residents use most. Residents’ priorities for library services varied significantly based on where they live. For example, Ward 8 residents, black and Latino residents, as well as residents with young children cited access to computers and technology as a priority. And when asked what residents wished the library offered, black residents were much more likely than white residents to point to faster, more reliable Internet access and more computers.

By getting to know DC neighborhoods better, the library can customize its services to meet that community’s needs. For example, instead of offering the same number of computers at every neighborhood library, a library in a neighborhood where computer access is critically important could have more computers and offer computer training courses.

In executing the Know Your Neighborhood plan, the library intends to better align resources in the branches with community needs, to use data to improve its services, to pursue external funding and resources to deepen its impact, and to increase awareness and understanding of its services. The library will also complete a facilities plan to both ensure its branches are responding to the changing needs of residents and to provide a road map for future physical service delivery options in the District. The facilities plan would guide the library’s work with elected leaders on appropriate funding for buildings and services where they are most needed.

Copies of Know Your Neighborhood will be available in English and Spanish at all DC Public Library locations. The strategic plan can also be found online at https://www.dclibrary.org/strategicplan.

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