The Pinehurst Village Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to spend $45,000 on a study to determine what residents want in library services.
In addition to hiring a consultant to conduct a needs assessment that will include “broad” community input, a community-wide random survey will also be done to help formulate the final recommendations to council.
“We want to know what our citizens want in terms of library services,” Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said.
After interviewing four firms in August, the council decided to contract with a firm called Library IQ, a division of Library Systems & Services based in Rockville, Md., for $35,000.
The firm agreed to include the community survey in the third phase of its work, which will be carried out by the same company that conducts the village’s annual community satisfaction survey for $8,000, according to Assistant Village Manager Natalie Hawkins. She said the remaining funds would cover any other incidental expenses not included in the contract.
She said the random survey will help “test” some of preferred recommendations that will be included in the final report to help determine exactly what residents want to see.
Hawkins said the process will take about six months and likely will start in January, though she said some of the information and data-gathering work for the first phase could begin sooner.
She said the January start time is intended to help ensure “broad community” input since it will be after the holidays and after the village has completed its strategic planning process in November and December.
A joint committee that included village officials and representatives of Given Memorial Library–Tufts Archives recommended that the village hire a consulting firm to conduct a professional needs assessment after spending a year studying the best options for providing library services to the village.
Diane Westbrook, president of the Given Memorial Library Board, thanked the council for “all of the hard work” in getting to this point.
“We do look forward to starting,” she said. “We’d all like to start yesterday.”
Hawkins explained in a memo to the council that the work will be done in four phases.
* Review existing conditions and identify best practices, have an onsite kickoff with a Library Needs Assessment Committee and conduct an assessment of current library operations mapped to best practices.
* Solicit “broad community input” through three days of being onsite, with personal interviews, focus group meetings, community conversations and an online survey.
* Analyze needs assessment findings and formulate a recommendation, compile and analyze data and information collected, including a community-wide survey that is administered by ETC after initial findings are prepared.
* Prepare and deliver a written Library Services Needs Assessment Report that will be presented to the Village Council
Hawkins said the village will contract directly with Kansas-based ETC to conduct a community-wide survey, but Library IQ will formulate the questions (with input from the Library Needs Assessment Committee), analyze the findings and incorporate the findings in the final report.
Hawkins a Library Needs Assessment Committee would have three or four members, including a representative of the library, and would mainly help with logistical issues.
The Village Council appointed the joint study committee to look for ways to ensure the long-term survival of the library after its board concluded nearly two years ago that its operations could not be sustained through private fundraising efforts, a private endowment and an annual $100,000 allocation from the village. Library leaders turned to the council for help in determining the best way forward, which could mean making the library a function of village government.
Given is the only privately operated library in the state that is open to the public. Private donors, along with the endowment, have carried the lion’s share of the financial burden to keep Given Memorial Library and its adjunct Tufts Archives afloat since opening in 1964.
The library has outgrown its current space, which “is insufficient” to expand the current collection and programming, the committee’s report said. The current collection consists of 17,000 volumes, “roughly the same size as in the late 1960s,” even though there has been “a tenfold” increase in the population.
Prior to the start of the council’s business meeting, it held a joint session with members of its advisory Planning and Zoning Board for a formal presentation from its consultants on a final draft a new comprehensive long-range plan that has been more than a year in the making.
It will provide a roadmap for the next 20 to 30 years and is intended to help the village in balancing continued growth pressures — which its consultants believe will only intensify in the years to come — with a strong desire by residents to maintain the character and special feel of Pinehurst.
Traffic, the quality of new development, stormwater runoff, preserving trees, and increasing the variety of shops and businesses in the downtown have risen to the top of issues residents are most concerned about.
Council members and staff spent more than 13 hours over five work sessions going through the plan, making revisions to the now 115 recommendations and prioritizing them.
More than 6,800 people have participated in the process either in person as various events or online since June 2018. The public got its first look at draft plan at a two-day open house in June.
Since the council pared down the initial 143 recommendations in the draft plan, eliminating some, revising others and consolidating some.
Fiorillo made clear that this was simply a presentation of the plan and not a public hearing. She did not expect many questions from council or planning board members since they were all seeing for the first time.
“This is a first glance,” she said. “We need time to digest it.”
The public will have its first opportunity to comment at hearing by the Planning and Zoning Board on Sept. 23. It will then prepare a recommendation to the council on any possible changes.
Hawkins said the council could either hold a public hearing at its Oct. 8 regular meeting, or schedule a special meeting sometime that week for its public hearing.
The council could then consider final adoption at its Oct. 22 meeting.
A number of residents have been calling on the council to delay adoption until after the November election so it can be an issue in the campaigns and then allow the next council to do that, since there will be three new members — Fiorillo, Mayor Pro Team John Bouldry and council member Jack Farrell are stepping down this year.
Some of those residents also argue that the council has made significant revisions to the draft plan recommendations since it was unveiled at a two-day open house in June, and that the top priorities do not mirror what residents have said is most important to them.
Council members have not given any indication that they will alter the timeline for adopting the plan.
Hawkins said the full version of the final draft plan is on the village website and the Envision the Village website. In addition, the village plans to make copies available for public review at Village Hall, Given Memorial Library and the Welcome Center.