LIBRARY COLUMN: The importance of listening

Hearing the community out while discussing story walks at Montrose Botanic Gardens. (Tina Meiners/MRLD)

No matter how awesome you think a project you are planning may be you should always gather feedback to determine if you are heading in the right direction.

Some of the ways that staff at the Montrose Regional Library determine if we are staying true to the library’s mission are to listen to patrons in everyday conversations or provide surveys for the community to fill in, such as the one currently available on our website (www.montroselibrary.org) regarding our next five-year strategic plan.

Another very important avenue of gleaning community needs is through a community dialogue. A dialogue is something akin to a focus group in which a diverse set of community leaders is brought together to exchange information and ideas regarding a specific issue or plan.

Recently I had the opportunity to host such a meeting at the Montrose Botanic Gardens, along with their president Lorraine Shide, regarding the revamping of the children’s educational area and garden along with the installation of a permanent story walk.

Our discussion was well attended with representatives from the school district, local childcare providers, the MRLD Friends of the Library and Foundation groups, the director of the Montrose Pavilion, the city’s Community Engagement specialist, and members of the Botanic Gardens as well. After going over the changes that will take place at the gardens, my question to group was what benefits and uses will a story walk bring to our community? More importantly, I wanted to know what, or who, was missing from this idea and plan. For a bit of background information on story walks — Anne Ferguson developed the original concept of a story walk years ago in Vermont in which a book is deconstructed down to its basic pages, laminated, and then displayed along a path or in a set area.

The pros brought up for this type of informational pathway were the early literacy focus, family engagement, interaction with nature through the gardens and historical structures soon to be in place, and the possibilities to use the story walk posts and frames to disseminate useful and necessary information about community services. All of these items were reinforcing what our original goals were for the project.

What was even more vital to learn were the concerns brought up in the discussion. The attendees had questions about how the public would know about the programs or even be able to access the newly constructed garden area. Would transportation be made available to the programs hosted at the Botanic Gardens? Is this something that can be duplicated or made portable? What other organizations in town should be collaborating with the project?

I have hosted or attended several community dialogues and what I love about them is the eye-opening questions, concerns, and ideas that I come away with. I take those back to the staff at the library and we begin the process of trying to course correct the project and bring it into alignment with the needs of those that may be missing out. The opportunities for engagement with our stakeholders are wide and varied. Let us know what you think — the Montrose Regional Library staff are listening.

Tina Meiners is the head of Youth and Outreach Services for the Montrose Regional Library District.

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