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ACPL 2023 STRATEGIC PLANNING SURVEY SEES UNPRECEDENTED RESPONSE

From July 20 through August 9, the Allen County Public Library conducted a community-wide strategic planning survey to gather feedback from the Allen County population about the library’s collection, services, programs, and role in the community. The Library is pleased to announce an unprecedented response to the survey with more than 8,500 respondents in the two-week period it was open. The survey received more feedback than any prior ACPL community survey and provided crucial data as the Library embarks on strategic planning for the future.


“We are so astounded by the response from our community,” said ACPL Executive Director Susan P. Baier, “We know Allen County cares deeply about its library system, but we just could not believe how many people took the time to share their thoughtful suggestions and experiences with us. It is so critical to our work and we took every word to heart.”

The Library was pleased to learn that more than 88% of respondents were “likely” or “very likely” to recommend the ACPL to a family member, friend, or colleague and that the vast majority of respondents rated the Library as “good or “very good” in the areas of staff assistance, collection of books and resources, facility cleanliness and comfort, library website and online services, and availability of computers and internet access.


“What this survey tells us, in overwhelming detail, is that we are on the right track,” said ACPL Board Chair Ben Eisbart, “It shows us that the community values our core work and that the places where we are putting concerted efforts – our collection, our staff, our programs, and our facilities – are having a real impact that is appreciated and utilized on a large scale. It only further underscores the critical role the library fills in our community and the need to strengthen its position for the future. These results prove that Allen County residents see the value of a vibrant library system like ours.”


Not surprisingly, the principal use of the library was to borrow books (77%), however, many respondents indicated other primary reasons to use the Library including:


  • 30% (2,500+ respondents) Download e-books, audiobooks, and/or music

  • 27% (2,300+ respondents) Borrow other items (e.g., DVDs, video games, puzzles, Library of Things, seeds, etc.)

  • 19% (1,600+ respondents) Attend events and/or programs

  • 17% (1,400+ respondents) Use computers and/or the internet

  • 14% (1,200+ respondents) Read or study

  • 12% (1,000+ respondents) Conduct research

  • 10% (800+ respondents) Use the Genealogy Center at the Main Library

  • 8% (600+ respondents) Use study and/or meeting rooms

This data shows that the Library’s physical collection of books and materials is still a key component of its purpose and value to the Allen County community even more than 125 years after its founding. It also proves that digital assets, programing, and creating spaces for gathering are also critical pieces of the Library’s services.


Perhaps more impressive than the survey’s quantitative results, is the learning that came from written testimonials and comments that were provided via open-ended questions. The survey asked “What’s one thing the ACPL should CONTINUE doing?”. After reviewing results, the Library identified the following trends as things the community expects it to continue doing:


  • Protecting the freedom to read

  • Maintaining a diverse collection of physical books

  • Expanding e-books, audio books, and streaming access

  • Focusing on youth spaces and programing including the Summer Reading Program, storytimes, and Storyscape

  • Providing free access to services

  • Conducting outreach to underserved populations including the elderly, disabled, minority, immigrant, and refugee communities

  • Supporting genealogy research

  • Hiring a consistently welcoming, engaging, and knowledgeable staff

  • Responding to community needs and innovating with the changing community demographics

Many patrons left thoughtful and heartfelt comments. Here are some examples:

“ACPL provides an exceptional place for my family members, neighbors, and I to cross paths with a common goal in view – to enjoy learning. Thank you for making quality books, games, shows, and resources free and easily available for use!”


“Keep maintaining a collection that is as diverse as possible, spanning a broad swath of topics combined with deep knowledge in as many areas feasible.”


“My children are now grown, but I took all 3 of them to the children’s programs at Shawnee as well as going at other times just to get books. They are now all college graduates. Please continue attracting children to books!”


“I find it amazing that there are so many diverse community programs that everyone can find something fun at the library. There are a wide array of interest and age groups being catered to. I’ve lived in multiple cities in the U.S. and even major metropolitan areas that fall short on engagement compared to ACPL in my opinion.”


“I think our county is blessed with the best libraries in the country. Thank you to all involved and the dedicated persons who help make our libraries a wonderful experience for all.”

As the Library completes its strategic plan in the fall of 2023, the survey’s qualitative and quantitative data will be combined with other community demographic data, ACPL system-use data, regional and national trend information, and the results from a months-long immigrant and refugee research study (done in collaboration with local consulting firm Petra Solutions). The full plan will be released to the community in early 2024 with strategic initiatives, goals, and metrics.  

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