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January 06. 2013 10:31PM

New vision sought for Merrimack's town library

MERRIMACK - As discussions to possibly build a new Merrimack Public Library have been put on hold, library trustees are now taking a different approach in creating a new vision for the facility.

"As an organization, we have had some ups and downs. We have had various plans for a new library and they always tend to fail," said Susan Gustafson, chairman of the library's Board of Trustees.

For more than three years, a building committee met and eventually created a report with options on how to expand the current library at 470 Daniel Webster Highway, or potentially relocate to an existing building elsewhere in town.

However, on several previous occasions, some town councilors have criticized library operations saying it should be hiring less workers and operating less hours in order to meet tough economic times.

And, for two years in a row, the hours of operation at the local library were cut due to budget cuts. Some of those hours have since been restored, as library officials argue that patrons want various services and materials, and that use is on the rise.

"We are really in a transition phase right now, and we are hoping to reinvent ourselves," said Gustafson, noting the recent hiring of library director Yvette Couser following the retirement of Janet Angus.

"We have a history of not really knowing what the people want. What we need right now is input from the community."

The library is looking for volunteers to participate in a series of strategic planning sessions that will get underway next month.

The goal of the three sessions, Gustafson said is to ultimately define a new strategic vision for the town library.

Trustees want to know if the public is interested in having more library meeting rooms, more e-books, more quiet study space and more, said Gustafson. "This is not about what the library trustees want. This is about what the local residents want. This is their library.

"We are very excited about this initiative, and we are ready to move forward with this as soon as possible without losing any momentum," she said.

Gustafson hopes that about eight volunteers from the community will step forward to participate in the strategic planning sessions. The library director, a library trustee and one town councilor will likely also be included in the meetings, she said.

The sessions will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 7 and Feb. 28 and from 7 to 8 p.m. on March 7, at the library,.

Small group surveys or intimate focus groups may also be held in the coming weeks to gain additional information, she said. Anyone interested in being a member of the planning sessions is asked to email a letter of interest to Gustafson at susan.gustafson Merrimack Public Library, 470 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, 03054.

khoughton@newstote.com


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