Sustainable Success at Chelsea District Library


Chelsea District Library Mobile Unit “Mobee.” Photo courtesy Chelsea District Library Facebook.

At the November 27 Chelsea City Council meeting, Chelsea District Library (CDL) Trustee Jan Carr presented the results of the library’s current strategic plan–scheduled to wrap up at the end of this month–as well as a comprehensive look at the library’s newly developed strategic priorities for 2024-2028.

2020-2023 Accomplishments

The overall theme for the 2020-2023 strategic plan was “Facilitating Access” and it was on display in a big way. The plan defined ‘access’ in several ways including physical access, remote access, access to available resources and the larger world, expanded access through partnerships, and access to a welcoming environment.

Goals achieved related to physical access included the elimination of fines for overdue materials, expanded hours, and curbside delivery of materials. In a major win for residents of the Chelsea Library district, the library was also able to fund, plan, and implement a mobile library that greatly expanded access to library materials for everyone. Affectionately referred to as “Mobee,” the mobile library facilitates access for users in a 110-square-mile geographic area.

According to Carr, nearly 50% of the costs for Mobee came from donations, gifts, and grants. She said, “The mobile CDL has proven very successful as a visible reminder of library services in the townships and has made accessing library resources easier for residents of local retirement communities, preschools, St. Louis Center, Faith In Action, and others.”

Because of the COVID restrictions in place, the expansion of digital access to library resources was particularly critical during this period. To meet the community’s needs the library was able to create online options for card applications and renewals while also increasing its digital and streaming collections. “A couple of these that are extremely popular are the Libby system for books and ebooks, the Hoopla system includes books, TV series, movies, and music, and Canopy contains music and TV series. All very popular, especially if you're isolating at home,” said Carr.

2024-2028 Strategic Priorities

In recognition of CDL’s 25th year as a district library and developed with the help of an outside consulting firm beginning earlier this year, the theme for CDL’s upcoming strategic plan is “Sustainability.” Though that does include environmental considerations, the plan’s theme is broader than that. The library intends to build and position itself in a way that allows it to thrive for another 25 years.

“While environmental sustainability is one component of this plan, the investments and priorities needed over the next five years to sustain our success into the next 25 years and beyond can be organized under three themes: operations, finances, and services,” said Carr.

She explained that sustainability in operations requires investing in staff, teams, and training while sustainability in finances means working to ensure a renewal of the current bond in 2029 while also exploring options for additional streams of revenue. Sustainability in services, she said, means ensuring resources and programming are reflective of a diversity of perspectives while also ensuring access to accurate information by the people who need it.

Carr explained the library’s strategic plans are always developed using its overall mission and core values as guideposts. CDL’s mission “is to engage, inspire, and equip through evolving services and resources,” she said. The library’s core values are equal, uncensored access; high-quality resources; safe and secure environment for all library visitors; privacy and confidentiality; fiscal integrity and accountability; free exchange of ideas; inclusion and respect; high ethical and professional standards; and superior customer service.

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