Connecticut State Library Sharpens Focus with New 5-Year Plan

Connecticut by the Numbers

The Connecticut State Library’s Five-Year Plan, for 2023-2027, has been approved by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as required by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

The CT State Library submitted the 25-page plan in June, and it was approved this month. The new plan outlines three strategic goals that will underpin the agency’s programs and services:

·         Support the library workforce as they integrate social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (SJDEIA) into their daily work and their approach to patrons.

·         Support the impact of libraries as community anchors serving diverse populations with increased institutional capacity, community partnerships, and programming.

·         Ensure equitable access to information and library resources for all residents of the state.

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These three goals will guide the CT State Library through the next five years, alongside ongoing feedback from libraries, the library workforce, strategic partners, and all the communities that together we serve, officials pointed out.

The CT State Library will assess the progress in achieving the goals and objectives framed in the five-year plan and revise accordingly during the next five years.  The plan also notes the influence of COVID-19 and the social justice movement.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut residents saw how essential public libraries are to their communities, for sheer entertainment, for social connection in the face of isolation, and for access to necessary information and technology. Use of electronic materials and attendance at virtual programs boomed. As anchor institutions, libraries were essential,” the plan points out. 

"The CT State Library’s Library Services and Technology Act Five Year Plan is based on helping libraries to become more robust and resilient during times of rapid change so in turn, they can help their communities become stronger,” said Deborah Schander, State Librarian of the CT State Library.

“The CT State Library focuses on emphasizing the role of libraries as community anchors while continuing to provide support for statewide resource sharing services focused on equity of access," Schander added.

The plan noted that “Libraries know their DEI work is just getting started and they need support on all fronts. There was an expressed need for good tools and training on DEI for all levels of library staff as there are variabilities in staff knowledge, including those in leadership roles.”  Community focus groups, convened as part of the planning process, indicated that “there is a need for more training on outreach and engagement, specifically for reaching underserved communities, as libraries solidify their roles as community anchors.”

The plan also indicates that “The pandemic also threw a spotlight onto digital inequity in Connecticut, a state with significant disparities in personal income and school funding. The lack of a robust digital infrastructure throughout the state became apparent as students tried to attend classes online and complete assignments from home … Almost all public libraries in Connecticut expanded their outdoor Wi-Fi access to help fill the gap.”

Prior to the Five-Year Plan, the CT State Library, like each State Library Administrative Agency (SLAA), is required to independently evaluate activities funded by IMLS prior to the end of the Five-Year Plan and provide a report of its findings to IMLS's Director.

This evaluation, according to library officials, provides an opportunity to measure progress in meeting the goals set in the Five-Year Plan within a framework that enables CT’s story to be synthesized with information from all state reports to tell a national story on libraries.

The CT State Library Division of Library Development (DLD) partnered with QualityMetrics, evaluators of the previous Five-Year Plan, to conduct focus groups, individual stakeholder interviews, and a survey.

Their evaluation report, submitted to IMLS in March 2022, indicated that DLD’s existing core services are highly regarded by respondents. For instance, deliverIT is “indispensable”, the supplementary library collections are “of high value”, libraries of all types “have come to rely on” statewide databases, the DLD consultants are a “lifeline”, and competitive subgrants are “high in impact”. In open-ended survey questions, all these initiatives received positive survey comments, with the professional development and consulting services being described as “invaluable”.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) requires each SLAA to submit a plan that describes library services goals for a five-year period based on identified needs and reflecting the purposes and priorities outlined in the LSTA

“DLD continues to keep the pulse of where we are now and where we are all headed,” said Dawn La Valle, Director of the Division of Library Development at the CT State Library. “DLD intentionally moved to integrate social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility throughout the entire five-year plan, continuing to lead CT libraries to meet their communities where they are, and be ready for the future we are all building.”

The Connecticut State Library is an Executive Branch agency of the State of Connecticut. The State Library provides a variety of library information, archival, public records, museum, and administrative services to citizens of Connecticut, as well as the employees and officials of all three branches of State government. The Connecticut State Archives and the Museum of Connecticut History are components of the State Library as is the Division of Library Development.

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