Forsyth County Library Retreat: patrons, community leaders unite to shape the library's future

Kimberly Bond

(Forsyth County, GA) The Forsyth County Public Library (FCPL) system already serves the local area in many ways, but they’re working hard to find out how they can improve. On March 18, the library held a strategic planning retreat at Sharon Forks Library for library patrons, community leaders, and elected officials. Seventy-three library patrons attended the event as well as Board of Commissioners Chairman Alfred John, Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, Georgia State Rep. Carter Barrett, and Sheriff Ron Freeman.
Patrons, community leaders, and library workers gathered for the FCPL retreat.Photo byFCPL

At the meeting, Library Director Anna Lyle shared a summary of the data collected by a recent community survey. “We had over 2,000 survey responses and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. One of the most common themes was simply ‘MORE!’”

“Patrons love what the library does, they just want more of it,” Lyle added. “More programs, more books, more resources, and more study rooms.”

FCPL Communications Manager Leslie Marinelli presented a fast-paced overview of the five core products and services provided by the library: materials, programs, eResources, services, and spaces.

“If you don’t already love your library, you definitely will before I’m done with this presentation,” Marinelli said.

FCPL Strategic Plan

The reason FCPL scheduled the event was “to come together as a community to determine what the Library is doing well and brainstorm about how we can improve moving forward,” Lyle said.

The last time FCPL had such an event was in 2017 when they were putting together the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan. The new meeting was necessary so library leaders could learn how community needs have changed since then.

“I was really impressed by the large number of community members, including elected officials who were willing to give up their Saturday to help the library strategize about the future. It’s a testament to how important FCPL is to the Forsyth County community,” said long-time Forsyth County Public Library Board member Mary Helen McGruder.
Retreat guests enjoyed lively discussions about the library and what it may offer in the future.Photo byFCPL

Jake Rodgers, the Head of School at Pinecrest Academy, praised the library’s commitment to children and teen programming during one of the large group discussions, noting that, “Forsyth County parents have told me the library makes it easier to raise a family.”

So where did attendees think the library could improve its offerings? The two areas highlighted during discussions were community partnerships and public awareness. Other data gathered from the retreat will be analyzed and organized into a strategic plan rough draft, which will be further streamlined by the Library Board and the FCPL Leadership Team.

“We expect the strategic plan to be adopted by the Library Board in May or June. This will be the big-picture plan. The next step will be to develop a more detailed implementation plan,” said Lyle.

Overall, the retreat was considered a success. FCPL Board Chair Kristin Morrissey said, “The library retreat provided a unique opportunity for the sharing of ideas and challenges between community support organizations and fresh faces of all ages representing a broad cross section of our community.”

“Our county could benefit from meetings like these more often!” Morrissey added.

What’s coming up next at the library?

The library offers regular programs for children, teens, and adults, but since next week is spring break for Forsyth County schools there are some special plans in store.

“We have so many great programs and activities planned for all ages during Spring Break,” Marinelli shared in a social media post.
FCPL has lots of exciting plans for spring break week.Photo byFCPL

Highlights will include a Paper Airplane Palooza at the Cumming Library on Monday, a Giant Angry Birds game at the Sharon Forks branch on Tuesday, a Cozy Crafting afternoon aimed at tweens on Thursday at the Post Road Library, a special presentation about Cherokee stories and lore Friday morning at the Hampton Park Library, and a big Touch-A-Truck event at Fowler Park on Friday afternoon. Find out about the many other opportunities by checking out the events calendar on the library website.

For more library news, check out the 2022 Annual Report. It shows that Forsyth County libraries had 627,751 visitors last year and that more than 2.8 million items were checked out. It also features a conceptual rendering of the coming-soon Denmark Library branch, which is anticipated to open some time in the middle of 2024.

What do you love about the Forsyth County library? Comment below or email to let us know!

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I'm a writer, editor, and journalist with a background in law and science. I love writing about interesting local places and events in Forsyth County, especially new businesses or family-friendly experiences.

Cumming, GA

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