While the Libraries opened late today (12/11/23), the Holiday Open House scheduled at the Main Library will still take place as planned at 5:00!

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Strategic Plan - Survey and Look Back

It’s hard to believe, but it has been six years since I became Director here at the Ruth Enlow Library!  When I started, one of my first priorities was to get to know the area and to make a Strategic Plan that would guide the Library’s programs and services for the next five years - and now 2023 is upon us and the period covered by that plan is ending.  That being the case, it is time to look back at a tumultuous period for all of us, and see how we met the challenges we laid out in 2017 (we certainly ran into some unexpected difficulties along the way, didn’t we?), and see what remains to be done going forward.  It is also time to hear from you, our amazing patrons, and gather your input as we build the path to the Library of our future!

First and foremost, I want to make sure to provide the link to our new survey - please take a couple of minutes and fill it out for us! 


And now, let’s look back on our goals from our previous Strategic Plan, and see how we did in meeting them.  They were classed into four categories as follows:


• Improving awareness and use of fine-free Student Cards within the Garrett County school system.

Class visits have featured heavily in the Library’s outreach, and we’re glad that our visiting students are able to use their student cards to find materials they like!  The great folks at Crellin, Swan Meadow and Friendsville Elementary have been particularly strong partners, and we’re always very glad to see them.  The Student Card program has been an initiative we’re particularly proud of these past few years!

• Developing programs and services targeted to teens and school-age children to foster community pride and love of reading.

The Library has been working to reach out to teens with gaming programs and book clubs, though we have a lot more we can do this next period to connect with that audience.  Our programs for kids are very strong, especially bouncing back from the pandemic - we recorded the most-ever signups for our Summer Reading Club this last year, and participation in our Storytime and Lego events has been great!

• Improving the Library’s presence in the community online and off.

We have worked hard in this area over the years, conducting outreach to community events, partnering with other agencies, and developing new pages on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube where we share partner information as well. 

• Further integrating with State library initiatives to make our services that much more effective.

The Ruth Enlow Library has a great relationship with its neighbors as part of the Western Maryland Regional Library system, and we’ve been very active at the State level as well, participating in many great initiatives such as “One Maryland, One Book, fishing pole lending through DNR, and helping represent libraries statewide at the Maryland Association of Counties and at Mountain Maryland PACE.  We have also received several statewide grants and had our local initiatives highlighted at State library conferences.

• Strengthening the Friends of the Library as a vital library support network.

Our Friends are wonderful people, and have funded a great deal these last few years, particularly the annual Summer Reading Club, Shred Day and Writers’ Workshops, among other things.  Fundraising has been strong during this period, with a donation of $30,000 from the Offutt foundation giving them a huge and much-appreciated boost recently.  They are always looking for new members to be engaged with the group, and we will continue to invite our patrons to take that next step and become a Friend!



• Developing programs designed to raise literacy in at-risk populations, such as preschool-age children and school-age children with low testing scores.

We are particularly proud of the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative that was begun during this period and which has seen dozens of completions thus far.  Our student cards have ensured that all children in the County have access to Library materials to practice on regardless of their economic situation, without fear of punitive fines.  Those cards also enabled them to access Brainfuse, our live tutoring service, through the Library’s website, even during the depths of COVID.  Additionally, the literacy kits made possible by our partnership with the Western Maryland Regional Library have been extremely popular with parents of young children trying to give them a fun way to read while connecting with subjects that interest them.   And, of course, there is always our Summer Reading Club, a free and accessible Friends-supported program each summer that keeps reading skills sharp in the school-free months.  We have a lot to be proud of here, and will keep working to find ways to bring reading to every kid in Garrett County!

• Promoting information literacy and media literacy in the community.

We have worked hard in this area, developing talks on various information literacy topics and bringing them to classes in the community, as well as integrating them into class visits.  I always find it heartening to see how engaged kids can get with these extremely important topics. 

• Developing a system for providing one-on-one computer instruction to patrons.

The Library was able to provide this for a period, but it was forced to end during COVID.  We look forward to restarting it as a service once again. 

• Developing an ongoing series of life skills classes targeted to teens and young adults.

This project too was unfortunately derailed by COVID, and we will be looking at it as a potential goal for the next period should that be what our patrons want to see. 



• Providing a safe, neutral venue for ongoing civil discussion of community issues.

Our Choose Civility program developed a great following before COVID took it out of commission, and the bumper stickers can still be seen as a light of positivity driving throughout Garrett County.  We hope demand for a restarted version will make that a goal to pursue in the upcoming period.

• Encouraging collaboration and volunteerism in Garrett County.

We have worked hard during this period to develop good working partnerships with Garrett County’s community agencies, putting our resources at their disposal, serving on their boards, and assisting with their initiatives.  The Library was also behind the recent creation of a Citizen Card as part of the County’s sesquicentennial celebration

• Working to digitize materials relevant to the history of Garrett County.

This has been a very successful area for us.  While a few gaps still exist, the entirety of the Garrett County Republican from 1877-2017 and the Glades Star from 1941-2014 are now available and searchable digitally, and these resources have already made a big difference to local researchers.  We will work in the period ahead to continue digitizing materials from our collection of importance to local historians. 

• Providing Library support to initiatives targeting major County issues, including opioid abuse, affordable housing and economic development.

Library staff participate in monthly meetings of the County’s “Stand Together” group focusing on opioid abuse and have lent support to recent initiatives concerning affordable housing.  The Library also enjoys a solid working relationship with the County’s Economic Development department as well as the Chamber of Commerce (of which it is a member), and attends meetings of the Greater Oakland Business Alliance and the Greater Grantsville Business Association.  The Library also partners with Maryland Legal Aid to provide civil legal assistance every other week and with the Department of Social Services to assist patrons with inquiries about support programs available to them.  We’re here to help!

• Encouraging social interaction in the County with programs designed to bring adults and young families together.

We have developed many programs that fit this criteria, from our LEGO clubs systemwide to our gaming sessions, book clubs and Storytime events. I believe firmly that libraries can be instrumental as much-needed in-person community connectors in a digital age and we will certainly keep this as a priority in the years ahead. 



• Employing analytic software to improve our collection.

The Library makes use of Tableau software that helps us make the best purchases possible based on what is popular with our patrons while at the same time safeguarding the privacy of individuals and their reading choices. 

• Encouraging innovation and experimentation with our programs.

Thanks to our amazing team, this has never been lacking!  VR programs, 3D printing, tea parties, take-home crafts, eye-catching displays - our staff continues to show exceptional creativity!

• Expanding and/or adjusting hours to best fit our communities.

During this period we successfully expanded Kitzmiller’s hours.  While COVID and the resulting staffing changes made further changes unattainable for now, we look forward to expanding Friendsville’s hours as part of the upcoming changes in progress there. 

• Developing and maintaining a technology plan to ensure digital inclusion throughout Garrett County.

While we still lack a formal technology plan, we have worked to meet the needs of those left behind in the digital divide in Garrett County by adding Wifi hotspots and Chromebook computers for checkout.  Further exciting developments in this area are coming in the near future as well…

• Improving user experience at our facilities and promoting accessibility.

The Library has made several much-needed changes regarding ADA access at several facilities.  We have also added low-vision reading technology and worked with the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to ensure that their resources are accessible to our patrons with disabilities. New furniture has been added to several of our libraries as well to enhance our patrons’ experience, our Wifi has been upgraded, our Meeting Room revamped, and new study rooms have been added to the Main Library in our continuing effort to make our facilities the best they can be!

• Replacing the existing Friendsville Branch.

Thanks to the support of the Town of Friendsville and of our State elected officials, this project is very much underway.  As of this writing, funding for a new Friendsville Library is in the Governor’s proposed budget, the Library has expanded to fill the entirety of the existing building, and we have secured a much needed funding change bringing the State’s share of the project to 90%.  With these developments in place, we anticipate construction beginning in FY 25!


All in all, some misses, but many solid hits, and we look forward to hearing from you as to what our goals should be in the years ahead - we’re excited to see what comes next!