Onward, Upward and Outward: Executive Director's Report to the Library Board of Trustees

This is the full text of the annual report delivered to the Annual Meeting of the Winter Park Library Association by our Executive Director, Shawn Shaffer... 

"[Retired trustee] Jan Walker used to say to me that working on getting a new library was like pushing a boulder up a hill. Happily I have had a lot of help pushing that boulder this year. 2015 began with a further refined charge for the New Building Task Force. They spent the first six months of the year studying three sites to build the new library. In June they presented a report to the Commissioners recommending the new library be built near Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. The Commissioners agreed and we pushed the boulder a little further up the hill. They requested their continuing services architect, ACi design a “site concept.”  The boulder went a little higher. Residents gathered at three different public work sessions and helped shape the current plan for a new library, events center and a parking structure on the site of the current civic center at the corner of Harper and Morse. The boulder climbed. We ended the year with the Commissioners unanimously approving a bond referendum for 2016. I am confident the boulder is near the top of the mountain and will be rolling downhill soon! The best part of this process this year was the many hours of conversations we had with the community about the project as it progressed through these various stages. 

Libraries are the “universities of the people” offering no cost educational opportunities at all ages. This year we continued to refine our new educational model. We offered 1,409 programs that 21,602 people attended. We went out into the community and partnered with Winter Park Tech and Valencia to offer technology classes. We went into local pubs and restaurants and offered a new kind of book club called Books and Brews and hosted trivia events. We went to the Mayflower and Westminster Winter Park to partner with them on our adult summer reading program. We partnered with the Community Center, which is bringing kids to the library by bus once a month. We partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and held our teen art show at their Welcome Center. We participated in Kilarney Elementary School’s “Night Under the Stars” reading event. 

Volunteers are a crucial part of our library. We could not do all that we do without their help. Whether it is a shift every week in Technical Services or in the bookstore or help with a single project, volunteers provide much needed time and talent. This year we started what we hope will be an annual tradition of a small reception honoring our volunteers. We also helped Polly, Linda and Marcia celebrate the 20th anniversary of the New Leaf bookstore. The Eveline Lamson Meritorious Service Award is the highest award the library gives. In 2015 we had two very worthy recipients. In February at our “Night of Heroes” we gave the award to the City of Winter Park. From the Commissioners and City Manager to the staff who care for our building, the City has been supported the library in many ways. The second recipient, Stacey Cox chaired two very successful Bash for Books fundraising galas, in addition to her generosity of time, talent and treasure in other ways. Volunteers, such as this Board of Trustees make us so successful and unique among public libraries.

Our Circulation Department has continued to innovate and take advantage of opportunities in the community. This year we instituted two new types of library cards. In order to reach out to local businesses and make them aware of the resources we have to support their endeavors, we created a Chamber of Commerce card. Every business that is a member of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce is eligible to receive one full service library card. We now have a few dozen businesses take advantage of this new membership perk. The Youth Services staff has noted that we have children who use the library, but have no library card. Their parents don’t or won’t sign them up for library cards, which means that they can’t use our computers or databases. So we instituted a “homework help card” which allows kids to have a card that lets them use our online resources, but not check out any materials (that way, the parents aren’t liable for any lost materials or late fines). Circulation staff continued to attend Winter Park city employee orientations to signup new employees for library cards and made multiple visits to the Winter Park Farmer’s Market to sign folks up for library cards. 

In Youth Services we created a new section, collection and services for Tweens. Out of the juvenile room and not quite in the teen section is a new section of materials for in-be-tweeners in grades 5 through 7.  This is a difficult age for kids, and it is so important to keep them engaged in reading and learning. New programs like Ravenous Readers Tween Book Club, Lego Club, Pokemon Gym, and many popular tween craft programs are but a few of the offerings. We also created a Tween Advisory Board. This board, much like the Teen Advisory Board, advises staff on what programs and activities they are interested in. It also gets these bright young people volunteering their time for the library. 

We could not fund our day to day operations without our annual fund monies. Your stewardship this past year was a huge part in our success. You taking the time to sign letters, make phone calls and personally follow up and invite donors to our events made a big difference in donations and in awareness of what the library offers and how their donations make all the difference in our success. This year we had the privilege of an opportunity to work with the Edyth Bush Charitable Trust who led us to Library Strategies. We look forward to the reimagining of the Friends of the Winter Park Library and to the results of a capital campaign study. 

This year we offered patrons the opportunity to become geniuses! With the opening of your new Genius Lab, we offered patrons a place to make content. A library makerspace is intended to allow community members to experience technology or activities that they previously were not able to access. Our space includes a 3D printer, a Cricut digital die-cutter, audio and video technology, photo printer, graphics tablets and computers, machines to convert records and tape to MP3 and VHS to DVDs!  The ultimate purpose of a makerspace is to inspire an interest in science, technology and design in the children, young adults, working citizens and elderly who frequent the library. It is a start to showcase what can be provided in a new building.

That boulder I talked about at the start didn’t appear when I arrived. It has been worked on by many people long before I arrived. We always have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. I am privileged to be the 16th Winter Park Public Library Director. I am also very privileged to have a great team of staff who are dedicated to making this the best public library for the residents of Winter Park. They are always enthusiastic about new ventures and keep their eyes and ears open for how to make our collection and services better. I very much appreciate how involved you all have been this past year as well. 

I can’t conclude an annual report about 2015 without saying it was an exciting year for Winter Park Public library! I expect 2016 to be even more exciting as we all work to create a world class library for our world class city."