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Visioning: How the library is at the epicenter

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” — Andrew Carnegie.

The Fayette Visioning Initiative Community Survey asked the respondents, “What is Fayette’s Greatest Strength?” Schools were considered the greatest strength of Fayette County.

I agree that our magnificent schools are our greatest strength, which makes the public library the brain of the community. As we begin planning for the future, we have identified specific needs in the areas of employment entrepreneurship and youth. These are areas where the public library is at the epicenter.

We are constantly and consistently fulfilling the mission of the library by actively providing current, high-interest materials and programs for lifelong learning, skills training and assistance, cultural diversity awareness, and timely, authoritatively accurate answers to questions.

According to the American Library Association, no other organization is as dynamic or well-equipped to build jobs as libraries. The library serves over 95,000 users offering free broadband and wireless Internet computers for activities that include looking for employment, working on resumes, completing job applications online, using email, social media and other digital resources.

Our youth is a very diverse population segment with varying needs and abilities. Therefore, we take very seriously the opportunity to provide a variety of activities and resources to meet their needs. Our outstanding and superbly attended programs are designed to fulfill the emotional, recreational, cultural, and educational needs of our youth. From storytimes, book discussion, crafts, author program series, to building Legos, our youth-centered programs are an essential part of our service.

To respond to the business and employment needs of our community, the library has formed partnerships with local, state, and national agencies to provide beneficial services, such as:

• Small Business Administration seminars for emerging, current and future entrepreneurs

• Atlanta Regional Workforce Board’s Mobile Career Lab’s 13-station state-of-the-art computer lab providing workforce solutions for job readiness and job search for businesses and individuals; writing highly effective resumes, as well as information on Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funded training opportunities

• DREAMWeavers Atlanta’s free GED classes in Spanish and English

• “Fayette Face to Face” open house where Fayette citizens can meet and greet county, municipal and school board officials and staff

• Monthly newborn/parenting classes with Piedmont Fayette Hospital

• Reading changes lives with monthly book discussion groups and collaboration with the Alliance Theatre-Fayette on the Page, One Book One Community.

The public library is closing the skills gap by providing:

• Free educational Learning Computer Lab and self-paced tutorial classes

• Customized one-on-one computer classes; learn how to use email, add attachments, download free books to e-Readers, and learn basic computer skills

• Free academic enrichment courses in many core subjects

• Free self-paced Rosetta Stone foreign language classes

• SAT/ACT test preparation using Recorded Books (RB) test prep, a free online video-based course available on Georgia Library Learning Online (GALILEO)

• ReferenceUSA, a sophisticated online database, to help find over 25 million businesses and 262 million consumers

• Kings, Queens and Rooks! A unique thinking skill development program utilizing chess.

I am strongly confident that the Fayette Visioning Initiative is perpetual, “a never failing spring in the desert.” Because the wisdom of our community is made up of the humanity of brilliant minds, we will make a difference. If we are to continue to have confidence and trust in each other, we must actively become engaged in our cultural conversation. Let’s keep talking!

The library needs continue to be adaptive and receptive to our changing environment in order to build stronger community relationships and meet the diverse of our population. Despite the importance of offering all of these services, the library faces some challenges with budget cuts and staffing. This is why the Fayette Visioning Initiative is so essential to our future.

Thanks to our staff of dynamic professionals, the incredible Friends of the Fayette County Public Library, and our prestigious volunteers, we are working together to help prepare our community for the future.

Visit www.fayettevision.org to stay up to date on the process and to access important process documents and FAQs. Join the ongoing online discussions at http://fayettevision.mindmixer.com. To schedule a visioning speaker to update a group or organization on the process or to join the email list, email info@fayettevision.org.

[Christeen Snell is Library Director of the Fayette County Public Library.]

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