Cloquet Public Library embarks on first step into the future

The Cloquet Public Library is following the lead of the Arrowhead Library System (ALS) in taking a long, hard look at where it is today - and where it's headed.

The Cloquet Public Library is following the lead of the Arrowhead Library System (ALS) in taking a long, hard look at where it is today - and where it's headed.

The library recently embarked on a multi-phase strategic planning process patterned after the one recently conducted by the Arrowhead Library System.

"The ALS decided that all of its participating city libraries, who do the work on the grassroots level, should put together strategic plans as well," explained Cloquet Public Library Director Mary Lukkarila. "This actually comes at a good time, because if we have to reduce staff or services [due to government budget cutbacks], it will help us see what the community thinks it needs from the library as well as what the community needs are as a whole."

To that end, the ALS funded a consultant, Whitney Crettol, to assist the Cloquet Public Library with a community-based approach to identifying what the library should focus on as it moves forward into the future.

The local planning process kicked off with two focus sessions held in December, utilizing input from community leaders and residents. A total of 18 residents participated in the two groups, with four additional contributors responding by e-mail.


They first examined what elements would ideally be present in a healthy community. Next, they took a hard look at the state of the community today, including its strengths and opportunities as well as the weaknesses and roadblocks it must overcome in getting there.

Among the community's strong points identified were such things as a good core infrastructure, brain power and sense of mission, support for the arts, strong interagency collaboration and the community's beautiful natural setting.

"There was, however, a lot of discussion about children in the community and concerns about safety and education," reported Lukkarila, "as well as concerns over the financial health of the community and the fact that there are unmet needs as far as housing goes."

The offshoot of the discussion was to identify the needs that exist in the community which that can be met by the library. Among those points identified by participants were the need to develop community leaders, to motivate those who have resources to act, to develop a sense of community that supports children, and to strengthen volunteerism and community involvement.

Finally, participants in the strategic planning process were asked to vote on what priorities the library should focus on that would make the greatest contribution toward addressing the community's needs.

The top priority identified was to provide public Internet access so residents can connect to the online world.

Coming in a close second was to provide community resources and services that will assist residents in knowing their community.

Thirdly, strategic planning participants stated the library should focus on early literacy to help support young readers, and closely related was providing homework help so students can better succeed in school.


"Most libraries try to do something of all of the 16 services identified, said Lukkarila, "but it's getting harder and harder to do all these things because we don't have the funding to do them."

Two more strategic planning sessions are planned to go over the information gathered and decide how the library can best position itself for its future role in the community and develop a time line for implementation.

"Of course, I would love to see growth as well," admitted Lukkarila, "but considering the current financial situation, we will have to look at targeting certain things at this time."

Lukkarila said she nonetheless holds out hope for future growth somewhere down the line and takes heart in the fact that reading remains important to a large percentage of the population.

"We are fortunate to have people such as [President] Barack Obama who is a big reader and quotes famous books and how he is inspired by them," she stated. "He once said, 'Words have the power to transform. With the right words, everything could change - South Africa, the lives of ghetto kids just a few miles away, my own tenuous place in the world....'"

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