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Several Fremont residents soon will be called upon to provide their insights into what the role of Keene Memorial Library will be in the community's future.

Focus groups representing a wide range of library patrons are set to be organized in the next two months as part of a short-range planning process to develop strategies for the next three to five years.

"The idea behind this is to go out to the community, … and find out what their view of Fremont is in the future and the role of the library," said Larry Jirsak, library board member who is chairing the planning committee.

"One of our main goals is responding to the wants and needs of the community," he said.

Library director Ann Step-hens said many objectives outlined during the library's last planning process, in 1994, have been achieved, including a transition to providing a music collection of compact discs rather than albums and the reintroduction of a "quiet area" on the second floor of the library for patrons wishing to read.

Using information from focus groups, along with results of a community recreation survey distributed last spring and data from the city's recently approved comprehensive plan, the planning committee will write mission statements, goals and eventually action strategies for prioritizing the use of limited resources to meet the community's needs. Stephens said satisfaction surveys also may be distributed, possibly on the library's web site, for further input.

"It's taking the data we get from the community and distilling that into a plan," Jirsak said.

That community input will help the library board decide whether money should be focused toward more books on tape, more consumer information, programming for literacy, the large-print collection, or any other number of areas.

"This is a real opportunity to drop services that are not a high priority, to try different things and go a new direction," Stephens said.

By actively soliciting community involvement through the 9-10 month planning process, Jirsak said the library will be able to respond more quickly to what services patrons believe it should provide in the future.

"Maybe all of this information might come in eventually … but it might take years of people dropping in and saying ‘Why don't you do this?'" he said.

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