Library looks for public’s help with future direction

Nearly thirty people turned out on Thursday evening at the Amsterdam Free Library to participate in a workshop designed to help the library collect thoughts and ideas from the public in order to aid the creation of a new long-range strategic plan. The workshop comes on the heals of an announcement last month that the City of Amsterdam was awarded a $10 million downtown revitalization initiative (DRI) grant. A three-story addition to the library to facilitate additional programming was proposed in the application for the grant.

Wade Abbott, who is a community engagement & communications specialist for the Mohawk Valley Library System, of which Amsterdam is a member of, ran the one-hour workshop.

“This initiative hopefully will help the library enhance and strengthen and build new connections to the community,” said Abbott.

Abbott first spent time talking with participants to get their impressions of the library and the Amsterdam community, and then broke the participants up into several small groups to write down their greatest wishes for the community and what resources would be needed to accomplish it.

After the break-out sessions, the groups shared some of the ideas they came up with. Some of the ideas included improving the condition of housing, turning vacant lots into community gardens, creating sustainable job growth and job retention, a better transportation system, and creating more opportunities for people to build connections.

At the end of the meeting, participants gave feedback about what new programs they would like to see at the library, what programs were already working well, and where they thought the library could improve.

The library plans to host at least one more public workshop, as well as to reach out to other community groups in the area to solicit more feedback.

“We’ll take all of that information, compile it into a great big huge report and I’ll try to do some analysis on it for the library,” said Abbott after the meeting.  “We’ll actually bring it back to the public, we’ll invite people to come back and say ‘hey help us analyze this data.’”

Amsterdam Library Director Nicole Helmsley said she was very pleased with the turnout for the workshop.

“Amsterdam’s awesome, we’ve always had such supportive people in the community, it was just great to see everybody tonight,” said Helmsley.

She said the information from the workshops will help the library update their strategic plan, especially given the chance to receive funding from the DRI grant.

Helmsley was recently selected to be part of the local committee which will work with New York State officials and consultants to determine the final list of projects which will be funded by the grant.

She said the three-story addition proposed in the grant application would replace a currently standing addition built back in the 1980’s and could potentially house a business incubator, private offices, and a conference room that could accommodate large meetings.

“If someone who wants to start their business, but doesn’t have the funds to buy everything they need, they can find it here at the library,” envisioned Helmsley. “Which we hope would then help with sustainable job growth and retention in the area.”

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.