[Photo: FOLSOI President Carol Brolley addresses Brunswick County Commissioners in June with the results of the focus group findings.]

It is common, if not essential, for any board of directors to think about strategy. FOLSOI is no different. In fact, we would not be celebrating a 30-year anniversary without it! In early 2021, the FOLSOI board revisited our strategic plan and recognized that, with so much changing for libraries in general–the demographics of Brunswick County and the expectations of our members–it was time for an update.

After consulting with retired library consultant and FOLSOI member Foxie Mason, we embarked on a journey to gather the “voice of our customer.” Simply put, we wanted to hear from as many library users, patrons, community partners and FOLSOI members and donors as we could to understand what they like about our county libraries and what they see as gaps as well as new ideas for making the libraries more useful and enjoyable.

In March, we began planning and conducting virtual focus groups and collecting surveys and feedback forms. We completed the process in June. In total, we heard from over 150 patrons, students, teachers, homeschoolers, retired adults, and other community members. We categorized all the input and ideas into four themes, capturing what was working well along with suggestions for improvement.

Among the many findings were:

  • Very positive feedback for the library staff
  • Need to update the library collections
  • Increasing demand for programs for children and young adults
  • A call for more electronic services such as Overdrive for e-books

A summary presentation was written which shared the valuable insights with the rest of the board and library branch management. The summary will also be used for advocating with elected officials and county government for targeted improvements to our library funding and support.

Here is the summary of our findings.

On June 21, several members of the board attended the County Commissioners meeting, and in open forum, Carol Brolley, FOLSOI president, explained our initiative and how we planned to share the findings [photo, above]. On July 8, Carol and I met with Haynes Brigman, our new assistant county manager to share our presentation and our desire to work together to improve the libraries in Brunswick County. He was very receptive and gave us hope that your voices will be heard.

While this is only the beginning, we are off to a great start. Thanks to all the board members, volunteers, and participants in this effort. We appreciate your passion for making our libraries a vital part of our community!