A major expansion and renovation, plus a new outdoor gathering space and community garden, came out of the Pine River Public Library's 2010-2011 strategic plan. Then there's the bee hive and the tropical frogs...
Now the library staff and board members are asking patrons what else they'd like to see. The library is doing community surveys through the end of this month, one aimed at adults and another for teens.
Library Director Amy Dodson and staff member Karen Lemke talked about the changes based on what people said they wanted in the 2010 survey, leading to what people want now.
The community survey is the first step in a new three-year strategic plan, they said.
"The last survey really directed everything that happened with the library during the last four years," Lemke said.
Dodson said that included the garden and the mobile kitchen. "That's something people asked for," she said.
Lemke added, "They wanted more cooking classes. There was a strong response for those. At the time, we had a hot plate. That's what we were offering cooking classes on. With the cooking cart, we can move it anywhere in the library or even outside."
The library had been showing movies before the expansion. "Patrons wanted more, so we made sure we included the technology to show movies booth indoors and outdoors," Lemke said. "For our first outdoor movie, we had more than 130 people."
Dodson commented, "We were afraid we'd run out of popcorn."
They will show the original Back to the Future movie on July 26 and the last Harry Potter movies on Thursday, July 31 (Harry Potter's birthday).
Lemke said the 2010 survey "reinforced that we needed more technology and access to technology. We boosted our tablet and technology lending program."
Dodson said preliminary results on the current survey "have shown a lot of requests for technology-related stuff - circulating video games, computer classes. The more technology we have, the more people are asking for and getting tuned into that."
Lemke said, "Overall, the 2010-11 survey showed us what you see now in the library. Spaces for kids, the separate teen area, all the way to the quiet adult area. That's why we're asking for responses from youth and adults again."
Teen use has increased since they got their own space. Their computers are constantly busy, Lemke said. "Teens are constantly in there. The kids on computers, more than 50 percent of them are playing Minecraft."
Dodson said, "We provide a safe place for them to go after school. We're the only place in town. They get to express themselves, meet their friends in a safe place when they have nowhere else to go. We want to hear what they want to do in the library. We have board games every Monday. That was based on their feedback. We're adding things all the time."
They've added monthly Dungeons & Dragons sessions, Lemke said. "Those have gotten to where we have a waiting list for kids who want to participate."
As for adult programming, Lemke said there's been a 30-percent increase in programs and the number of people attending. That includes the classic movie series, now in its fourth year, monthly book discussions, travelogues with Professor Mark Curran, yoga classes in partnership with Bayfield Parks & Rec, a movement class that talks about the science of movement, and some new cooking classes.
The community garden spaces, now in their second year, are growing like crazy, Dodson said. New this year is a beehive with a web camera so people can watch the bees from inside the library. There are an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 bees.
"The bee hive is awesome," Dodson said. "It's great. The bees are multiplying and are very active. We have a beekeeper watching them for us."
Now the library even has little tropical frogs. In the wild they are poisonous because they eat insects that are poisonous. Here they eat fruit flies, Dodson said. They live in a "palludarium," a cross between an aquarium and a terrarium. It's also filled with tropical plants. It's in the children's area in the west end of the building.
"It's like a tiny rain forest," Dodson said. The frogs "are very cute. They sing all day. It has all these beautiful plants in it. It's so cool."
Between the bee cam and the frogs, she said the library is "going to be like a wildlife park."
The current survey can be done on paper or online at www.prlibrary.org. Responders who include their name and contact information have a chance to win an iPad Air for the adults and an iPod Touch for the youth.
"We want to know what the community wants," Dodson said. "We want them to know that what they wanted last time has come to fruition. One of the reasons this library is so awesome is we are willing to try things that nobody else has tried. A lot of libraries only go with the tried and true. I hear it a lot, people from other communities say, 'My library isn't anything like this.' It's due to the community and what they asked for."