Library ideas plus Lansing ideas, as part of On The Table
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (May 14, 2018) – For three of the past four years, Library Director Debbie Albrecht has gathered Lansing residents, elected officials, business people, and school representatives to share ideas as part of On The Table, a Chicago-area movement that engages people in civic conversations. At this year’s event, held at the library on Tuesday, May 8, Albrecht used the first hour of the forum to get input specifically on the library, leaving the second hour to generate ideas about all things Lansing.
Albrecht’s invitation letter explained, “Every 3–5 years, libraries produce a new strategic plan to carry them forward into the future. The beginning of our evening is devoted to hearing what you have to say about your library. This part of the evening will be facilitated by Sarah Keister Armstrong. She is assisting us in the creation of our new strategic plan to lead us toward our goal of ever increasing quality of collection, events, and service provided by your library.”
Participants were seated at round tables, and each table of five included representatives from a variety of Lansing interests. “We don’t want all the school people sitting together and all the Village people sitting together…. We want a mix,” said Albrecht. The groups were charged with discussing three questions:
- What does the library do well?
- What could the library be doing better?
- What needs does our community have?
After 10–15 minutes of table conversation, the groups shared their ideas publicly with the facilitator and the other groups. There was general consensus that Lansing’s library is doing a good job of being “more than just a library.” Through physical remodeling and cultural repositioning, the library has become, in effect, a community center that actively engages a wide variety of other organizations, including schools, the Village, the Township, the Lansing Police Department, and local churches, as well as Lansing residents—even those who are homebound.
The top suggestion for possible improvement related to communication—letting more people know about the variety of programs and resources, and attracting more diversity of participation.
Many of the groups did not get around to discussing the third question.
It was after 7:00pm when Albrecht introduced the second half of the agenda—ideas for Lansing. She began by listing some of the ideas that had come out of previous On The Table meetings, ideas that have since come to fruition in Lansing:
- Expanding use of the Ford Hangar (Fetching Market)
- Fox Pointe
- Human Relations Commission
- Community Clean-up Day more than once a year
- Sound system
- Santa House
- Welcome wagon bags
- Musical parks
- Dog park
This year she invited the tables to focus their discussion on “actionable things, things that might really be able to happen.” Albrecht encouraged participants to think “clear across the village,” and brainstorm ideas that might affect everyday life for average residents in a way that builds community.
After about 30 minutes of small-group discussion, the groups had generated more than two dozen ideas, which were compiled on big paper for all to read. A sampling of the ideas includes the following:
- Restart ESL (English as a Second Language) classes
- Start a “Friends of the Library” group for teens
- Hire an Events Planner for Fox Pointe
- Ensure a wide variety of Fox Pointe events, including not just concerts, but also art shows, athletic programs, a Farmers Market, a Kris Kringle Christmas Market, movie nights, community theater and/or theater classes, a Taste of Lansing, and other multi-cultural events
- Coordinate Fox Pointe programs with other events in town to maximize the benefit to Lansing businesses
- Extend Joe Orr Road east into Lansing to make another east-west corridor
- Create a digital version of a community-wide scavenger hunt, using an app that tells participants about the location of the item they are searching for
- In addition to the History Walk that is currently offered once or twice a year, schedule other themed tours, such as a Photography Walk, a Bike Tour, a Children’s Walk, a Clean-up Walk, etc.
- Create a forum for residents to share the story of why they live in Lansing, or the story of their cultural background
- Develop a single clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities, so people who want to get involved can search through the needs and find something that matches their skill and schedule
- Develop a “Homeowners’ Helpline” or quarterly meetings to share seasonal information about lawn care, furnace maintenance, plumbing issues—things first-time homeowners might not know and long-time homeowners might need a refresher on
- Create landscaped rain gardens around areas that need some beautification
- Offer rental bikes throughout town
- Open the Youth Center all day and transform it into an intergenerational Youth/Senior Center
- Put informational posters or art on downtown buildings that are closed, to make them more attractive
Albrecht was pleased with the number and variety of ideas presented, as well as the energetic tone of the group conversation. As a follow-up, she agreed to type up the compiled list and email it to participants.
The Lansing Public Library is located at 2750 Indiana Avenue in Lansing, Illinois. For more information about being involved in future idea sessions, contact Library Director Debbie Albrecht:
- Email Debbie Albrecht
- Call 708-474-2447