The East Baton Rouge Parish library system is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and leaders are working to finalize a strategic plan that will help guide the parish’s offerings for the future.

Library staff and members of the parish Library Board have conducted several meetings over the past two years and have received more than 4,000 responses to online surveys.

A draft strategic plan, based on that information, will be unveiled in the coming weeks and honed with a series of community input meetings.

Already, officials have identified customer experience, technology and access, program and collection development, facilities and operations, employee experience and marketing and outreach as six goal areas outlined for consideration.

In a recent letter posted to the system’s website, Library Board Chairwoman Tanya Freeman also is encouraging patrons to continue to submit information online.

“With your help, the next 75 years will be even better!” Freeman wrote.

The system’s last strategic plan was adopted in 2005 and updated in 2007 and 2008.

Spencer Watts, who took over as library director in January 2013, said the generally accepted standard for master planning is that a new one should be crafted every five years with updates every year.

“It’s time for it to be updated,” he told board members at a recent meeting.

The plan has to be filed with the state library as a condition of receiving state aid, and its creation and implementation also help the system as it seeks national recognition.

Data from the library board show growth in usage over the past three years:

  • Gate counts — which track the number of library entries per month — have been steadily on the rise, from about 2.19 million in 2010 to 2.21 million last year.

The number of cardholders actually fell from 410,109 in 2010 to 325,303 in 2013, but library staff attribute that to periodic purges to eliminate cardholders who have died or moved away.

  • There were three times as many bookmobile visits last year as there were in 2010 — from 502 to 1,635.
  • Online indicators also are on the rise. The number of database sessions shot up almost 10 times the 2010 usage, to nearly 2.2 million last year.
  • Nearly 9,000 e-reader books were downloaded from January through March this year, which officials estimate has saved library patrons an estimated $93,500, based on the average Kindle e-book price.

The master planning process also comes during a time of several upgrades to libraries.

Earlier this year, the library opened its new $35 million Main Library at Goodwood. Barring severe weather delays, officials say the first phase of parking could open by mid-June.

Preliminary efforts also are underway on the $19 million overhaul of the downtown River Center Branch. The Department of Public Works issued a notice for architects last month to proceed with the project’s design development.

Meanwhile, officials continue to look for a location for the long-discussed south branch library.

Elizabeth Crisp covers East Baton Rouge government for The Advocate. Contact her at ecrisp@theadvocate.com or follow her on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp, or Facebook, facebook.com/ECrispReporter. Read The Advocate’s City Hall Buzz blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/CityHallBuzz.