Winter Park Library Dialogue
The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries convened the Winter Park Library Dialogue in partnership with the Winter Park Public Library in Winter Park, Florida, on June 8-9, 2016. A model for other communities, the Winter Park Library Dialogue was designed to explore and advance the alignment of the public library’s programs, services and resources with the goals, priorities and aspirations of the community. The dialogue agenda drove toward actionable recommendations that addressed opportunities to leverage new and existing partnerships with the purpose of creating and delivering services and experiences for library users and the community as a whole.
About Winter Park, Florida
Community Type: Suburban village
Population: 27,852 (2010 US Census)
Winter Park is located eight miles north of Orlando in central Florida. According to US Census data, residents have a higher median age (42.7), household income ($59,000) and educational attainment (94.8% high school graduate or higher) than the national averages for these categories. 12.4% of individuals have incomes below the poverty level. There is a small foreign born population (just under 3%). The racial and ethnic composition of the city is: White 86%, Black or African American 8%, Asian 3%, Hispanic or Latino 10%, American Indian or Alaskan Native 1% and Other 3%. An important contributor to Winter Park’s history and heritage is the historic African-American community concentrated in the city’s west side neighborhoods (and close to the future site of the new Winter Park Public Library).
Unemployment is low (around 4%). The largest employers in the city include the Winter Park Memorial Hospital, Rollins College, Orange County Public Schools, the City of Winter Park, Publix supermarkets and the magazine publisher Bonnier. The city was founded by northerners in the 1880s as a seasonal retreat, and tourism is still a significant contributor to the local economy.
The city prides itself on careful urban planning, a rich intellectual history, multi-generational families, and an appreciation for culture and the arts. The city is home to Rollins College and Valencia College (two nationally recognized colleges), and Full Sail University, a private university that specializes in educating for the media, entertainment and technology sectors. It is also home to several highly regarded museums, and soon a state-of-the-art Center for Health & Wellbeing. Winter Park boasts several private foundations that support a range of community-enhancing projects and programs.
Residents of Winter Park tend to divide around questions of growth and change: Is there enough growth, is there too much growth? Will gentrification displace residents with deep roots in the city, or will development provide new opportunities for all residents to thrive?
The Winter Park Public Library (WPPL) is a single branch library serving the residents of Winter Park as well as students, workers and others who spend time in the city or travel though on the Florida Sun Rail system. The WPPL is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization led by Executive Director Shawn Shaffer and a 24 member Board of Trustees. WPPL receives approximately one third of its annual funding from a city grant and must raise the rest of its funding from other sources.
While the library offers a robust array of services, the physical space--a three-story brick building constructed in the late 1970s and expanded in the early 1990s--has become overcrowded and outdated. WPPL is currently located within walking distance of city hall and the city’s shopping and restaurant core, but plans are underway to construct a combined library-civic center space inside 23-acre Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, a 3-minute drive from the city core. The decision to build a new library was made following a comprehensive investigation by a city commission appointed task force to explore whether to remodel, rebuild on the existing site or find a new location. More than two years and eight public forums later, the task force’s work culminated in the narrow passage of a March 2016 $30 million bond referendum to build a combined new library, event space and parking garage on the site of the city’s current civic center.
Winter Park Dialogue Format
The Winter Park Library Dialogue included a public program held on a Wednesday evening from 5:30-7:00 pm and a one-day moderated leadership roundtable.
Public Forum: The public forum took place at the local University Club and featured two keynote presentations, a panel discussion and Q&A with the approximately 70 members of the public in attendance. The keynote speakers were Richard Adler, president of People & Technology based in Palo Alto, California, and a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, and John Bracken, vice president for media innovation at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation headquartered in Miami. Their complementary presentations placed libraries within the context of a continuously changing environment in which technology is becoming smaller, cheaper, and more mobile and continues to shape the work of libraries. The purpose of the public forum was to provide an opportunity for engaging the broader public in the Dialogue process and to present the ideas of stimulating speakers from outside the area to inform, educate and motivate new thinking about technology, community and the role of the library.
Leadership Roundtable: The following day, 26 participants including civic leaders, city officials, educators, business leaders and library leaders convened at the Rachel D. Murrah Civic Center for a moderated roundtable dialogue. The roundtable discussion addressed four key questions:
1. What kind of community do we want?
2. What changes are necessary to make this vision a reality?
3. How can the Winter Park Public Library help bring about this transition?
4. How can other stakeholders in the community engage and collaborate with the library to transform the library and strengthen the community, now and in the years ahead?
The agenda included two morning sessions of open dialogue in plenary session: the first session on Library Alignment with Community Goals and the second session probing more deeply the Library as a Platform for Learning and Community Development. After lunch, the afternoon began with a break-out session with participants divided into three groups of eight (largely based on the sectors in which they spend a majority of their time) for small group discussion. Following the small group discussions, each group reported back their recommendations in plenary, then all participants voted on the nine action steps in order to identify the top three priorities for the library and community to focus on moving forward in the near term. The final session of the day was spent refining and developing the recommendations and a plan for moving forward.
Break-out Sessions: The break-out groups aligned with the three sets of Action Steps in the Rising to the Challenge report – Library Leaders, Policymakers and Community Partners. Using the Action Steps lists in Rising to the Challenge as a guide, each group was asked to identify up to three priority action steps for this particular group (library, policymakers, community partners). Participants were asked to focus on action steps oriented to the development of partnerships and connecting different sectors across the community, and the answer the following questions: What will it take to make these recommendations a reality? Who needs to do what? What additional resources need to be brought in, in order to advance these action steps?
Participants in the Leadership Roundtable
Larry Adams, Principal, ACi Architects
Richard Adler, President, People & Technology and Fellow, Institute for the Future (Palo Alto, CA)
Jeffrey Blydenburgh, President, Jeffrey Blydenburgh Architect and Vice Chairman, Vision Winter Park Steering Committee
Audra Bussey, Educational Consultant, Public Libraries, Cengage Learning
Daniel Butts, Chief Operating Officer, Battaglia Group Management, LLC
Julian Chambliss, Department Chair and Professor of United States History, Rollins College
Ali DeMaria, Executive Director, Winter Park Day Nursery
Michael English, Senior Vice President, Customer Contact Centers & Electronic Distribution, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Amy Garmer, Director, Dialogue on Public Libraries, The Aspen Institute (Washington, DC)
John Gill, President & CEO, Quest and Chairman,Vision Winter Park Steering Committee
Ken Goldstone, Chief Operating Officer, Full Sail University
Norman Jacknis, President, Metropolitan New York Library Council and Adjunct Professor, Columbia University (New York, New York)
Stacey Johnson, President, East Campus, Valencia College
Randy Knight, City Manager, City of Winter Park
Steve Leary, Mayor, City of Winter Park
Patricia Maddox, President and CEO, Winter Park Health Foundation
Micki Meyer, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Rollins College
Ronnie Moore, Assistant Director, Parks and Recreation, City of Winter Park
Marina Nice, Client Advisor, SunTrust and Chair of the Board, Winter Park Public Library
David A. Odahowski, President & CEO, Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation
Shawn Shaffer, Executive Director, Winter Park Public Library
Sarah Sprinkel, Elementary Director, Florida Virtual School and Commissioner, City of Winter Park
Maureen Sullivan, Library Consultant and 2013-2014 President, American Library Association (Annapolis, MD)
Maria Vazquez, Area Superintendent Orange County Public Schools
Julie VonWeller, PTO President, All Saints School
Chip Weston, Owner, Chip Weston Studios
Key Issues & Themes
See Winter Park Rising to the Challenge, the Report of the Winter Park Library Dialogue for complete report.
The following were key themes raised and discussed during the Winter Park Library Dialogue: technology and continuous change, stewardship and sustainability, education and learning, and the library as a place for people to connect and discover new ideas and pursuits.
After identifying goals and priorities for the community (questions 1 & 2 noted above), participants identified the following roles, attributes and functions for the WPPL, some of which the library already performs and provides, and others that will require adaptation, transformation and new competencies at the library:
- A safe, neutral space for active listening and passionate dialogue
- A center for lifelong learning
- A maker space and resource for workforce development
- An asset to help individuals and families in the community “recentralize”
- Human-centered, accessible and wired
- Providing connectivity
- Transcending tomorrow’s digital divide
- Supporting digital citizenship
- Offering student maker spaces
- Acting as the community’s “orchestrator of learning”
- Consulting with users
- Adult learning
The following are the key recommendations made by the leadership roundtable:
- Recommendation #1: Create and communicate a new vision for the Winter Park Public Library.
- Recommendation #2: Define the public library as a community priority and implement activities that demonstrate this priority role.
- Recommendation #3: Bring diverse expertise and financial and sustainable resources to partner with the library.
- Recommendation #4: Brand the library as a platform for community learning and development, collaborate with users, and define the scope of library program and strategies.
The following are some of the ongoing efforts and activities underway in Winter Park following the Winter Park Library Dialogue:
- Develop and strengthen education partnerships by convening an educators’ roundtable. Initial roundtable of educators from across the city convened at Valencia College on February 1, 2017.
- Develop and strengthen business and philanthropic partnerships. Library and Chamber of Commerce working to set a date for a roundtable discussion.
- Develop partnerships with the technology sector.
- Attention to priority populations in the community.
- Develop health and wellness partnerships. Working with the Winter Park Health Foundation, city departments, and others.
Winter Park Library Dialogue Group Photo
Materials and Document Database
*Other materials can be found in the Resources section.