WHATELY — Library Director Cyndi Steiner wants to save taxpayer money by winning grants that will help pay for services and programming at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library. To do that she needs to hear from patrons about what they want for the next five years.

“There are certain grants that are offered through the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners,” Steiner said. “If we ever wanted to apply for a grant, the major criteria to be eligible … is to have a current strategic plan on file in Boston. This will accomplish that.”

Steiner, employed at the library for nine years, will be approaching this listening session differently. When the last five year plan for the library was written up – after the previous patron input session – she was a library assistant. This time around, with five and a half years as director, she has more at stake.

The need to hear from patrons is more important this time around because the last five-year plan was derailed by the pandemic. Steiner had about a year of experience as director, “a few months under my belt,” when the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Programming at the library ended and books were only available for curbside pickup.

The public input session will be led by Oscar Lanza-Galindo, a consultant on leadership and management for the Mass. Library Association. It’ll be the best chance for users of the library to put in their two cents. Steiner will be listening.

“Residents of Whately can come in and say, okay, this is what we think you’re doing really well,” Steiner said. “This is areas where you can improve and these are things we would like to see happen over the next five years, maybe developing new programming or creating a library of things, or creating some type of get together that we don’t currently have.”

Libraries are being challenged, in recent years, to remain relevant. Nowadays, that means a town’s library has to distribute more than books. Steiner wants to know if Whately residents still want a lending library, library of things or a tool swap.

Steiner said someone may want to bake a cake for a special occasion. Why buy cake pans for a single use when you can borrow them from the library, for free? Libraries have purchased sewing machines, car diagnostic tools, painters’ easels, even wood splitters to lend out to residents with a valid library card.

“It’s not just your traditional library anymore, where you come in and check out books or DVDs or audio books,” Steiner said. “Do we have something unique or different? … Are there collaborations that we should be working on, but we haven’t thought of them? Or do we need to reengage certain collaborations that we might’ve had in the past.”

Displaying the work of local artists might be revisited. Patrons at the checkout counter, scooping up books, already voiced the desires for more children’s programming and senior activities. But Steiner also noticed that non-traditional demographic groups are underserved at the Dickinson Library.

“People who don’t have children?” Steiner said. “What would adults like to see who don’t fit into the category of having children or being a senior citizen yet? Those are the kinds of feedback we’re hoping to get.”

Steiner’s also in need of good feedback on how to engage the tweeners and teens, 11- to 17-year-olds. It’s a hard demographic to focus on and serve. Children change so fast, in that age range, that several subgroups have very different learning and cognitive requirements. The library still needs to offer programming for residents that age and additions to the library’s collections that appeal to them.

The Strategic Planning Community Input Session at the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the library behind the big white milk bottle.