A 2022 Year End Letter from Library Director Svetha Hetzler

It is hard to believe another year is coming to a close. I know I say this every year but it is always true! 2022 demonstrated that the Sun Prairie community is definitely ready to reconnect as demonstrated by robust activity at the library, particularly during the second half of the year. After more than two years of isolating, our community slowly began to reenter the library consistently this year. By the summer, we saw a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

Our Summer Library Program statistics were back to our highest levels of engagement with over 3,300 active youth, teen, and adult participants and we circulated over 645,000 physical and digital items!

The Sun Prairie Public Library (SPPL) staff and Library Board of Trustees continues to work on advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The DEI Advisory Committee to the Library Board reviewed over 17 policies with the Library Policy Committee and discussed intellectual freedom concerns and issues facing libraries locally, regionally, and nationally. The committee also helped develop a report with recommendations for the library. The full report can be found here. The SPPL Board added two new student trustee appointments to ensure they are including the perspective of our youth when making decisions as part of their commitment to DEI.

What makes SPPL so special is the initiative and creativity that staff bring. Below is a list of examples of new and innovative services and projects staff put into place in 2022:

  • Resuming indoor programs for all ages
  • Library Champion signs in English, Spanish, and Hindi
  • Updated Teen space and furniture with additional computers
  • Latino Nights @ the Library (three-week series)
  • New automated sorter (more efficient return and re-shelving of materials)
  • Cross-departmental team of library staff participated in the City of Sun Prairie's Continuous Process Improvement training, focusing on our acquisitions and processing workflow
  • Dream Bus – over 3000 visits in 2022! (A record breaking year which included weekly visits with the Neighborhood Navigators and Community Schools)
  • Regular Covid-19 vaccine clinics from PHMDC
  • Ripple Intern (As part of our commitment to the Dane County Ripple Project which seeks to advance and promote racial equity in public library staffing
  • Social Work Intern (with aim to provide library staff with more training and resources to help patrons in need of social services and other types of assistance
  • After hours holds pick-up lockers (In progress with ARPA funds through the South Central Library System)
  • Multi-disc DVDs - patrons can check out an entire season of new television shows 
  • Visits to senior apartments – bringing library services and staff to residents that may not be able to access the library
  • Vital Signs Clinic (In partnership with Sun Prairie EMS as part of a grant program)
  • Elections (a popular early voting and election day voting site)
  • Rotating collections at senior residences
  • Spanish language signage in key areas of library (e.g. restrooms, computers, etc.)
  • Testing site for free ACT prep test
  • Juneteenth Celebration with community partners
  • Permanent Story Walk installed in Sheehan Park

The SPPL staff and board also spent time developing and crafting a new three year strategic plan with ReThinking Libraries. The 2023-2025 Strategic Plan will serve as a guide to help us prioritize the public services and resources our community needs and wants over the next three years. The strategic planning process itself was very community focused. In addition to local, regional, and national data and benchmarks, the process included 13 focus groups (on-site and off-site), a community wide survey with over 700 responses, and a full day strategic planning retreat with staff and stakeholders. The 2023-2025 Strategic Plan was recently approved by the Sun Prairie Public Library Board and will be posted on our website.  

The Friends of the SPPL have shown great resiliency and flexibility as they have returned to more “normal” levels of activity, and they are now operating both the Read Before Book Store and an eBay store for online sales. The Friends continue to support the library by funding and supporting many of our programs and resources, including Book Club Kits, Spanish language materials, live music concerts, and the youth Summer Library Program. Even more importantly, the Friends show their support and advocacy through their community engagement. This year they attended the outdoor downtown Farmers’ Market, the Multicultural Fair, and Sun Prairie National Night Out, and they held membership drives in spring and fall. The Friends, like the Library Board, have a DEI committee that works to make the activities of the Friends group more equitable and inclusive for all. Among other initiatives, this year the Friends added two student board members to broaden perspectives and opportunities, and held a DEI training session for Read Before Book Store volunteers.

The SPPL Foundation is leading the $3.5M Capital Campaign effort which launched with the incredibly successful 100 Extraordinary Women Event in October. To learn more about the Capital Campaign and how you can get involved, please visit the SPPL Foundation’s website: https://www.sunlibfoundation.org/

In addition to this incredible fundraising effort, the Foundation continues to annually fund specific library projects. This year, the Foundation funded: The Sheehan Park Story Walk, programs celebrating indigenous cultures (Native Peoples of Wisconsin, and Native American Environmentalism), Urban SUN: Black Voices Book Club, Juneteenth Celebration, Kanopy (Digital Streaming content), and additional Dream Bus visits. The Foundation also brought back the ever popular annual Spring Gala.

With a lot of positive energy to fuel us, I am certainly looking forward to 2023. With a new three-year strategic plan in place, SPPL is looking forward to exploring and adding:

  • Marketing and communication efforts with dedicated staff
  • Homebound services to adult residents
  • After hours lockers for holds pick up (to complete and roll out)
  • Artist in Residence program (Fall 2023)
  • Affinity programming for Black/African American, Hmong, and Hispanic/Latino residents
  • Bilingual English/Spanish Badge Books for the Youth Summer Library Program
  • More languages for the Library Champion signs
  • Reopening the adult porch

Lastly, but certainly not least, the library will continue to work on the much anticipated expansion and renovation project. Earlier this year, the City of Sun Prairie approved the expansion and renovation plan as part of the 10-year Capital Improvement Project (CIP). We are looking forward to the next steps which includes a full-design in 2023 and ground breaking in 2024. You can find more information about SPPL’s Next Chapter Expansion & Renovation project here.

This is certainly an exciting time for the Sun Prairie Public Library and the Sun Prairie community and I am looking forward to going on this exciting journey with all of you. On behalf of the entire SPPL staff and board, I wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year and I look forward to a very vibrant 2023!

With warm regards,

Svetha Hetzler

Sun Prairie Public Library Director