What is Strategic Planning?
A strategic plan is like a road map for your library, detailing where you are going over the next few years, how you plan to get there, and how you will evaluate if you got there (or not). A strategic plan provides a framework by which to measure your successes. Involving community members in your planning process ensures that you will have a broad base of support for the priorities you set.
Why do Strategic Planning?
Planning isn’t an end unto itself, simply for the sake of having a plan. Rather it is important to have a clear plan to help guide what you do. While especially true in the current budget climate, it been true for a long time (always, perhaps?) that libraries do not have enough resources (money, staff, facilities, etc.) to do everything they might want to do. Setting priorities in keeping with your strategic plan, based on the expressed needs of community members, help you to demonstrate that you are making careful use of your library’s (and community’s) resources. The plan’s priorities will help you to make wise decisions about your library’s operation (policies, collections, services).
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How will we get there?
- How will we know when we're there?
Involving community members in your planning process ensures you will have a broad base of support for the priorities you set. Creating your plan (and its priorities) in conjunction with the needs and priorities of your community allows you to demonstrate how the library contributes to the success of the community.
It is usually a good idea to use an outside consultant to facilitate your strategic planning process. They will have specialized skills that your staff and board may not have, and their neutrality will lend credibility to your process. You can often find someone in your community with the skills and experience you need. Possible sources include:
- School District
- University / College / Technical School
- University Extension
- Community Education program
Additionally, the Library Consultants Directory Online lists library consultants for a variety of areas, including strategic planning. You can search by area of expertise, and by state. Be aware that facilitators you find using this directory will likely charge more than those you find in your community.
Models and Resources.
The standard model for public libraries is called Strategic Planning for Results, from the American Library Association (ALA). The book Strategic Planning for Results presents the the essential steps to this planning process. Workforms for the process are also freely available.
Many books and online resources will also help you. Some are listed below:
- Demonstrating Results: Using Outcome Measurement in Your Library (Rubin, Rhea Joyce; American Library Association, 2006)
- Implementing for Results: Your Strategic Plan in Action (Nelson, Sandra; American Library Association, 2009)
- The Measure of Library Excellence: Linking the Baldridge Criteria and Balanced Scorecard Methods to Assess Service Quality (Wilson, Despina Dapias; McFarland, 2008)
- Measuring for Results: the Dimensions of Public Library Effectiveness (Matthews, Joseph R.; Libraries Unlimited, 2004)
- Scorecards for Results: a Guide for Developing a Library Balanced Scorecard (Matthews, Joseph R.; Libraries Unlimited, 2008)
- Strategic Planning and Management for Library Managers (Matthews, Joseph R.; Libraries Unlimited, 2005)
- Strategic Planning for Results (Nelson, Sandra; American Library Association, 2008)
- The Wilder Nonprofit Field Guide to Crafting Effective Mission and Vision Statements (Angelica, Emil; Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 2001)
- All About Strategic Planning (Free Management Library)
- Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library (American Library Association)
- Outcome Based Evaluation Basics (Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS))
- Planning Links for Libraries (Outagamie Waupaca Library System)
- Strategic Planning for Results Workforms (American Library Association)
Samples of Strategic Plans:
- Belleville Public Library
- Columbus Public Library
- Fitchburg Public Library
- Madison Public Library
- Monroe Public Library
- Sun Prairie Public Library
- McMillan Memorial Library (Wisonsin Rapids)
- Baltimore County (Maryland) Public Library
- Berkeley (California) Public Library
- Waverly (Iowa) Public Library