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Strategic Planning for Small Libraries
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Strategic Planning for Smaller Public Libraries

Dr. J. Douglas Nelson, consultant

1. Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is an organized process for defining goals, strategy and the general direction of an organization on the basis of a detailed understanding of its internal and external circumstances. The plan then serves as the basis for most major and minor decisions influencing the future of the library.

In other words, a strategic plan attempts to answer the following general questions:

a. How does the governing body of the library picture its success?

b.How does the organization move in an efficient and effective manner toward the achievement of its goals?

c.How should the Board and Director structure the budget and the administrative staff of the Library?

d.How does it maintain a clear sense of accountability to its constituency?

e.What strategy does it implement to achieve its goals?

f.What are the major threats and opportunities facing this library in the short and long terms? The short term is defined as up to one year and the long term, three to five years.

2. Strategic Planning Processes

a.Defining its present circumstances

i.Internal Factors: threats and opportunities

1.What is the condition of its capital assets especially in the light of the demands of the 21st century: building, technology, and vehicles?

2.What is the size and condition of its books, reference sources, periodicals, media materials, and external sources of information needed to serve its constituency?

3.What is the size and the major priorities of the library’s budget?

4.What are the costs of the major sectors of the library’s operations?

5.What is the size and what are the assignments of the paid staff?

6.How and by whom is the work of the paid staff evaluated?

7.What is the role of volunteers in the library’s operations? How is their contribution to the work of the library assessed?

8.Circulation data: how many persons hold library cards? How many books and other materials are circulated annually?

ii.External Factors: description and outline of threats and opportunities

1.Demographic data regarding the communities served

2.Economic description of the communities served

3.Relations with served and unserved populations in the area

4.Relations with local governments

5.Relations with other libraries in the region

6.State relations and expectations

b.Sources of information

i.Composition of the planning committee

1.Members of the Board of Trustees

2.Library Director and other major administrative staff

3.Representation from the staff

4.Persons representing major elements of the community not directly represented by the staff or the Board (this element is optional)

ii.Internal Library Documents

1.Annual budgets covering the past four years

2.Organizational chart for the library

3.Statements of values and mission for the library

4.Statements of the assessment instruments utilized to evaluate the operation of the major elements of the library’s programs

iii.Community information

1.Local and regional economic data describing the present and anticipated development of the area served by the library

2.Surveys of users and non-users of library services in the library’s constituency: attitudes toward the library’s effectiveness and responsiveness to community needs

3.Expected annual revenues from the primary sources of income

4.State plans and projections regarding funding and other operational guidelines

5.Information from other governmental units in the service area: local government officials and local public schools

6.Sources of other strategic alliances in the service area: for example private schools, religious institutions, businesses, and other bodies serving citizens

7.Kinds and levels of civic engagement of the library and its officers in the service areas

c.Elements of the Strategic Plan

i.Development of a plan that expresses a wide level of consensus among Board members, major administrative officials, and the staff

ii.A statement of the short and longer term goals directed toward an achievable standard of excellence

iii.A ranking of the priorities in the light of available resources and in responses to the challenges and opportunities facing the library

iv.The presentation of the plan in terms that lend themselves to both assessment and achievement

v.The outline of the assessment devices to measure progress toward the stated goals

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