Planning involves the basic questions below:
- What are the needs in the community?
- What is the purpose of the library related to community needs?
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How will we get there?
- How will we know what we accomplished?
What are the needs in the community?
The first step in library planning is looking outward, not inward. What is your community like? What are the demographic, economic, technological, political, social and cultural factors that may have an impact on library services? What is important to your community now and in the future? To answer these questions, gather information about the community and involve stakeholders such as the city, businesses, and cultural, educational, human service and social organizations. This step could include doing a SWOT analysis of the community, i.e., what are the community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
What is the purpose of the library related to community needs?
The library mission is a brief statement of the library’s purpose related to community needs. What role does the library want to play in the community? What should the library be doing? While somewhat general, the statement should state the library’s major areas of emphasis. If you decide to use Strategic Planning for Results as a planning model (see description later in this chapter), the library’s service responses would be included in the mission statement.
Where are we now?
What is the present state of the library? To answer this question, learn about the major services of the library and how they are being used. Gather information about the library budget, number of staff, the collection, library programs, number of public access computers, etc. How is the community using the library now? Are there areas where use is growing or declining? This step could include doing a SWOT analysis of the library, i.e., what are the library’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? The library director will be an especially important source of information about the current state of the library.
Where do we want to go?
What does the library want to accomplish? Where should the library be in the future? In other words, what are the library’s goals? Goals are general, non-measurable descriptions of conditions or accomplishments which will support the library mission. Strategic Planning for Results (described later in this chapter) suggests that goals have two parts: who will be served and how they will benefit. Sample goals are:
- “Children will discover the joy of reading.”
- “Teens in Anytown will have materials and programs that excite their imaginations and provide pleasurable reading, viewing and listening experiences.”
- “Business owners in Anytown will have the information they need to make their businesses thrive.”
Objectives are specific, measurable, time-limited descriptions of desired results. They are used to measure progress toward reaching your goals. Strategic Planning for Results recommends that there are at least two written objectives for each goal. An example of an objective for the teen goal above might be:
“Each year 75% of teens who use the library will say that library materials and programs provide them with satisfying recreational experiences.”
A planning resource is In Service to Iowa: Public Library Measures of Quality published by Iowa Library Services. This document, developed with input from the public library community, encourages the ongoing development of quality library service in Iowa. Used as a planning tool, it assists libraries in setting goals and writing objectives based on service standards. Every public library must determine its own identity in its community. In Service to Iowa encourages libraries to plan, offer services based on community needs and measure their effectiveness.
How will we get there?
Activities state the actions that will be taken to meet the objectives. For every objective, a number of possible activities should be identified and analyzed. The analysis should include the potential impact of each activity on the objective, the likelihood of success, and the cost and impact on other library activities. At least one activity should be identified for each objective. Activities will include a time frame for accomplishing them and who will do what.
The library director will be integrally involved throughout the planning process. When it is time to identify specific activities, the board’s role typically diminishes and the library director’s role will increase because of his or her knowledge of day-to-day library operations.
How will we know what we accomplished?
Progress is measured against the written objectives. Usually statistics will be gathered to measure progress and the library director will need to determine what data to regularly gather so that information can be provided to the board.
Once the plan is complete, the planning process shifts to implementation, review and evaluation. Plans should be reviewed and updated at least annually. Have objectives been accomplished? Are there parts of the plan that are out of date and in need of updating? Are there new elements that need to be added to the plan? Plans are dynamic documents and at times it is necessary to change them. While the mission statement and goals are not apt to change during a review process, objectives and activities could very well change.
- Has the board developed a plan for the library?
- Has the board used the community’s and library director’s input in the planning process?
- Has the plan been evaluated in the last year?
- Has the board adopted an annual budget which supports the plan?
- Is the library budget adequate to implement the plan?