Strategic Planning

What is a strategic plan?

Strategic planning is similar to a road map in that it gives directions on how to arrive at a destination. Without a basic guide or plan it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions concerning appropriations, the need for expansion, allocations for programs or staff development. A plan assists the board of trustees and the library director in making the best decisions for the community being served.

Planning is an integral part of any organization's growth and development. The board of trustees, the library director and the library staff are charged with serving as a caretaker and steward of the library system. It is their job to keep the mission and goals of the library in perspective and on track by constantly reviewing services and policies to ensure library service is accessible by all segments of the community.

To provide the community with efficient, progressive library service, the board of trustees must base the plan upon their knowledge of the community, community expectations, resources of the community and realistic projections of the future needs of the community. Therefore, the purpose of planning is to move the library forward effectively to meet the needs of the entire community. To help the board and library director develop a good plan, the following list helps explain a plan:

The basis on which a strategic plan should be constructed is the adoption of planning statements for library service. While the board of trustees and library director must take the initiative in writing and revising these statements, the library staff and community should have the opportunity to make suggestions and to discuss ideas before the board adopts the statements, which should include a mission statement, goals, objectives, and action statements as explained below.

‍Developing a strategic plan

1. Assess the library's present situation. Study the local environment--the community's political structure and how the library fits in, the geographic and demographic data for the community and the library, the economic factors affecting the community and the library, including revenue sources and budget. If projections for the community have been made, examine them. If not, develop such projections on the basis of present and anticipated community development.
2. Study the library in relation to the community using standards and guides, especially the tools published by the American Library Association, See Fact Sheets, Toolkits, and Publications. Publications may be available through interlibrary loan.
Determine the mission statement, goals and objectives for the library.
  • Mission Statement - a tightly-worded statement of the library's purpose for existing. Mission statements are usually expressed in a few sentences. They should be specific enough to serve as a guide for the rest of the plan without being too wordy. A mission statement is the most basic and permanent part of the plan. Mission statements are seldom changed, and from them flow the goals, objectives, and action statements.
  • Goal - a broad statement of what the library should be doing in the future. A goal must be consistent with the mission statement.
  • Objective - a statement of the specific result to be accomplished in support of achieving a goal. When possible, objective statements should be quantifiable--capable of being counted or measured with definite time frames. This allows for determination of the successful accomplishment of a goal.
  • Action Statement –a statement describing the means used to support the mission statement.
3. Examine alternative approaches to reaching the objectives. Select the most feasible approach in terms of likely resources. Divide the selected approach into steps and place the steps into time frames. Assign priorities; that is, decide which steps have to be accomplished, which should be accomplished, and which would add to the total effect but are not essential. This ranking will dictate the allocation of funds and other resources.

4. Determine a basis for evaluating progress toward reaching the goals and objectives.

5. Be certain the community accepts the plan. Once the public is convinced of the need for the planned library service, then the public will be supportive of it. Therefore, it is mandatory to involve the community in the planning.

6. Planning is on-going process. No plan is perfect. Unexpected events necessitate changes in any plan, and changing times present new problems and suggest new approaches to meeting library goals. Unless some crisis requires immediate updating of the plan, the plan should be reviewed annually.

Webinars & Strategic Plan examples

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