Library Strategic Planning

strategic planningWhat is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning. We hear these words like strategy, vision, mission, values and goals all the time.  What do they really mean? Strategy is how you get where you want to go. It is the actions you will take to meet your goals. By meeting your goals you reach the vision you have for the future. Library strategy is influenced by trends both inside and outside of libraries.  It is also influenced by your values. Values are the fundamental items of import to an organization or individual. Strategic planing is the action of consciously defining all of these.

Why is Strategic Planning Important?

Strategy sets the course for what you do. Without a strategic plan, your work isn’t moving in any clear direction. For organizations, strategy is important as it helps keep them relevant and moving in a productive direction. But strategy is important for individuals, too. An individual strategic plan keeps you continually contributing and continually learning.

Who Sets Strategy?

What if you feel the need for some strategy and your organization isn’t working on a plan? Identifying an individual or departmental strategic plan is the answer. If you aren’t getting any strategic direction from the library, think about the vision for your department. Formulate some well planned goals for your area or even yourself. Keep your departmental or personal strategy aligned with your larger organization. While your library may not have a formal strategic plan, write your own goals with your library in mind to create a personal or departmental plan that is aligned with wider goals.

How Do You Identify Strategy?

Strategic planning can be as large or small an undertaking as you or your organization wants it to be. Some organizations engage in a full scale strategy process. More recently, organizations have questioned the value of investing time and resources into a set plan when the landscape changes so quickly. Tools like Lean Social Canvas can be really helpful to developing a quick and nimble plan. Here are a few steps toward strategic planning:

  1. Gather data.  Take a look at all the data that may suggest ways in which your organization, department or yourself can contribute.
  2. Consider values. What is at the heart of what your organization, department or yourself does?
  3. Develop the vision. Where do you want to be in a year? Three years? Five years?
  4. Align your goals. Consider the strategy of your parent organization and ensure that your plan supports it.
  5. Create your plan. Identify the goals, actions, projects and initiatives that will get you to your vision.

Depending on the complexity of the plan this may take some time. I have seen plans of complex organizations that have taken months to write. Departmental and personal plans may take much less time.  I have seen departmental and personal plans that can be completed in a day, or even an afternoon of hard work. The best plans usually have 3-5 goals that support the organizational objective. They also include clear tasks to support the goals, and ways to measure success.


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