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.

Overcoming Tenure Paralysis

The Stress of the Tenure Track

Feeling stressed about tenure?  Whether it’s called continuing appointment, promotion, tenure, or permanent status, I have seen countless people become paralyzed at how to embark on this journey. Many of my clients come to me with this feeling, often years before their tenure packet is do. This is actually a great sign because it means that they are thinking ahead and taking their tenure evaluation seriously.  So how do you turn that stress into action? Here are 5 steps to stop feeling stuck and start building a strong tenure file.


Image of the WEB DuBois Library by Step used under Creative Commons License.

Step 1: Know the Tenure Requirements at Your Institution

Tenure requirements vary from institution to institution. Mainly they include academic service, teaching and publication–and of course being excellent at your job.  Your first step is to research the tenure requirements at your institution.  What do the actual written guidelines say? Find out what is required and who will evaluate you. Reading the actual guidelines may not answer all of your questions, but it will help you to clearly formulate what you need to know to build a strong portfolio.

Step 2: Find a Recently Tenured Friend

Once you have read the tenure requirements you can understand them better by talking with others who have been through the process.  Perhaps a friend or colleague has recently been tenured? Perhaps your supervisor is familiar with the process? Maybe the person in charge of faculty appointments can help? Talking to people who have real-world experience with the specific tenure process on your campus will help you to find out what is it takes to earn tenure.

Step 3: Seek out service opportunities

Each year, ACRL, ALA, SLA and other library associations call for volunteers.  Check with your local and specialty library associations about how to get involved.  This may seem an intimidating process but these groups rely on librarians at all career stages to carry out important committee work. Talk to your boss about library and campus committees you could contribute to.

Step 4: Don’t Be Intimidated by Publishing or Presenting

Submitting a paper for publication or conference presentation can be a very intimidating process. But think about it this way: the economic models of academic publishing and professional conferences would not survive without faculty librarians submitting their work. Publishers and conference organizers need you! So don’t be intimidated. Be aware of upcoming conferences and their calls for proposals. Check out the submission guidelines of your favorite journal and think about what you have to say. Perhaps you can collaborate with a colleague? Talk to your boss or mentor about your research ideas. Not sure how to get started? A coach can help you through the process.

Step 5: Get involved in Teaching

Effective teaching is often a component of the tenure evaluation. Even if your job is only tangentially related to bibliographic instruction why not volunteer to assist with the BI program? Have specific subject liaison responsibilities? Maybe there is a professor you could partner with. What about contributing to another program on campus, like faculty or staff development or new student orientation? If you prefer to contribute more broadly to the profession you can contact a local library school about an adjunct teaching appointment. If a shorter duration of teaching appeals to you approach ALA’s Online Learning or a local library association about providing a professional development course in your area of expertise.

The Tenure Track Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

Like any large project it is helpful to keep your tenure process well organized. With each new project, accomplishment, committee assignment, presentation or publication, update your CV. Each year keep a “running” annual review draft to which you can add these things. Keep all of your professional feedback in a designated place. Take the process one step at a time, and seek out help. You were hired for a tenure track position because your organization believes you can do it. Now go show them how it’s done!

Are you on the tenure track and not sure of how to start building your tenure application?  Contact me! Working with librarians on their tenure case is my coaching specialty.  I offer an affordable, targeted session to help you focus your thinking around your tenure journey that is guaranteed to help. 

Resolutions (or, Happy Half-Year!)


I read a post recently saying it’s the 6 month mark for New Year’s resolutions. Wow, six months. Where did the time go?  It got me thinking about resolutions.  I thought about resolutions in my own life and resolutions more broadly.  I also thought about goals and how they relate to resolutions.

My Resolutions

To me, resolutions are silly. I don’t mean to say they aren’t worthwhile, but at New Years I always choose something silly for my resolutions.  One year my resolution was to learn more about kangaroos.  While this sounds really silly it was actually a great resolution for me.  Kangaroos, actually marsupials in general, had always kind of freaked me out.  Learning about kangaroos helped me to appreciate them for the magnificent animals they are. Now they are my favorite animal!  This past year my resolution was to be better about carrying a purse.  Again, another kind of silly thing, but for me it was really worthwhile. I had fallen into the bad habit of grabbing the things I needed and keeping them in pockets. As a result I often did not have everything I needed and I spent a lot of time going through numerous pockets to find keys, wallet, bank card, etc.  So my silly resolutions have helped me to learn and grow as a person.

Resolutions vs. Goals

Generally speaking, I’m a much bigger fan of goals than resolutions.  Goals are much more specific. Goals are often measurable. And for me, goals are a lot more serious. Perhaps most importantly, goals are not tied to one specific season of the year. Lifehacker has a nice little post about the difference between resolutions and goals.

The main reason the post about the six month mark resonated with me is that I have been carrying a purse, and it has really worked for me!  I have everything I need whenever I need it.  Do you make resolutions or goals?  How has this worked out for you?

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Personal Mission Statement–What’s Yours?

What is a Personal Mission Statement?

A personal mission statement is a succinct declaration of what is important to you and how you bring that to action.  We have all heard it before:  success is preparation met with opportunity.  One way to prepare for opportunities is to know yourself.  Knowing what is important to you helps to make decisions that feel right.  By knowing what your capabilities are you can make decisions that suit your talents.

How to Write Your Personal Mission Statement:

Fast Company recently published an article on using businesses strategies in planning to create a personal life plan.  To create the direction needed to fulfill your life’s purpose, here are four questions to answer.  The answers you provide will help to form your personal mission statement:

  1. What makes life meaningful to you?
  2. What are you truly passionate about?
  3. What are your talents?
  4. What are your core values?

By sitting down for a quiet hour, thinking about these questions and recording your thoughts you will be on your way to developing your personal mission statement.

Benefits of a Personal Mission Statement:

Once you have identified what is important to you and what you are good at your mission then informs your life strategy.  Everything from choosing where to live to choosing a job to deciding where to go on vacation is an easier choice because you have a model for making that choice.

I would love to hear what you uncover when you ask yourself these questions.

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Write Yourself a Letter

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I recently posted about personal vision statements and mentioned a very simple but impactful activity:  writing a letter to your future self.  This is a really accessible, helpful way to begin to make your goals a reality.  By envisioning where you would like to be in one, five or ten years you can start to get there.

At the beginning of September I ran across an article that outlines another great way to use letter writing to your advantage.   The author indicates that seeking advice from your future self–the you 20 years in the future–can help you to make authentic, ethical decisions.  It also strikes me that these are very likely to be decisions you can live with because you aren’t turning to someone else for advice! Specifically, writing an article about your current life from the perspective of yourself 20 years in the future can provide you with insights about decisions and choices to make.  And doing this regularly can help you to strengthen your commitment to what is important to you.

So why not write some letters?  You might be surprised by the trajectory you set for yourself and the advice your able to provide.


Defining your personal vision

I recently met with a friend from high school who is now a successful PR manager for a multi-national software company.  We reconnected in the midst of his Summer-long sabbatical in a beautiful beach-front artist community, a town where he had spent numerous vacations and feel at home.  During the course of our conversation he half-jokingly explained to me a fantasy he has of opening a small deli in this town.  He was apologetic and almost embarrassed that he had had thought this out so clearly.  It got me thinking about the importance of fantasy in our lives.  It’s not so silly.  Fantasy puts you one step closer to a goal; from there you can see what it would take to make your fantasy a reality.

Shortly before I graduated from library school I was assigned the task of writing a letter to myself stating what I wanted to accomplish professionally in the following five years.    Looking back, I accomplished everything on that list within that time frame–everything.  If I had not taken the time to actually think of where I wanted to go in my career and written it down, I doubt I would have actually accomplished these things.  What I had done, and what my friend did by working on the details of his fantasy, was create a personal vision statement.

Visioning is something organizations do quite regularly to plan their future direction.  This is something we can capitalize on in our personal lives and to set our personal/professional trajectory. It is just one of the ways we improve our personal satisfaction by applying business principles to our personal lives.  Wondering where life will take you?  Why not work on your personal vision and determine where you will take your life!


Happy New Year!

I am excited to be working again after a glorious 6 week summer holiday.  I spent time with my family, reconnected with old friends and generally enjoyed a lot of sunshine.  In other words, I sharpened the saw .

September has always been a special time for me.  For most of my life I have lived in an academic rhythm.  Back-to-School is my New Year’s Eve–a time of celebration and tremendous energy surrounding working on new goals.  It is great to be once again thinking about leadership development and have some exciting new projects coming up.

Happy New Year!