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.

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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Time Management Lessons from a Tomato

Hands down, my favorite time management technique is Pomodoro.  I don’t claim to be a Pomodoro expert, and didn’t really know there were Pomodoro experts until I began to research for for this post. In fact, the technique is trademarked, so perhaps I should say I practice a Pomodoro-type of time management. I love Pomodoro because it is easy to do and IT WORKS!

The technique is quite simple and all you need to get started is something you probably already have:  a kitchen timer.  Here’s how I practice Pomodoro:

  1. Sit down at my workspace with a specific task I wish to accomplish.
  2. Set the timer for approximately 20 minutes (official Pomodoro practice says 25–I adjust this according to task and how I am feeling).
  3. Work like crazy until the timer goes off.  After that, it’s break time for 5 minutes.  I often work a bit over the time limit as Pomodoro is a great way for me to stop procrastinating and get to work.
  4. Repeat.

The video below describes some advanced ways to use the technique to further master your time.

Write Yourself a Letter

photo from

photo from

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.