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.

Personalized Productivity (part 1)

Why Personalize Productivity?

Productivity is more important than ever. We have ever-increasing demands on our time. We are continually barraged with information through all types of media and devices. We need to manage both inputs and outputs. Naturally people turn to productivity and time management systems for relief. But the list of time management systems and tools is equally daunting. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity. Everyone must find their own tools. I focus on the specific tools and tips in part 3 of this series.

Productivity Fundamentals:

Stephen Covey writes that time management is really personal management. Time management is managing yourself. It is self discipline. Certainly a simple concept, but one that’s very difficult to do.  The first step is knowing your personal priorities.

Time management systems all have commonalities. They advise collecting your tasks then dedicating time to do them.  There is a certain amount of variety in the way this is described and the flavor of how this happens, which is great because you can pick a system that works for you.


Most time management systems focus on the Goals to tasks to time box part of the diagram.  That leaves out the most important part: knowing your strategy. Your personal strategy—your mission—helps to inform your goals. Each goal and task will be easier to accomplish because it will be meaningful to you.

Productivity and the Mission Statement:

Organizations large and small need mission statements, as do individuals.  Your mission statement is your “home truths;” your raison d’etre; your statement of purpose. Mission Statements can help you to filter the important from the less important (or unimportant). Your mission statement will help you set your direction. You can begin to unearth your mission rather quickly by reflecting and writing on the following questions:

  1. What do you do? What product of service do you provide?
  2. Who do you do this for?
  3. Why do you do it`?
  4. What makes your product or service unique so that a client would choose you to do it?

For entrepreneurs, the personal mission is often entwined with business mission.  If you work for an organization it can be helpful to write a personal mission as well. Some additional questions might be helpful to personalize your mission.

  1. What do you want?
  2. Are you ready for this?
  3. What commitment is necessary to achieve it?

Some additional exercises that might be helpful to clarifying your mission include the following writing topics:

  1. Write about an influential person. What positive impact did he or she have? What qualities do you admire most? What qualities did you gain from this person?
  2. List 10 things that are most meaningful to you today? What do you live for and love in life?
  3. Write yourself a letter:  write a letter as your future self. What have you accomplished?
  4. Try to encapsulate what is important to you in one word. Focus on that word for a period of time and evaluate how that focus has impacted your work-life. 

In part 2 of this series I will explain some of the productivity tools that help you to use your mission to improve your productivity.

  Has clarifying your mission been helpful to you?
 I'd love to hear why or why not. 

This is the first in a three part series on productivity. It is based on material I presented at Spark 2015 on June 16, 2015, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The conference was targeted at women entrepreneurs but the material is really universal. 

Find Your Passion & Put It To Work

Something awesome happened to me last year–I figured out a way to work related to my passion.  I didn’t even know how awesome it was at the time but recently got some perspective on it.  A few weeks ago I spoke to a friend whom I hadn’t seen since before that time.  I explained where I was professionally right now and he was shocked.  The last time we spoke I was…adrift.  I had relocated abroad, leaving a career I loved behind.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to find professional fulfillment in my new environment.  I had lost my focus, my mojo, my spark–Then BAM!  Things changed. Since he was looking to reignite his own professional spark, he asked me.  I didn’t have a ready answer.  How did it happen? Here are some factors:

1.  Know your passion

I am really lucky that I have always known my passion: I want libraries to be excellent and for that to happen excellent people have to work in them.  For some people it’s not so easy to know exactly what their passion is.  How do you begin to discover it?  Ask yourself what is important to you– important enough to work for. Then try to narrow down to the most important thing for you. Think about your skills and ways that you have contributed in the past that have given you personal fulfillment.

2.  Get some perspective

Once you know your passion it’s important to create the mental space to really consider the “how” of executing this important work. My thinking took place on holiday but it’s not necessary to take a trip.  I think getting outside of your normal routine can help with this kind of soul searching but it could just be going for a walk or sitting quietly for a few minutes.

3.  Ask, “How can I make my passion work?”

I knew what was important to me, I just didn’t know how to make it work with my life circumstances.  I began to wonder how I could engage in meaningful work related to my passion.  Even when I was a practicing librarian I was occasionally retained as a consultant and  always dreamed of making that my full time job. Now I had the opportunity to do just that.  I asked myself, “what would have to be in place for me to be successful?”  and thought about what was already in place that would allow me to do this important work. I thought about what I wanted to do and how I could get there.

For me in order to create the professional fulfillment I want I had to do a few things.  I knew I had to stick with the target audience I know–North American research libraries.  That means I would have to accept zone differences and some degree of professional travel, even with a young child.  Once I got myself OK with that, I thought about what I needed to do to start working at my passion. For me the answer was to make time.  Rather than thinking about work as something I slotted in when I had the time I decided to make the time.  By dedicating actual work hours I created a business plan.  I wrote a social media strategy. I look for new prospects and leads.  I use the precious commodity of time to pursue my passion. I read.  I blog. I have ideas for new services I can provide to help libraries and librarians be excellent.

Have you found a way to make your passion work?  I’d love to hear about it.

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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

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.


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!