21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Mission Statement


The information in the original Post has been included in Chapter 3 – Mission Statement of my new book – “Crash Course in Strategic Planning

“This strategic plan model begins with the mission statement because the reason why you exist should come before everything else, even the vision. Without the parameters defined by a mission, the vision could be anything, which might not even directly relate to your library, let alone be realistic.

It also needs to be understood that the mission, vision, and values statements work in concert to create a complete definition of your library. Therefore, it is highly useful to exploit the unique purposes of each of the three statements rather than try to make each statement independently define your library.” [Pg. 13]

In order to be a useful mission statement, it must be realistic and achievable. What is the library’s mission in the 21st Century? Is it different from or the same as it has always been? Many believe it is the same because it is a “core” mission (whatever that means in a 21st Century context). The fact that real-world libraries are changing to survive supports the assertion that any core mission that existed has changed to address the environmental changes that have occurred in the 21st Century. [Pg. 14]

(Matthews, Stephen. Matthews, Kimberly. (2013). Crash course in strategic planning. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.)

Our book is now available from Libraries Unlimited. Visit their website for more information and your book orders.

Thank you for your interest and support of the 21st Century Library Blog.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Mission Statement

  1. Joe Matthews

    I found the following on the bottom of the Cleveland PL Web site
    “©2010 The Cleveland Public Library
    Inspiring people of all ages with the love of books and reading.”
    Sort of sounds like a mission statement to me – don’t ya think?

    Also, I believe most libraries develop long range plans and not strategic plans. The reason? A strategic plan focuses on what strategies will be used to deliver services (the how if you will. For example, moving away from Dewey and storing the collection in high-density shelving units in call number order to the merchandising of the collection using broad book store type of categories with all face-out display of books is a significantly different strategy. And of course, this strategy has broad implications in terms of new units to display materials, how the item is identified in the library online catalog, staffing, space and so forth.

    I will look forward to seeing your reactions.

    • Juan Tomas Lee

      Joe, I am not sure I agree with your assertion that strategic plans focus on strategies. I believe libraries can no longer try “to be everything to everyone;” libraries need to carefully identify what is REALLY needed in the community and from those needs, prioritize the ones that the library is well suited to address. This process of assessment and reallocation of reources is the STRATEGIC part of the plan. Just an opinion…

      • Joe Matthews

        But few libraries actually consider dropping an existing service or even radically changing the way a service is delivered. A number of studies have demonstrated that as much as 80% of the people coming to the library do not have a specific item in mind (just general topics). Yet most libraries are not organized to encourage and facilitate browsing of the collection. Rather the library assumes that most people will use the library’s online catalog (which they don’t) and obtain a call number and then go the shelves to browse around the call number that was identified.
        The whole idea of a customer-focused library (my book that was published last year) is that the library should become much more responsive to a variety of customer segments – and not attempt to be all things to all people.

        • THAT is the MOST radical concept I have ever heard! A public library should “not attempt to be all things to all people.” Seriously? Wasn’t that the whole founding premis for a public library – to promote a more informed citizenry? equal access to all? And has the ‘citizenry’ become SO diverse that the library can no longer and should no longer provide for the information needs of ALL the citizens?

  2. Yes, that does sound like a mission statement, albeit lofty and ‘inspiring’, which could qualify for a vision statement.

    I must admit that around this office we have used long range plan and strategic plan pretty much interchangeably. It seems a bit like the distinction between mission statement and vision statement, very fuzzy; the task I was going to attempt next in my Blog series.

    Wouldn’t repositioning a library that is using a traditional 20th Century model to a library using a 21st Century model appropriately necessitate a strategic plan? I understand your explanation in theory between long range and strategic, but can you point to a good example of each type plan so that the distinctions would be more concrete?

    Thanks for the insight.

    • Joe Matthews

      Long range plans typically have 5-6 objectives and for each objective 1-5 (or more) goals for each objective. But the basic assumption is that the library will continues what it is already doing with just some minor changes over the coming 3-5 years. There is not consideration of alternative strategies. IMHO, strategic planning starts with developing a clear understanding of the community being served and their needs, developing a set of services and their priorities before alternative strategies are considered.

  3. OK, well it sounds like we generally agree on the purpose and function of a ‘strategic’ plan vs. a ‘long-range’ plan. Seems like in this current and future uncertain environment (technology, public demand, funding, etc.) that re-evaluating the future every 3-5 years is a necessity, thus the long-range plan is relegated to more stable internal and external circumstances, which we may not see again for a very long time.

  4. Joe Matthews

    A response to your earlier reply
    “THAT is the MOST radical concept I have ever heard! A public library should “not attempt to be all things to all people.” Seriously? Wasn’t that the whole founding premis for a public library – to promote a more informed citizenry? equal access to all? And has the ‘citizenry’ become SO diverse that the library can no longer and should no longer provide for the information needs of ALL the citizens?”
    The reality is that no public library, despite its budget, can serve the entire population of its community. It always has served a portion of the community that chooses to use the public library. And when usage data is examined carefully the old 80/20 rule is always observed – 80% of usage comes from 20% (or less) of the population. True the library can serve those it currently does not serve if these people CHOOSE to use the library (physically or online). But to assert that the public library serves the entire is one of those “cannons of faith” that simply is not true.
    Thus, the suggest that the library should focus and better serve those that ARE using the library – especially in these times of declining budgets.

    • OK, when you put it in that context, maybe it’s not SO radical. (I was being mostly facetious anyway.) The BIG issue then becomes – “Who are our patrons?” – the answer to which is a moving target at best.
      Thanks.

      • Joe Matthews

        Rather than thinking of library customers from a demographic perspective I think it is much more productive to think about the reasons why people use the library and develop customers segments around use. And use will vary for the same individual over time. One radical concept is to consider how to deliver “knock your socks off” service for each different type of use. The Dover Public Library identified 8 different types of customers: experience seekers, explorers, problem solvers, facilitators, patrons, scholars, spiritual pilgrims and hobbyists.

  5. Joe Matthews

    Being responsive to customer needs – Gee …. I don’t know. Why would that be a bad concept even if it is mostly discussed within a business context? Maybe it’s just me but I believe any library should be customer focused and deliver high quality services that customers VALUE.

  6. Pingback: Mission « Matt Phillips

  7. The mission of the Cleveland Public Library is to be the best urban library system in the country by providing access to the worldwide information that
    people and organizations need in a timely,convenient, and equitable manner.

    Found within their 2009 report to the Community

    • Thanks. Does “best urban library system in the country” seem a bit unrealistic? How would that be measured?
      Maybe that is more appropriately a Vision? Visions don’t need to be measured, or even necessarily achieved, but something to be held up as THE IDEAL.

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