21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Goals and Objectives

The information in the original Post has been included in Chapter 7 – Goals and Objectives of my new book – “Crash Course in Strategic Planning

“A visionary strategic plan is monumentally important to becoming a good library, but it is critical to providing a library that is highly relevant to a 21st Century community. Becoming a highly relevant library in the future environment of your community is venturing into totally unknown territory because there are so many unknown and unfamiliar factors and influences involved as stated throughout this book. Since these factors and influences are changing so rapidly, attempting to accomplish the necessary goals and objectives of a 21st Century library without a strategic plan is unimaginable. Where would you begin? What activities would you select to receive those critically limited resources, or would you just allow staff to randomly do their own thing? How will you know when you’ve achieved any goals or objectives leading toward your mission?

Some librarians think planning strategically or otherwise is a tired old library standard with which everybody is familiar but really can just be ignored. Unfortunately, it’s not something to be ignored when it comes to a strategic plan to guide your public library into this uncertain 21st Century environment. There is too much at stake, including the survival of your library, to simply keep pursuing business as usual and hope for the best.” [Pg. 41]

(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.


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3 responses to “21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Goals and Objectives

  1. Steve

    I’ve actually been thinking about this for days. I always come back to this method being very old school. We follow it because we need to to “comply” with some form of strategy. Yet we’re constantly told to think outside the box.

    Think of playing a game as a kid. Somebody always asks, “What’s the objective of this game?” I guess they assume the “Goal” is to win and the objectives get you to the winning move.

    I just think it gets down to arguments about semantics. “We will develop an oral history collectin from veterans (goal) by….” Well…”collecting oral histories (objective).” Of course we intuitively know that we have to gather interviewers, get a list of questions, obtain the recording equipment, obtain the transcribing equipment, teach techniques, etc. but are the goal and the objective really different or is it just a way of making the proposal look better fit a schematic?

    End of rant.

  2. Serendipity is a wondrous thing in life. I was ruminating just this morning about the “So what?” related to the Strategic Plan, had put down some thoughts for future use, then POW – a comment that aims straight at the heart of “So what?” (I try to ask myself “So what?” frequently about most everything. Until I answer that question for myself, I’m never an advocate for whatever it may be.)

    Only because I know the author of this comment, I know his exceeding capabilities for running a high quality library in any century. But, unfortunately for other professionals, the challenges of running a library are more daunting. To me, that is when a GOOD Strategic Plan is very valuable.

    A couple of questions naturally crop up regarding the Strategic Plan and value of the whole process and product. “How in the world can this possibly be worth the time and effort?” and “How can this Plan possibly be that important?”. The answer is simple – It is THE BEST method to ensure that your library accomplishes the Goals it has established to achieve the Mission it has determined is important!

    Everything contained in the Strategic Plan is designed and oriented toward achieving the library’s Mission – EVERYTHING! Even the measures to prove that you have achieved that Mission. Nothing is superfluous! If there is anything in the plan that is NOT an Activity that contributes to an Objective to achieve a Goal, then it should not be in the Plan!

    Why does the Plan go into such detail? – because that is the only way to ensure that what the library DOES – each individual Activity – contributes to the Mission. AND, the only way to ensure that library resources are being applied to accomplishing the Mission, is to ensure that they are applied to the specific Activity that contributes to an Objective to achieve a Goal! Otherwise, critical resources may be being depleted by fun activities that only contribute to someone’s self actualization.

    Most libraries have Goals and Objectives that are fairly complex in terms of providing all the services to fulfill its role in the community. Keeping them all straight and ensuring that the library’s Activities ALL contribute to the Mission is complex.

    While this may all seem exceedingly mechanical, as in – if you have a good Plan then any monkey can run a library – the creativity, art and talent is in developing the Mission, Goals and Objectives, and in running a library by getting every employee to perform well everyday when they might rather not this particular Monday, AND in adapting to the ever changing external and internal environment.

    The obvious next question is – “Why bother if it all depends on talent to adapt to all those changes that weren’t foreseen by the Strategic Plan?” – because in order to get where you want to be, you have to start from where you are, and without a Strategic Plan you don’t even know where you want to be, OR where you are. It’s like beginning a business trip (Not a vacation, because sometimes vacations are best when you don’t care where you are or where you end up.) not knowing where you are leaving from or destined for – that’s not going to get you anywhere!

    Remember the Forecast portion of the Plan? That considers the external environment factors that you expect will impact the library’s operation, and includes their affects. That’s all you can do, anticipate and plan. Doubt and uncertainty can cripple an organization if you let it, but you have to not let it.

    Without an adequate Strategic Plan your library will likely be spinning its wheels, wasting its resources and getting nowhere. It’ll be treading water, trying to stay afloat and worrying about how to keep the doors open, not knowing how to solve any problems or make any progress. Sounds depressing!

    A Strategic Plan should give you the road map to your vision of what you want your library to be. Call it anything you like, make it as detailed or general as meets your needs, just so it helps you identify and get to what you want to be as a 21st Century Library.

  3. Joyce

    I am a fund raiser for a small. public library and have been trying to steer my board towards a more strategic approach to planning. This entire site provides the information that I need. Thank you!

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