Strategy for 21st Century Library Excellence

Since all libraries and leaders are different, there is no formula for creating an excellent library. However, developing a strategy and plan for achieving excellence is the most important plan you’ll ever create. The six steps discussed below will help you outline an effective strategy for achieving excellence in your leadership and in your library.

1. Assessment: In order to get where you want to go you have to know where you are. That seems exceedingly obvious, but many leaders look more toward where they want to go than where they are. Therefore, the best route to get from where they are to where they want to be is never charted. No strategy is planned as to how they should proceed. They end up side tracked because they know what they want but not how to achieve it. Without sign posts, intermediate check points and alternate routes, it is hard for anyone to get where they want to go, especially when you need to take dozens, or hundreds, or even a handful of people (each with their own ideas) along with you. However, it can be just this simple:
a) know precisely what you want your library to achieve,
b) assess where you are now,
c) establish indicators to tell you your progress toward your library excellence goal and,
d) above all else, stay on track.

2. Build on Small Successes: Success is contagious. Everyone wants it. When people see others being successful they will make efforts to be successful themselves, at whatever they can. Build on whatever successes you can find in your library. If it is one department, one campaign, a single program, or even one excellent employee, emphasize their success and give them the “bragging rights” they have earned. Do not let anyone or any part of the library rest on their laurels. Excellence is achieved through constant effort and success.

3. Create Uniqueness: Just being successful does not guarantee achieving excellence. Uniqueness helps create that extra spirit which makes successful libraries excellent ones. A library mascot, common hardships, adversity turned into triumph, a history, or most anything that identifies the library can spark that uniqueness. Anything that members can hold up as a rally symbol to create that desire to belong to this library over any other library promotes the intangible motivation to excellence. Are there any positive stories or “legends” that live on in your library? Any that typifies the highest values of excellence? Or, just the ones that typify the existing values of self-preservation and people really don’t come first?

4. Control Competition: Competition is inherent in almost every human endeavor. Competition is a healthy motivator if used constructively. If one section or department always wins the “BEST WHATEVER AWARD” then competition becomes destructive. Competition should be channeled toward beating the high standards that will achieve excellence. Exceeding “minimum” standards, or just exceeding the libraries own “personal best” at anything is the most constructive competition to pursue, not beating each other. Beating each other creates a WINNER-LOSER situation. Beating the standards creates an EVERYBODY WINS situation. Competition can also be directed externally at a recognized problem. How can we show our relevance to the community? How can we attract more customers? How long can we keep the circulation growing? How can we gain more strategic partners?

5. Teamwork: Teamwork in an excellent library is valued more than individual expression. Library goals are valued more than individual interests. Activities are planned to promote teamwork and recognition is shared by team members. Teamwork is contagious also. Successful teams at the smallest level will lead to success in building teamwork at the library level.

6. Strong Library Identity: Members of excellent libraries know it and want to tell people. Strong library identification is also called “library pride.” Excellent libraries keep and attract excellent people who want to belong because it fulfills their need to be associated with a successful organization.

If all the factors discussed above are exercised by excellent leaders, excellent libraries with strong library pride will result.

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