Tag Archives: Strategic Plan

A Library SME in Community

SME means “subject matter expert”, and SME in ‘Community’ means someone on the library staff who is a subject matter expert about your community. Borrowing primarily from the field of training, SMEs are those individuals who have expert working knowledge in a particular topic.

From our vast resources at Wikipedia;

In general, the term is used when developing materials (a book, an examination, a manual, etc.) about a topic, and expertise on the topic is needed by the personnel developing the material. For example, tests are often created by a team of psychometricians and a team of subject matter experts. The psychometricians understand how to engineer a test while the subject matter experts understand the actual content of the exam. Books, manuals, and technical documentation are developed by Technical writers and instructional designers in conjunctions with SMEs. Technical communicators interview SMEs to extract information and convert it into a form suitable for the audience. SMEs are often required to sign off on the documents or training developed, checking it for accuracy. SMEs are also necessary for the development of training materials.

OK. So what does this have to do with librarianship?
• What is more important to the survival of the 21st Century Library than an intimate knowledge of your community? NOTHING!
• What is more critical to developing a relevant 21st Century Library than a working knowledge of your community? NOTHING!
• What is more useful to developing a relevant 21st Century mission and services than understanding your community’s needs? NOTHING!

Ergo – NOTHING is more important than having a SME in Community on your library staff. It does not have to be the Director, because if you follow the model outlined in the Wikipedia explanation – there is one librarianship SME and other SMEs in other areas – like Community – who could be a marketing or PR person, depending on the size of your staff and library system.

If you think you can accomplish a traditional ‘community needs assessment’ adequately every few years when it’s time for a new Strategic Plan – you could not be more wrong. Developing the required depth of knowledge about your community is almost a full time job. It takes many hours and constant interaction with community organizations and leaders to keep track of all this information, and it has to be constantly evaluated using critical analysis, not just casual observation. Documentation regarding trends, changes, events, activities, new developments, emerging leaders and factions, and virtually everything community related must be collected and kept to substantiate whatever conclusions the SME in Community develops.

This is not your SLIS professor’s ‘Community Needs Assessment 101’ – that will not work in this 21st Century environment.

If you’re wondering how to do all that, and what the SME in Community needs to know about the Community, read on.

You’ll recall that one of the new 21st Century Librarianship skills is Customer Targeting.

For decades ‘community needs assessment’ has been a pillar of librarianship, and more recently such undertakings have led to marketing efforts for library services to help improve circulation – the last great 20th Century library metrics.

At MyStrategicPlan, “a nationwide leader in on-demand strategic planning services”, there is a comprehensive Post on “customer targeting”, in which they present the idea that…there are six customer “types” and where they fit into the customer hierarchy.

However, a broader application of understanding your customers is in understanding your community. What are the demographics of your community? Not just population and data, but really meaningful information such as; ethnicity beyond simple statistics, economics beyond household income, employment beyond just major employers and the employee pool, education beyond just the percent of high school graduates, culture beyond just local ethnic events or holidays, transportation beyond just what is available, and life styles beyond simple economic indicators. There is much more to understanding the community than data! Even surveys, which are all biased toward those willing to take the time to respond, will not provide the type of in-depth information the library needs to provide relevant services. It requires someone from the library to be out in the community – participating!

Traditional community needs assessment endeavors to periodically collect community data using survey and demographic analysis methodology. That approach is nowhere good enough for today – let alone tomorrow. The analysis must be much more comprehensive and current. It must be information collected from within the community in a context of the community. It must be meaningful to the library’s SME in Community, so that it can be translated into library services – and marketing.

Below are some suggested areas of information to analyze.

• Legal service area
• Where patrons live (Are they spread out over great distances? Describe how people and communities are distributed within the library’s jurisdiction. Where do they congregate?)
• Age brackets of patrons (Whatever brackets seem appropriate for library needs)

• Average household income (Median household income also)
• Unemployment rate
• Percentage of families below the poverty line
• Economic resources the library can draw on

• Percentage of population over 18 with 12 years of school completed, 16 years, more
• List the schools in your community (elementary, middle, high, post-secondary, public and private)
• Describe the library/media facilities in the listed schools (do they define or serve any specific library services niche)
• Higher education institutions library services (do they define or serve any specific library services niche)

• Describe the cultural and recreational activities that are popular in the community served
• List the cultural and recreational facilities available in the library’s service area.
• List the cultural and recreational organizations that are active.
• List civic groups active in the area (their goals and interests and services)
• Community public communications (newspaper, radio, newsletter, message boards, etc.)

The most comprehensive outline for community needs assessment that I have found is from the Community Analysis Research Institute (CARI) Model© which establishes four units of analysis for communities: Individuals, Groups, Agencies, and Life Styles. It requires more depth for 21st Century application, but it provides an essential starting point and organization.

One of the major failings in virtually all community needs assessment approaches is the lack of connection between what the analysis reveals, and what that means to the library in terms of application of the information toward creating, abandoning or revising services and programs. What does it mean that xx% of the community has an average household income of $xx,xxx? What does it mean that the community has no cultural center? What does it mean that the community celebrates Ground Hog Day with a parade? What does it mean that the community starts public school the first of August each year? What does it mean that the community is a “university town”? Maybe there has been a logical reason for that.

This is where ideas and approaches like the “deeply local” approach of Kathryn Greenhill’s Getting deeply local at our libraries can benefit libraries in the 21st Century. I have emphasized that the 21st Century Library Model is customized and specific to each community. There is no universal one-model-fits-all, so each library must interpret their community for themselves. In my Post The Revolutionary Library of April, 2011 I wrote the following.

Even though there will continue to be a generally agreed upon body of knowledge for the profession that is taught by SLIS, and debated by gatherings of librarians, as well as some long-held tenets professed by associations of librarians – the ways in which we think about and perceive libraries in the 21st Century MUST fit the rapid and continually changing environment and circumstances of the future.

21st Century Library Paradigm:
The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of its local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.


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Customer Targeting – A New 21st Century Library Skill

Ever wonder what happened to that 20-something person you noticed in the library several times a couple of months ago? What did you know about them? Were they a life long community resident? A student? A parent? How about the older person who just started coming to the library – every day this past week? Did any staff member introduce themselves, or welcome these new customers and try to engage them in conversation?

All of these questions are related to knowing your customers, and as I wrote last January; “The absolute total purpose and focus of the 21st Century Library Model is the customer. Customer centered library services that meet the information needs of the 21st Century customer will result in any library remaining relevant to its community.” [ Customer Is The Purpose] Knowing your customers should ultimately lead to customer targeting. You know – for your marketing efforts. No marketing efforts? Maybe you should re-think that decision.

For decades ‘community needs assessment’ has been a pillar of librarianship, and more recently such undertakings have led to marketing efforts for library services to help improve circulation – the last great 20th Century library metrics. At MyStrategicPlan, “a nationwide leader in on-demand strategic planning services”, there is a comprehensive Post on “customer targeting”, in which they present the idea that…

there are six customer “types” and where they fit into the customer hierarchy. These include:

1. “Endorsers” — (5 percent of customer base) Endorsers are customers who tell other people about your company. Typically, the new customer comes in as an endorser, which you should capitalize on.

2. “Buyers” — (15 percent) A buyer will continue to buy from you, often exclusively, but no longer aggressively endorses your company. Maybe an invoice was incorrect or a shipment was incomplete. If one negative incident moves your customer from endorser to buyer, it may take 15 positive incidents to get him or her back as an endorser.

3. “Satisfied mutes” — (30 percent) These customers don’t talk to you and you don’t talk to them. If you ask one of them how the business is doing and they answer, “Fine,” that’s all you know.

4. “Dissatisfied mutes” — (30 percent) This customer has migrated from the ranks of satisfied mutes, but you don’t know it. That’s because no one is talking to anyone else. At this stage, it will take 60 positive incidents to make this person an “endorser” again.

5. “Grumblers” — (15 percent) You know these customers: no matter what happens, you can’t do anything right for them. They’ve experienced too many negative incidents. In essence, they have become “martyrs.”

6. “Complainers” – (5 percent) Though small in numbers, this type of customer can be deadly. They make a point of telling everyone how badly your company has treated them. They are not your friends.

Don’t these descriptions sound spot on to your library customers? Did you note the part where 95% of your customers are NOT endorsing your library? Did you note the part where 50% of your customers are NOT totally satisfied with your library? Do those seem like issues that might be worth addressing?

MyStrategicPlan goes on to discuss the various types of customers and the type of communication each needs.

I use a strategic approach called Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) that identifies and segments customers based on their behaviors, attitudes and experiences with a company. When implemented successfully, this results-driven strategy also helps companies reduce wasted marketing expense and uncover “hidden” revenue.

Identifying and managing the needs of each customer segment is critical in determining the amount and types of communications spent for each group. For example, new customers typically need to be welcomed and educated about the range of products and services an organization has to offer, whereas current customers (who have bought products and/or services in the past) benefit more from cross-sell messages. Similarly, a portion of customers who are at risk of switching allegiances to a competitor might be well served with some sort of retention intervention, while others who remain devoted to an organization, regardless of competitive forces, should be rewarded with a loyalty message.

Customers are not all alike. Treating all customers in the same manner, without regard to the customer lifecycle, is a sure-fire way to limit potential revenue and profitability. As an example, look at two customers at a health club:
• Customer A is very active at the club. She typically uses the facilities five times a week, often buys supplies and apparel in the pro shop, and has referred four people to the club in the past six months.
• Customer B, on the other hand, has not been seen since the day he joined the club nine months ago.

Membership renewal fees for both Customer A and B are due in three months. If the club uses the same marketing strategy to encourage Customers A and B to renew their memberships, it will probably spend more money than is necessary for Customer A, while not communicating enough benefit to Customer B, eventually losing this customer anyway.

Either way, utilizing the same marketing approach will cause a decrease in potential sales and profitability. Thus, a more segmented and targeted approach to sales and marketing is needed.

When you communicate with your customers, does your message address ALL of them, or target a specific segment of them? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that different library customers will respond to different messages? Not every customer is interested in every service you offer. When you think about your library customers, just think about yourself as a consumer. What message or ad would appeal to you? Would that same message or ad appeal to your spouse, parents, and children?

The MyStrategicPlan website goes on to discuss in much detail issues such as stages of customer behavior, targeting customers based on data, the four P’s, market research, and other related issues. It is well worth reading for anyone serious about revitalizing their marketing efforts.

One excellent piece of advice from MyStrategicPlan is doing your own research.

I’ve found over the years that even entrepreneurs without much of a budget can successfully perform quality research if they are creative, resourceful, and brave. Entrepreneurs on a budget may feel unable to apply formal market research techniques, but a simple four-step process can be effective:
1. Determine how to perform the research (one-on-one interviews, focus groups, surveys).
2. Develop the research instrument (interview questions, survey questionnaire, hands-on tasks).
3. Identify and recruit participants.
4. Understand what will be done with the results of the research.

The type of business you’re in will dictate the most appropriate approach. … If your product is aimed at a mass market, it may be more beneficial to recruit small numbers of people for focus groups until you have a feel for the market, and then validate it further using a survey.

Do you know your library customers? Do you want to increase your presence in the community? Do you want to increase the number of customers who use your library? Do you want to appeal to that 50% of your customers who are NOT totally satisfied with your library? Would you like to make more of your customers into “endorsers” for your library? Doesn’t customer targeting seem like a strategy that might be worth investigating?

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Too Busy Keeping the Library Running!

This situation appears to be all too common among the vast majority of librarians I’ve heard from, especially library directors. So, what is it with that situation? How do busy directors and managers have time to plan for a better future for their library?

Apparently, one of the major obstacles is simply the volume of issues facing librarians today. A good friend metropolitan library director sent me the following list of day-to-day requirements. [Makes me tired just reading it.]
Security: guards, crisis plans, theft from patrons of material and anything not nailed down (someone stole a fake plant), homeless issues (bathing in the toilets), illegal drug use (the doing, the ODs, the needles, the aftermath of the person ON drugs), drinking (in the library, leaving bottles hidden behind books, or just being drunk), mentally ill (violence, are they on or off their meds, and unfortunately you get to know them well enough you know, disturbing others), medical issues, with long term homeless or drug users, which include seizures, collapses, involuntary loss of bodily fluid control (vomit, urination, defecation), theft by staff of overdue fine money or materials, vandalism of library property inside and outside,
Personnel: discipline, behavior, hiring firing, schedules, social issues (dealing with conflicting personalities), staff shortages, training or lack of, staff manuals, union negotiations, human resources (benefits, civil service – in places that have it -, pensions, workers comp, unemployment insurance, etc.)
Budget: heaven help me – where do you start? year budget, audits, accountants, forecasting, going out for bid an contract by law,
Legal: making sure you do everything right, and have a great labor attorney

There is more, but I think for those of you who have been there – you know first hand. For those who have not, I think you get the idea.

Planning for Those Too Busy to Plan”, an article by Heather Berthoud & Bob Greene, Berthoud Consulting, addresses this subject pretty well. “Being too busy to plan is like running alongside your bicycle because you’re too busy to get on.”

Finding better ways to check-off to-do items still begs the questions, “are these to-do items truly important?” and, “where are these activities leading us?” Planning is about establishing priorities.

As consultants, we often hear: “we tried planning before, and it didn’t help.” Unfortunately planning is often confused with wishful thinking, lofty mission statements, and long to-do lists disconnected from environmental trends or organizational resources. Instead, planning should identify strategic responses to a changing environment and establish doable, measurable action steps. [Emphasis added.]

The article goes on to offer some very useful suggestions for short-, medium-, and long-term planning. The authors conclude that, “If you are too busy to engage in planning now, short- and medium-term fixes may be necessary. Recognize, though, that sometimes the busy-ness is a result of taking on too many disconnected tasks because “they seem like good ideas” and not because they are driven by a plan for the future.” [Emphasis added.]

In light of the multitude of disparate tasks described above, this approach to fixing the problem of no planning seems very simplistic. But, the point is that one must separate the routine demands from the overall vision and plan, so they do not lose sight of that bigger plan – that larger vision.

Posted by Stacie Dykstra, Nov 29, 2010, on Growth & Profit Solutions Blog (Cain Ellsworth & Co.), the following review of achieving excellence points out the #1 importance of planning.

Truly successful businesses excel in at least one of three key areas and adequately execute in the others depending upon the strategic focus they choose in delivering outstanding service to customers. These key areas are:
1. Product Excellence – Strategies that deliver the best product (or service) at the best value – e.g., Apple;
2. Customer Intimacy – Strategies that cultivate relationships and satisfy the unique needs of customers – e.g., Nike;
3. Operational Excellence – Strategies that deliver efficiency, low costs and make doing business simple and hassle-free – e.g., Wal-Mart.

Achieving excellence in these areas requires attention to 10 key critical success factors:
1. Planning

Many business owners say they are too busy working in the business to be able to concentrate on all these areas. Which is the reason why planning becomes so essential. It is the vital process that focuses your attention on the critical issues that will insure long-term success for your business. The development of winning strategies and their implementation requires effective planning and analysis to understand where your business is now, where you want it to be in the future, and how you are going to achieve your goals. [Emphasis added.]

The three key areas noted are especially applicable to the 21st Century Library – Product (Service) Excellence – Customer Intimacy – Operational Excellence. In order to achieve any of these the director and staff must PLAN.

One remedy I’ve read about and found successful is just start small to change. Start small – accomplish one short-term goal – and then keep going. Before long you’ll have an appreciation for how successful planning can be. Hopefully, that will develop a desire to make it work on the larger scale of a Strategic Plan.

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Create Your Vision of Your 21st Century Library!

The information in the original Post has been included in Chapter 5 – Vision Statement of my new book – “Crash Course in Strategic Planning

“What will you dare to dream that your library can become in this 21st Century environment? Whatever it is, dream it! and make it your vision statement (Lucas, 1998).

The reason the vision statement comes at this point in the process is because you have developed some parameters within which you can develop your vision that will make it realistic, achievable, and relevant to your library. If you began with the vision, you might not have a firm foundation of your mission around which you can develop a vision, and the vision might be so fantastic or seemingly unrealistic that it would be useless, seen by some as ridiculously unachievable or by others as highly inappropriate. [Pg. 27]

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

Our book is now in production by Libraries Unlimited. Visit their website for more information and an opportunity to pre-order the book, scheduled for release this summer.

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

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Strategic Plans & Strategic Partnerships

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

“One of the areas of planning that has developed from a 21st Century environment deals with strategic partnerships. Considering that this is a relatively new area of library endeavor, here is a suggestion about incorporating it into your next strategic plan. Remember that goals are the desired results we want to achieve to accomplish the mission, expressed in general terms.

* Goal #7.—Develop Strategic Partnerships.
Expressed in general terms, this Goal is broad enough to allow for more specific Objectives.

• Objective #O7.1—Seek out organizations, companies, agencies of any type within the community that have potential strategic partnership value to the library.
This description defines a specific objective to be proactive in determining what entities within your community have potential benefits for the library through a strategic partnership.

• Activity #A7.1.1 ….” [Pg. 48]

(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 an opportunity to order the book.

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

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Library Strategic Planning Process Overview

The information in the original Post has been included in Chapter 1 – Why Develop a Strategic Plan of my new book – “Crash Course in Strategic Planning

“Technology is changing. Customers are changing. Employees are changing. Communities are changing. Doing things the way we’ve always done them is shortsighted and impractical in the face of drastic 21st Century change. Strategies and processes that worked in the past will not be as effective in the future because both the internal and external environments are dramatically changing. At best, old methods will lead to stagnation, which will leave your library further behind what it should be to survive in the current environment. At worst, maintaining a status quo will lead to your library becoming irrelevant to your community, and eventually to its closure.
A strategic plan requires you to consider the changes in your environment, and to establish and prioritize goals and objectives, which will achieve your mission and vision in the face of these challenges.” [Pg. 1]

“Why is this important?” It is imperative before you begin the process to ensure that you have a consensus among the organization that strategic planning is an important and essential tool for success. Only then will you have the true commitment as opposed to empty agreements. True commitment will be required for participants to provide meaningful contributions to a process that will result in a useful plan with the possibility of effective implementation on all levels.” [Pg. 5]

(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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Library Braintrust

If there ever was a braintrust of library leadership in the United States – this was it! The participants included 20 state librarians, 16 deputy/assistant state librarians, and library directors from American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and PERL (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning based in Honolulu, HI), about 150 total participants. I was among the remaining group of staff who help their state library agency administer the LSTA Grant program.

The occasion was the Institute of Museum and Library Services hosted “Grants to States Conference 2011” to discuss how libraries may spend the $161.3M in federal funds “distributed to the states, the District of Columbia, [and] U.S. territories”.

For two and a half days in mid-March, IMLS has hosted, at their expense, a conference of state library administrative agency (SLAA) representatives to solicit their assistance. IMLS’ mission is “to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas” and it is “the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries”.

This was the largest combination of library brainpower, talent and influence it has ever been my privilege to be among, and it included the recent Presidential appointee IMLS Director Susan Hildreth, former Seattle Public Library director, former California State Librarian. That goes for the rest of the IMLS staff who are equally amazing! More than any federal agency I ever encountered – IMLS ROCKS!

From the very opening remarks by Director Hildreth, it was evident that IMLS considered the states’ librarians to be their partners in this new era of federal funding to libraries. As if that wasn’t revolutionary enough, they solicited our expertise and opinions on some pretty weighty issues. Congress has given IMLS new direction regarding areas upon which libraries should focus these federal resources, and IMLS seriously solicited librarians’ input on issues regarding “Barriers” to and “Opportunities” for achieving library program objectives in all states and territories.

For two days we broke into smaller working groups to consider issues such as;
• Building/Sustaining Information Resources
• Targeting Library and Information Services
• Strengthening the Library Workforce
• Integrating Services

Working groups brainstormed and strategized about these topics to provide IMLS with valuable information upon which they will base their new system for reporting our successes with IMLS funds. They are sincerely interested in telling a cohesive “library story” at the national level that will substantiate the value of local libraries, as well as provide accountability and transparency to this invaluable program.

IMHO, this was THE MOST PRODUCTIVE librarian event in which I have ever participated, it was for THE MOST WORTHWHILE GOALS I have ever imagined in connection with helping libraries grow, and it was conducted by THE MOST LIBRARY SUPPORTIVE national organization I have ever experienced.

This and following IMLS events will help guarantee a national perspective on library accomplishments that can subsequently be presented to library funders at all levels. Stay tuned for more detailed information on this hallmark event for libraries.

NOTE: For anyone not familiar with the LSTA Grant program:

For more than 50 years the LSTA [Library Services and Technology Act] Grants to States Program and its predecessors have supported the delivery of library services in the United States. Few public sector agencies in the country have been as responsive as libraries to the extreme shifts brought on by the information age. Rapid changes in information technology resulted in significant reorganization of library work and major changes to library service in public, academic, school, and research settings. Over this period libraries expanded their traditional mission of collecting and circulating physical holdings to one that also provides access to computers, software, and a host of new services, including an ever-increasing pool of digital information services.

The Grants to States Program is the largest grant program run by IMLS; it provides funds to State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAA) using a population-based formula. SLAAs may use federal funds to support statewide initiatives and services; they also may distribute the funds through subgrant competitions or cooperative agreements to public, academic, research, school, and special libraries in their state. The program has the benefit of building the capacity of states to develop statewide plans for library services and to evaluate those services every five years.

The overall purposes of the Library Services and Technology Act are to
 promote improvement in library services in all types of libraries in order to better serve the people of the United States,
 facilitate access to resources in all types of libraries for the purpose of cultivating an educated and informed citizenry, and
 encourage resource sharing among all types of libraries for the purpose of achieving economical and efficient delivery of library services to the public.

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