Planning for the Future

The Trustee and Library Planning

Change is a constant.  All institutions will either change over time or cease to be relevant.  For each institution, the question then is not "Will we change?" but "How will we change?" The public library that does not plan for change will still change over time, but the changes will lack focus and may not result in desired outcomes.  Change without a plan is change in response to immediate pressures, and not change to meet long-range needs.  The library, in other words, will drift.

Change by drift, however, is likely to make the library less and less relevant to its community's real needs. Faced with the choice between an agency that is playing a dynamic role in community affairs and one which is adrift in the sea of change, the public is likely to support the agency that is truly meeting its needs.

The library board and library staff can do nothing to stem the tide of societal change, but they can make the library more efficiently responsive to change by developing a strategic plan. Such a plan, which usually covers a two- or three-year period, establishes the library's role or roles in the community, and gives the library an overall direction to pursue. Based on these long-term decisions, specific short-term decisions can be made in light of their long-range implications.

Planning, then, is essential for the public library, and it is a vital part of the function of the library board.

As access to information becomes an increasingly important commodity in our society, people who are unserved by a tax-funded library will be left behind educationally and economically.  It is extremely important that communities make decisions about library services from this perspective.

Benefits of Written Plans

  • Makes it easier to justify your budget to governing authorities
  • Helps you prioritize programs and direct efforts towards tasks that lead to the attainment of objectives

Library boards continuously guide, shape and build library services for their community as they make judgments on money, buildings, programs and staff. The challenge is to make these decisions based on a carefully considered written plan. The purpose of planning is to anticipate both opportunities and problems.

Planning Tips

Planning is not an easy task. It requires time and careful organization to accomplish. Special board committees should be formed and a series of planning meetings scheduled to allow ample time to explore, brainstorm, and dream before making final decisions.

Boards can create advisory committees, sponsor public meetings, encourage open staff discussions, hire outside consultants, and use public relations tools in the planning process. Participation leads to support and understanding of the plan developed. The library director and board are partners planning with the community, not just for the community.

Don't overlook the regional planning commission or professional planners who are part of local government. Be sure to keep them informed of library goals and work with them to include library service in the community's plans at every possible opportunity.

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Your ICfL Area Field Consultant can help you develop a strategic plan for your library:

WebJunction Courses on Strategic Planning
Strategic Planning:

  • The Five-Minute Introduction (LE@D)
  • Strategic Planning: Quick, Cheap, and Decent (LE@D)
  • Strategic Planning and Risk Management 

 Statistics: library services, circulation, collection, general output measures:

Data: census figures, community analysis, results of surveys or studies made by the library and/ or other community agencies and institutions

People: staff, community leaders, Friends, Idaho Commission for Libraries:

Groups: counties, municipalities, schools, regional planning agencies, colleges and universities with information to share

Community Cooperation: attend public meetings and listen to the needs; make presentations to organized groups; prepare exhibits and displays in the library and other locations