Long-range planning is a fundamental duty of the Board. It takes some hard work, but once completed, a written long-range plan serves as a road map to guide the Board and the library director as they make decisions about the budget, services, personnel and other considerations.

There are several long-range planning methods. Many have the same components but differ in process. The information presented in this chapter is based on a streamlined long-range planning process developed by Sandra Nelson for the Public Library Association. You can learn more about this process in Nelson's book, Strategic Planning for Results (American Library Association, 2008). If your library does not have a copy, it is available from the State Library.

The most important aspect of Nelson's approach is its focus on community. The library exists to serve the community. But it cannot do that effectively without the community's goodwill and support.

Although your library might be doing a good job in meeting some of the needs of your community, it is likely that other needs are going unmet. The best way to identify how the library can better serve the community is to include community members in the planning process. There are two ways to do this:

Take advantage of other long-range planning processes. If your city or county has already gone through a long-range planning process, look at that document to see how the library can play a roll in helping the community achieve its future goals.

Ask community members to be a part of a committee involved in the planning process for the library. Consider people who represent diverse populations, such as teens, seniors, business people, blue collar workers, government officials and others.

A Board member and library staff member should also serve on the committee as representatives of the library. If possible, however, the library director should serve only as an ex-officio member. If the library director serves as a full member, committee members will likely look to her or him for guidance defeating the purpose of the committee.