The Long-range Planning Process

The work of the long range planning committee is to identify what the community needs and how the library can help meet those needs. The committee's role is not to set the library's goals and objectives. That is the Board's job. Involving the community in the planning process, however, will ensure that those goals and objectives are firmly rooted in the community's best interests.

Where do we want to go as a community?

The first step for the community committee is to look at the big picture. What constitutes the ideal community? What makes it successful? What does Main Street look like in a great community? How would teens define a great community? What do seniors need from the community? What do working parents need? What other groups make up the community and what do they need? At this point the discussion is about the community.

Where are we now?

Once the committee has a vision of where it thinks the community should go, it needs to step back and consider the reality of where it currently is. The easiest way to do that is to look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that presently exist in the community. What are the community's strengths and how can they be drawn on to achieve success? Conversely, what are the weaknesses that might be barriers to that achievement? Are there opportunities around the corner? What are the present and future threats to success? This section is still focusing on the community.

What are the community's needs and how can the library help meet those needs?

The work done in steps one and two will reveal the work that must be done for the community to achieve its vision of the future. The committee can develop a road map detailing the steps to success. Included in that road map will be the role of the library. Although the library is represented on the committee, it will probably be helpful for the committee to meet with additional library staff and perhaps Board members to discuss how the library can best support the committee's vision.

The library's written long-range plan

After the community committee's road map is complete, the Board can prepare the library's long-range plan setting goals and objectives for serving the community. The following elements should be included in the written plan:

A short summary of the plan highlighting what the library wants to accomplish in the next three to five years.

The mission of the library.

Goals and objectives.

Implementation activities and the staff members responsible.

Measuring success

It is important that the Board monitors the implementation of the plan and its on-going effectiveness. Given today's ever-changing communities, the goals and objectives in the plan might need to be adapted. Trustees should set a schedule for reviewing the plan that includes periodic progress reports from the library director and any committees that are implementing parts of the plan, as well as an annual review and final evaluation. (See library evaluation primer for more on the evaluation process.)