Strategic Planning: Sample Process

Strategic Planning – Listen, and then act

Step 1 – Plan to listen:  Listening to the community together helps everyone focus on the future of the library.  Understanding community aspirations and needs is at the foundation of strategic planning.  The library board and director use what they learn to determine service priorities and plan how to allocate resources as the library moves forward.  The director and staff implement the plan; and board and director track and evaluate progress.

Community Listening Meeting: The Library Director and Trustees will participate as listener/facilitators, gathering input from participants who speak for various community audiences and interests.  Ideally, plan for three hours over a meal, followed by a short board debriefing.

This kind of meeting is very positive and inspiring to participants.  And it exposes people to the opportunities at the library as well – some of your participants may not use/know much about the library - so it’s kind of unintentional PR, too.  The data you gather will be invaluable, and there might be some surprises.

Invite stakeholder groups to send a representative to the listening session; sixteen to 20 participants is ideal but any number is valuable for the conversation.  Participants may include library users and non-users.  It’s important to include participants who are not library insiders.  Stakeholder groups can include:

  • Schools
  • Community Colleges
  • PTA
  • Home schoolers
  • Students
  • Civic organizations
  • Clubs
  • Business organizations
  • Religious organizations
  • Local government
  • Library supporting groups
  • Hospitals
  • Extension service
  • Social Services organizations
  • Youth, seniors, and family organizations
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Job services
  • Law enforcement
  • Public assistance recipients
  • Arts organizations
  • Local media
  • More…

Community Listening Agenda:  (approximate times)

  1. Describe community vision, preferred future, focusing on strengths (1st hour)
  2. Identify what’s needed for the community to achieve that vision (2nd hour)
  3. Identify what the library can do to help – the role of the library, library service responses – see below (3rd hour)
  4. Post session Board debriefing (20 minutes)

Timeline and invitations:

Set a date, time, location, and make preliminary arrangements for food.  Pick a time that works for all the members of the board – evenings and Saturdays can work, too.

Six weeks ahead of the date, contact representatives of stakeholder groups by telephone, explaining why you are asking for a representative to participate - have a written script to use for the phone calls.  Contact groups/organizations by telephone first, following the call with a written invitation and RSVP.  Seven to ten days before the event, contact again by telephone to double-check on attendance (for food count and as a reminder).  Boards usually divide this task so that each member does a set number of invitations.  This personal contact by board members conveys the importance of the event and helps establish new relationships with community leaders and influencers

Step 2 – Listen and act:

Hold Community Listening Session(s)

Staff Meeting:  Report to staff on results of community listening session.  Conduct a SWOC (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Challenges) analysis of the library, gather staff input.

Develop the Plan: Using the information gathered from the community and staff, the Library Board develops identifies strategic areas of focus that may incorporate the services responses listed below, and sets SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound), and objectives that align with community aspirations and needs.  This is a two-hour board meeting.

The Service Responses:  You may want to use these service responses to inform goal setting.


Get feedback on your plan from stakeholders and staff

Revise as necessary, publish and implement your plan

Repeat process as needed