Plans of Service

Plans of Service:

Being responsive to community needs should be a priority for public libraries. Although we may have an idea in our minds of what a library should be, we are publicly funded institutions so fulfilling the needs of the community that funds us should be our driving force. A tool like Sandra Nelson’s Strategic Planning for Results is a valuable resource when struggling through the process of long-term strategic planning for the library.

The book itself focuses on the essential steps to create a results-driven strategic plan using a process that takes about four months to complete.  Broken down into very simple steps with explanations to assist the absolute novice to understand the planning process, the book clarifies the simplest of procedures and terms making it very user-friendly. Nelson states that “any book written for everyone will have to be modified by each user to reflect the unique local environment” (p. xvii), so although the simplicity is there, the author clearly understands that not everyone is going to need it, or at least not need all of it. Keeping in mind that the book is written for “everyone”, there are sample meeting agendas, work flow forms, tips to attract stakeholders to the process, instructions on how to present the final plan and a compilation of forms necessary to work your way through the process. The book is nothing if not thorough.

Nelson repeats throughout the process that this is a community endeavour: that everyone from the library staff to the board to local residents and stakeholders should have their interests represented on the planning committee (p. 11). Each has a role at every stage of the process (p. 19) and the process from beginning to end including all the meetings should take no more than four months.

Ultimately, the purpose is to identify community needs and link those needs to the eighteen identified service responses. It is recommended by Nelson that unless you are a large library (Edmonton or Calgary in our case in Alberta), one should have no more than four service responses. These service responses are the backbone of everything the library does for the duration of the plan for the library, so it is advised that the responses be picked well and thoughtfully. Nelson, again, assists the planners on their way, describing not only the response, but suggested target audiences, services and programs that work with the response, potential partners, policy implications, critical resources, and possible measures for each.

Staff and staff buy-in are essential not only to the planning process but in carrying out the final plan over the subsequent years. Nelson recognizes and addresses this throughout her book, providing strategies for communicating with them, addressing their concerns about change, involving them in the creation of mission, vision and value statements, creating reports specifically for them, and more.

Public Library Services Branch’s annual report breaks down the numbers they are looking for into exactly the service responses that Nelson lays out. If the library keeps track of statistics according to where each program fits into each of the selected strategic responses, completing the province’s annual report is child's play.

Sample plans of service.