Strategic Planning Case Studies
GEORGIA STATE LIBRARY
The state library office in Georgia recognized the need for public libraries across the state to perform strategic planning to more effectively serve residents and deal with their ever-changing internal and external environments. Yet, the office did not have the resources to offer the training for free and there was a recognition that many of the libraries, especially the smaller, more rural libraries, did not have the resources to hire strategic planning consultants or other outside assistance.
Library Strategies was hired to provide a two-day training and follow-up support to a cohort of 15 to 20 librarians and state library staff on Library Strategies’ Rapid Results Planning (RRP) process. Rapid Results was chosen because it is an expedited, relatively low-cost, yet highly effective strategic planning process, with a focus on community needs. The intensive training, conducted by three principal Library Strategies consultants, included a written handbook and guide to the planning process, as well as a fun and engaging half-day mock community retreat.
As a result of the training, a cohort of lead strategic planners is now in place across Georgia, and each is committed to leading an RRP planning process for one of their neighboring public libraries. To date, numerous RRP processes have been conducted with successful, community-oriented plans put in place for primarily smaller and more rural libraries across the state. By “training the trainer” and then having each person commit to sharing their expertise with a fellow library, the RRP training helped make meaningful strategic planning processes attainable for public libraries across Georgia.
WASHINGTON COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM (PA)
The Washington County Library System is a consortium of 14 independent member libraries, located just south of Pittsburgh. The System had largely served to pass through state funding to its member institutions until a few years ago when it developed a unified catalog and other coordinated activities. Significant challenges for the system included on-going funding and support for the System versus individual member libraries, marketing and promotion of the System, and coordination and collaboration within the region.
Following extensive conversations with the System leads and a host of information gathering, Library Strategies developed a modified Rapid Results Planning® strategic planning process and retreat for the Washington County Library System. The day-long retreat included key stakeholders from the boards and member libraries across the System.
Due to the particular funding, staffing and system issues, the consultants created a special presentation for the retreat to address and raise awareness of the future challenges for the System. This allowed the planning process and stakeholders to focus on key issues and opportunities for both the regional system, and its member libraries. From this, the final strategic plan included specific achievable goals in staffing, funding, and PR and marketing. Beyond the written plan, the process also raised significant awareness of on-going structural issues facing the System that member libraries, public officials and key library boards can begin to address to strengthen library service for County residents.
STILLWATER PUBLIC LIBRARY
An independent library serving a city population of approximately 18,000, the Stillwater Public Library was coming to the end of its previous strategic plan. Housed in an historic building that had been extensively renovated and expanded about 6 years previously, and well-loved in the community, the Library found itself struggling with inadequate funding following the expansion, as well as from budget cuts due to the “great recession.” Additionally, the Library struggled with accomplishing the previous planning structure, which focused on specific service outcomes.
Library Strategies conducted a Rapid Results planning process, including information gathering, community and staff surveys, a stakeholder retreat, and development of strategic and implementation plans. Library Strategies also provided additional support to the Library and Board, including an executive summary and timeline for Board actions.
The solutions for the Stillwater Public Library were strategic and implementation plans, focused on the “big picture” directional issues facing the Library, rather than detailed service needs. Some of the issues addressed in these plans included rethinking management of the facility, staffing and human resources directions, thoughtful downsizing of the collections, and long-term funding issues. This focus allowed the Library leadership to focus more specifically on the challenging issues holding back more effective Library service for the community.