Chapter 2 - Planning for Library Excellence
What is planning?
Planning is a simple process used every day. In the process, one decides where he is,
where he wants to be, and how he gets there. Getting to work every day, grocery
shopping, preparing for a vacation or trip, and saving for retirement are examples of
events that require planning.
More formally, planning is an organizational process of envisioning a desired future and
developing the necessary infrastructure to achieve it.
Overall, the purpose of planning is to achieve excellence in public library service. Some
- Planning provides information to use in decision-making.
- Planning provides a blueprint for future library development.
- Planning guides decision-makers in setting necessary priorities about who
receives what service with what efficiency.
- Planning provides information to use in the allocation of resources, particularly
when they are scarce.
- Planning leads to structured positive change resulting in improved library
- Planning makes crises less critical.
- Planning encourages staff creativity and cooperation.
- Planning encourages accountability.
- Planning provides a basis for evaluating the library's performance.
- Planning can improve communication and give everyone who works with the
library a sense of common purpose.
- Planning pays off--organizations that plan out-perform those that do not.
What are the steps in the process?
There are many approaches to planning. Significantly, the Public Library Association
published a new approach to public library planning; Planning and Role Setting for Public
Libraries: A Manual of Options and Procedures (McClure et al. 1987) is designed to meet
the special needs of this community. The following is a summary of the eight major steps
recommended (McClure et al. 1987, 5 fig. 2).
Planning to plan
- Organizes the planning process,
- Shapes the planning process to the library's needs and resources,
- Coordinates planning with other management activities,
- Defines the responsibilities of major planning participants, and
- Organizes and trains the Planning Committee.
- Identifies information needed for planning,
- Collects information about the library and the community it serves, and
- Analyzes information gathered for planning decisions.
Developing roles and mission
- Describes eight distinct roles, or service profiles, that public libraries may
emphasize in providing services to their communities;
- Describes a method of determining which roles are to receive a major
commitment in the library and which are to be supported only minimally;
- Guides planners in writing a mission statement as a concise expression of the
roles chosen for emphasis; and
- Helps the library communicate its service focus to the public, elected officials,
Writing goals and objectives
- Translates the library's role choices and mission into statements of desired ends
- Defines goals as long-range and representing a vision of excellence in library
- Defines objectives as specific, time limited, and measurable or verifiable, and
- Provides a framework for implementation and evaluation.
- Produces tangible evidence of the library's planning,
- Identifies possible activities to implement the goals and objectives,
- Selects activities best suited to the library's circumstances and resources, and
- Leads to cycle of annual objective setting and updating of five-year plan.
Writing the planning document
- Describes creation of a formal report of the library's planning activities, and
- Provides an opportunity for communication with the public, the library staff,
and governing officials.
- Reviews the plan and its implementation activities after a period of time (two
to five years),
- Reviews extent to which objectives were accomplished, and
- Starts the planning cycle again.
"Levels of Effort" as a planning tool
Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries introduces the concept of "levels of
effort," an approach that allows library planners to adapt the process to a particular
library's needs, purposes, and resources. There are three levels of effort--basic, moderate,
and extensive. Any of these will result in acceptable plans.
Each library's level-of-effort choice reflects the interplay of several different
- Participants: The more individuals and groups represented, the higher the library's level of effort for planning will be.
- Resources: Higher levels of effort call for a proportionally greater
commitment of the library staff's time and larger expenditures from the library's budget.
- Library context: Libraries serving a community with rapid growth or
change, a complex and diverse population, shifting economic conditions, or libraries
facing a major change in funding may need to plan at a higher level of effort.
- Planning purposes: What the library expects the planning process to
accomplish may affect the level of effort chosen for some planning phases.
- Planning structure: Libraries planning at a basic level of effort may
approach many planning activities informally; but as library complexity increases, the
planning structure becomes more formal, thus increasing the level of effort.
- Planning schedule: Some libraries may complete their first objectives cycle
over a very short time period; higher levels of effort may require twelve to eighteen months to
complete. (McClure et al. 1987, 4)
A library may decide to set different levels of effort for different planning phases. The book
describes the characteristics of levels of effort for each planning phase, and Section 3
outlines the overall levels of effort for the Looking-Around phase of planning. In addition,
this handbook includes information on levels of effort for each Looking-Around option.
Role setting as a planning tool
Another unique feature of the planning process developed by the Public Library
Association and introduced in Planning and Role Setting for Public Libraries is the
concept of public library roles. Public library roles are library service profiles that describe
a combination of factors in planning and include:
- What the library is trying to do,
- Whom the library is trying to serve, and
- What resources the library needs to achieve these ends.
Chapter 4 of this handbook describes the role-setting process in more detail. The concept
and process of role-setting can be used as a helpful tool in gathering information about
people's perceptions of the library during Looking-Around as well as in decision-making
about library priorities.
Proceed to Chapter 3- Looking Around .
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