New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Facility Planning: The Strategic Plan and its essential place in your library project's success.

      Robert Hubsher
                     Karen Watson

Part 2 of the Facility Planning Series by Karen Watson & Robert Hubsher

"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." - Yogi Berra

Taking and maintaining leadership of a library building project is the key way to:

  • influence the design of your library building
  • control the costs
  • assure that the library building will meet your community's needs

The person best suited to be the leader for a library building project is the Library Director or library professional familiar with the day to day operations of your library and its place in your community.  It is in the best interest of the library to have a project leader shepherding the process and coordinating the enthusiasm, passion, knowledge and expertise of elected officials, volunteer committees, financial donors and anyone else involved in the library building project. Regardless of the local community approach to leadership for a library building project, you - the librarian or your designate, must be an integral part of the leadership team. 

Throughout all the stages of your project, pre-planning to completion, your board will want to know the tangible, current information upon which you are basing your decisions and recommendations.  The project leader will be asked to distill data and its analysis and interpretations in presentations to the board, elected officials and the public.  Leading the process of strategic planning and data gathering will help you establish credibility and maintain leadership to gain the support of all library stakeholders.

If you don’t have a plan, you will not achieve a focused result.  Your library's building requirements are determined by the library's strategic plan. Your strategic plan dictates the functional requirements for your library building.

The strategic plan, along with the data that you will gather about your community and the use of your current library building will provide you all that you need to make a case for your library building project to the public, your board and elected officials.

The strategic planning process guides the preparation of a document that outlines the library's strategic vision. This vision defines the services and programs your library will offer, which in turn shapes your building requirements. These requirements, coupled with the data gathering and analysis that you will perform, provides you with the necessary information to make the case for your building project. Each component follows naturally from the one before it.

  • Strategic Planning Process
  • Vision
  • Services / Programs
  • Library Building Requirements

The work flow process follows these stages.

You are fortunate to have at your disposal an excellent, time-tested model for strategic planning for libraries that is easy to implement, helps gain buy-in from your community and actually works.  We have seen libraries develop solid, dynamic results using the Public Library Association’s (PLA), Strategic Planning for Results, (SPR) by Sandra Nelson for the Public Library Association. Chicago, ALA, 2008. 291 pages (ISBN: 978-0-8389-3573-6) Strategic Planning for Results - Books / Professional Development - Books for Academic Librarians - Books for Public Librarians - PLA Products - ALA Store.

Your library's strategic planning process is an intense, hands on, and interactive experience.  It involves dedication and a serious investment of time on the part of the librarian who leads the process and it lays the groundwork upon which rests the foundation of your library building project.  The word 'foundation' emphasizes the importance of securing your planning process to a strong and solid base that supports you in your library planning; this is as important and practical as attaching your physical library building to a solid foundation.  There is a certain truth that a house built on sand will fall.  Your library building needs a solid foundation and your planning process must be solidly anchored in substantiated data.

Making the case to community leaders for a renovation, expansion or a new building project will have to be supported by sound reasoning grounded in accurate facts. The case will be much stronger if the library management team, staff and board have demonstrated a serious, concentrated and visible effort to fully use the existing building. Exhausting all possibilities within the current configuration of the building coupled with objective data, a clear vision for the future.

A strategic plan helps you direct your energies, record your findings for future reference and ensure that you have covered all the issues that may affect the services and programs that your library will provide the residents of your community.  The Plan will provide your Board, staff and the community a unambiguous vision of your library’s vision for the future.  It will provide a clear understanding of the resources you will need to fulfill the objectives outlined in the Plan.  A library building is not an objective of a strategic plan it is one of the resources you will need to deliver the programs and services.
The SPR helps organize your approach to planning by providing a framework with four resource categories that keep you focused and conserve your time. We address the four resources common to all public libraries in our next article.

Previous articles in this series:
1.  Facility Planning: A Dream Becoming a Reality

Karen Watson and Robert Hubsher are PLAN22 Archibrarians : librarian-coaches; confidence re-enforcers; sustainable design professionals and intellectual freedom advocates.

   PLAN22 Archibrarians : who we are @ PLAN22 Archibrarians

  Twitter: @2plan22

   Skype: kfwatson