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Strategic Planning and Management


Although strategic planning and management are not new to public libraries, there is evidence suggesting that the acceptance of strategic planning and management within libraries is limited due to its wide adoption by the private sector and its association with the ideas of competitive advantage and profit. Yet, effective strategic planning and management is critical to help you determine what your contribution to building a smart city may look like and to do it in a sustainable and coordinated way.

In addition, the design and subsequent selection of the most appropriate programs and services to fulfill this role require appropriate strategic planning. Further, strategic planning and management will help you address the challenges of becoming a key actor in your smart city.

There are several important components of a strategic plan that you will need to think about. The first one is the mission statement, that is, your public library’s purpose or reason for existence. You most likely already have a mission statement, but becoming an active player in smart city development may entail a change of your mission statement to one that better reflects your new role in the community.

In this respect, you may consider adding a few ideas on digital inclusion and developing smart citizens, innovation, community participation, and spaces for stakeholder interaction. Also, remember that your mission statement mirrors your philosophy as an organization, your values, and your culture and makes others aware of what makes your public library distinctive or unique.

The second component you may want to (re)consider is the vision statement, which is an opportunity for your public library to state what it aspires to, best articulated in a challenging and future-oriented manner. Your vision statement presents your view for the future. It therefore communicates where you want your public library to be and what you want it to become (a key actor in smart city/community development). This is, of course, a long-term goal and what you are working towards. Your vision should also be inspiring.

Once you have your mission and vision statements, the third component of your strategic plan is the goals, that is, your specific targets and end results. Goals represent a major step in achieving the vision of your library.

One important tool to set up goals is the SWOT analysis, whose purpose is to study the internal and external environments of your public library, by identifying and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of your public library as well as the opportunities and threats to which it is exposed. In general, after a SWOT analysis, goals are set by 1) using strengths to maximize opportunities, 2) using strengths to minimize threats, 3) minimize weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities, and 4) taking steps to address weaknesses and reduce threats. When setting up goals, do not forget that these need to be clear and measurable.

For example, if you decide to have a goal on digital literacy, you may formulate it as: “To increase the number of training workshops by 15% in two years”. Similarly, if you want to invest in building a makerspace, you may formulate your goal as “to provide a new space with digital production tools for patrons to use for free”. These are only a couple of examples. Your goals have to be aligned with your mission and vision. Therefore, depending on these statements as well as your SWOT analysis, your goals may read differently. 

Action plans are the last component of your strategic plan. They define the specific steps to be taken to realize your goals, typically in the form of a project plan. They include the specific actions and initiatives that will help you achieve your goals, but also the necessary resources to implement them, such as budget, responsibility, and timelines. Research shows that public libraries that want to contribute to developing a smart city need to make important investments in technology, either to purchase or maintain.

For example, if one of the goals of your library is to become a digital literacy hub that supports the growth of smart citizens, you may want to invest in having computers and printers as well as in offering training in a diverse range of technological tools. Also, if one of your goals is to become a space of innovation, you may want to consider building makerspaces and production studios. These types of initiatives may take a big portion of your library’s budget, and you may want to consider different strategies to fund your technological investments.

Finally, strategic plans need to be evaluated. It is not enough to design and implement new programs and services, or to build new spaces for interaction and citizen participation. Your evaluation plan will help you assess to what extent those initiatives are helping you reach your goals by measuring progress, final outcomes, and residents’ satisfaction. Only then, will you know the real impact that your public library is having in the development of a smart(er) city. The results of your evaluation may also help you demonstrate your contribution to other stakeholders and, therefore, to gain a legitimate and significant role in the development of your smart city/community.

General resources on strategic planning and management:

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