Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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Strategic planning is a vital first step to ensure the design and selection of new programs and services are matching residents’ needs and interests and contributing to the development of smarter citizens. A clear strategic plan is critical to define your role as a key actor in smart city development and better prepares your public library for the possible hurdles in the implementation of smart city/community related programs.
Knowing your current status is an important prerequisite to set the visions and goals of your library’s involvement in the smart city or community initiative. To do so, the SWOT analysis is an approach to help you discover what capacity your library has or what hurdles your library may run into with a smart community initiative.
The SWOT analysis is proved to be a useful method for organizational strategies by examining both internal and external factors. The analysis of strengths and weaknesses of your library is an internal look at current operations and helps you identify what the organization does well and where it needs to improve, while the examination of the external environment in which your library operates helps you identify potential threats and opportunities.
Conducting a library SWOT analysis that targets the development of a smart city/community will help you establish goals by focusing on your strengths, addressing weakness and threats, and exploiting the greatest opportunities.
First, you will need to conduct an internal analysis on the strengths and weakness of your library. Assessing a library’s strengths, that is to find areas in which it is already successful, includes looking at staff skills and competencies, programming, budget maintenance, and community relations. You will try and focus on the unique resources and strengths of your library (for example what does your library do that no one else does) or what your patrons like most to help you decide what to continue doing in the future to make contributions to a smart city or community.
Analyzing a library’s weaknesses also means evaluating internal operations. Careful analysis of library weaknesses suggests which areas need improvement: what areas need more resources than you currently have? What areas do your users wish you would do better?
For instance, your library may have strengths as a technology hub in offering access to multiple new technologies as well as training on basic digital skills, while you still have challenges in funding for maintaining and updating the library’s infrastructure. In this regard, you can set the specific targets to continue being a technology hub and take specific steps to address weaknesses in funding so that your public library can better make contributions to smart city/community development.
Remember that it is important to be truthful and critical when assessing weakness. Only then will you be able to find weaknesses that you may not normally notice, to better take them into account in the identification of your strategies, which will also increase the viability of the planned programs.
Second, you will need to further examine the external environment of your library and identify the opportunities and threats to becoming a key actor in the development of a smart city/community. Opportunities are possibilities and factors that your library could act upon to make potential contributions in the development of a smart city/community.
Taking into account the priorities in the overall strategy of a smart city/community, think about what you could do to further help enhance, for instance, the access to technology, digital skills training, or smart city/community focused engagement in the community if only your library had the resources to do it. This could open up a conversation that helps to reveal new directions of your library to become a key player and come up with better goals to serve the community residents.
Also, remember to focus on your external environment, such as your smart community partners, where useful resources may present that allow you to develop the best possible programs and services. This would give you a better idea about how your strengths open doors to opportunities for your library and how you can minimize weakness by taking advantage of opportunities.
Threats are obstacles that come from external sources: what happens in the environment that would influence the library negatively? Understanding these will prepare you to better use your strengths to minimize threats and take specific steps to cope with these possibilities if they do arise.
For instance, your library may find great opportunities to become a technology hub that provide access to advanced new technologies (e.g., 3D printers, AI software, or robots) with the support from local governments and other start-up companies. Yet, you may face the threat that local residents lack awareness of smart city programs in your library. In this regard, you would set the target to use your current strength as a technology hub to maximize opportunities for access to more advanced technologies and raise local residents’ awareness.
At the same time, you would take advantage of local government’s support and take specific steps to minimize your weakness in funding for those new programs and services.
General resources on SWOT analysis:
Library SWOT Analysis: https://bizfluent.com/about-5498787-library-swot-analysis.html
SWOT analysis for libraries - a compilation piece: https://www.libfocus.com/2016/11/swot-analysis-for-libraries-compilation.html
Tools for SWOT Analysis: https://liu.cwp.libguides.com/swot
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