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A strategic plan is a road map to assist the library director and board in making decisions that are in the best interests of the community. A plan also publicizes the library’s priorities and its vision of the future. It involves these basic questions:

  • What are the needs in the community?
  • What is the purpose of the library related to community needs?
  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How will we get there?
  • How will we know what we accomplished?

A library should undertake a formal planning process every three to five years to reevaluate the library’s service to the community and its future. Planning involves looking at what is possible and considering a wide range of alternatives. Open-mindedness and creativity will help develop a plan that will make the most effective use of library resources. Keep in mind the present and future needs of the entire community served by the library. 

Planning is most effective when it involves a partnership between the director and board and includes obtaining input from the members of the public, as well as from staff.

A Required Standard

The Iowa Public Library Standards include a standard on planning, which states: “The library has a written plan…projecting up to 5 years into the future and outlines the library's goals and objectives to meet community needs. Developing a plan involves the staff, the board, and the public.”

To meet this standard, the plan must:

  • Be current at the time of submission
  • Address community needs based on community data
  • Contain a mission statement, which describes the library’s purpose in the community
  • Include goals and measurable objectives

Planning Methods

There are several ways to approach a planning process. As a department of city government, public libraries often join a broader planning effort conducted by the city. There are comprehensive planning models designed especially for public libraries, such as Strategic Planning for Results from the Public Library Association and Libraries Transform from the American Library Association.

Your Partner in Planning

State Library district consultants lend their support and expertise to any public library undergoing the planning process. They are familiar with different methods of planning and trained in the PLA Planning for Results model, and often present to boards on the planning process. Contact your district consultant with questions or to schedule a meeting or board presentation. 

Find Your District Consultant