Small Library Strategic Planning: Our Expedited Engagement Process

An illustrated arrow hitting a bullseye beside a library building.

We created the Expedited Engagement Process to better serve public libraries with tight timelines for their strategic planning.

It's a natural fit for libraries that:

  • Have a single location and fewer than 20 staff members
  • Serve communities of 25,000 people or fewer
  • Are looking to complete the strategic planning process within three months
  • Aren't able to invest in a comprehensive library strategic planning process at this time

Meeting a Real Need

Libraries of all sizes need to prepare for the future. Formal library strategic planning lends them the tools and structure to do it well. Through its process, they define the community's aspirations, set goals, and create accountability. Strategic plans are wonderful. They're also a lot of work!

Many libraries, and especially smaller ones with tight budget constraints, try to handle the planning process entirely in-house. Because of this, many libraries dread the full planning process, knowing that:

  • It takes six months (half a year!), stressing staff capacity and pulling focus from current patrons
  • Making strategic planning an additional "other duties as assigned" for staff can lead to cut corners, limited research and engagement, and a plan that doesn't account for the needs of the entire service area
  • In the time between plans—which can be anywhere from three to 10 years—board members cycle off, staff turns over, and local demographics change; institutional knowledge gets lost, and each plan seems to start from scratch

At The Ivy Group, we're passionate about libraries, about the value of forward-thinking planning, and about tailoring our work to the needs and nuances of each partner. Thus, for small libraries, we offer an expedited engagement process.

Planning That’s Both Efficient and Effective

Over the past three decades, we've partnered with over 100 libraries and library organizations to craft meaningful plans. Each library project hones our skills and gives us a front-row seat to current trends and exciting innovations in library services. Our experience creates efficiencies and lets us continually improve our services.

As project managers for your plan, we will scaffold a timeline with clear duties and deadlines to deliver the plan on time and on budget. As facilitators, we will elicit honest perspectives from leaders, stakeholders, staff, patrons, and non-users.

An accelerated three-month schedule hits the library strategic planning "must haves": demographic data and trends, input from crucial internal stakeholders, and direct community engagement.

The result: an actionable, cost-effective strategic plan.

Planning That Engages Staff, Board, Community Leaders, and the Broader Community

The heart of the process is gathering data on community needs, perceptions of library service, and ambitions for a better future.

We'll start by crafting a community profile; compiling data on demographics, economics, and culture. To garner the broadest possible community participation, we'll offer either an online survey or facilitated focus groups with an online feedback form as a supplement. Inviting community leaders to participate will ensure the library's plan aligns with local initiatives.

After hearing directly from staff and board members during onsite forums, we'll work with you to synthesize the results, prioritize needs, and establish goals.

Three Months from Start to Finish

Three months after the kickoff meeting, your library will have a plan to be proud of, all with minimal disruption to your patrons, staff, and service hours.

Month 1: Gather Data and Prepare for Stakeholder Engagements

To get to know your community by the numbers, Ivy Group will prepare a data-based community profile. This information will set the stage for customized discussion guides and/or an online survey instrument.

Month 2: Facilitate Onsite Forums with Staff, Board, Community Leaders, Library Users, and Non-Users

During an onsite visit, we will tour the library and facilitate forums with internal stakeholders. During this full-day working session, we'll lead visioning activities, review the research, and identify areas of community need. In the afternoon, we'll support the work groups as they prioritize strategies and brainstorm action items.

If you opt for the focus groups instead of the community survey? Then we'll conduct those conversations on the first day of our visit.

Month 3: Prepare the Strategic Plan

Ivy will take the products of the working session and return a streamlined plan that outlines responsive strategies and actionable tactics.

A dozen logos from libraries with whom Ivy has performed library strategic planning
The Ivy Group has partnered with over 100 libraries and library organizations to craft meaningful plans. Want help with your strategic plan? Contact us today