Strategic planning is a process of discoveries and decisions. For Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) in Ypsilanti—affectionately “Ypsi”—Michigan, the process became the occasion for customers and prospective customers to be heard, for the staff to engage in meaningful deliberations, and for the Board and new Library Director to sustain positive momentum for the entire organization.
Three Communities, One Library, A Plan for All
Three economically and culturally distinct communities—the City of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, and a portion of Superior Township—comprise the Library’s service area. As we conducted our community assessment, we discovered a lively City bumping up against Ann Arbor, the gorgeous parks of Washtenaw Township, and a County characterized by wide open fields—three distinct communities served by one library system.
Have a Hunch? Back it Up
When we surveyed Ypsilantians (yes, so they may be called), they expressed pride in their community and respect for and loyalty to their civic organizations, the library in particular. A benchmarking study and executive interviews with civic officials and community “influentials” affirmed the Library’s reputation as a “community staple” while noting that the Library was under-resourced and inadequately promoted.
To validate qualitative “hunches” gleaned from those conversations, a service area telephone survey of library users and non-users followed. The survey provided insights on user and non-user populations, levels of customer satisfaction, barriers to library use, and interest in new library offerings.
Love the library—it’s a great asset to the community
Anonymous response to open-end telephone survey question
Collaborate and Educate to Address Community Needs
Subsequently, during a series of facilitated planning sessions, the YDL Strategic Planning Steering Committee identified five priority needs:
- Increasing staff diversity
- Maximizing programming effectiveness
- Improving fiscal health
- Optimizing facilities
- Upgrading marketing
Focusing on the five priorities, Library staff work groups developed specific objectives with action plans and measures of success. Productive collaborations, community education, and staff time emerged as critical success factors. Underlying all deliberations were the imperatives to address an inadequate Superior Township facility and to educate the public on Library funding concerns and how they affect service goals for the community.
New Brand for A New Era of Outreach
By sifting through the research, we then developed key messages likely to resonate with the community. With these messages in mind, a dynamic, contemporary brandmark emerged, representing the three distinct yet unified Ypsilanti communities. The brandmark projects the Library’s compelling role in community building and inaugurates a new era of more aggressive outreach and promotion.
The new brand personality was tagged with the compelling question, “Ask Why”, a call-to-action to the community to be curious, explore, study, discuss, debate, and never stop asking questions…because the Library will always be there with what it takes to answer.
Part of our stated mission is to “stimulate intellectual curiosity,” and [Ask Why] really fits with that… It is quirky and clever, and that defines Ypsilanti! Your team nailed it on their first try, and we’re really glad they did.
Lisa Hoenig, YDL Director
Are you asking, “why give a public library a tagline”? Here’s our why.