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Nebraska Library Board Manual

 CHAPTER CONTENTS Strategic Planning and Accreditation What to Include in a Strategic Plan The Planning Process Building Planning Planning for Future Needs Planning for a Building Project Community Support Barriers to Service Technology Planning Disaster Planning Additional Resources

Planning is one of the most important trusts that the community gives to the library board. Since board members are visionaries for the library, and the library needs a plan to cope with rapid change, the library board takes a leadership role in planning.

   Strategic Planning and Accreditation

The Nebraska Public Library Accreditation Guidelines are based on the principle that a good library is a library that is serving the unique needs of its own community. Therefore, the Accreditation Guidelines require that each library applying for accreditation submit a strategic plan that addresses how the library will serve those needs.


   What Does a Strategic Plan Need to Include?

To fulfill the requirements of library accreditation, the strategic plan must be up-to-date and include at least these 7 elements:
  1. The library's mission statement.
  2. A community profile.
  3. An assessment of community needs. A library's first responsibility is to address the needs of its community.
  4. An analysis of library strengths and weaknesses; and an analysis of opportunities and threats outside the library.
  5. An analysis of what all this means and where the library can contribute to community progress, based on the previous 3 steps.
  6. Specific goals with measurable objectives or action plans that provide details such as timelines and assignment of responsibility.
  7. A plan for evaluation of accomplishment, and a summary of evaluation of previous accomplishments.

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   The Planning Process

There are a number of steps or parts to the planning process. The worksheets referenced below are documents that a planning committee may use. They are available at Strategic Planning and Public Library Accreditation.
  1. Establish Planning Team and set Meeting/Work Schedule [Worksheet 1: Plan to Plan, and How To Guide: The Planning Team]
  2. Complete Community Profile using American Fact Finder and other sources [Worksheet 2: Community Profile]
  3. Gather information from the community – focus groups, interviews, surveys, observation [Worksheet 3: Community Needs, page 1]
  4. Record community needs on frequency list [Worksheet 3: Community Needs, page 2]
  5. Determine Strengths and Weaknesses of the library [Worksheet 4: Take Stock]
  6. Determine Opportunities and Threats outside the library [Worksheet 4: Take Stock]
  7. Determine which community needs the library chooses to respond to
  8. Write goals and measurable objectives for the library under each community need it will address [Worksheet 5: Goals, and How To Guide: Develop Goals and Objectives]
  9. Determine how the library will follow through on these goals and measurable objectives
  10. Complete the summary sheet for the library’s strategic plan [Strategic Plan Summary]
  11. Evaluate how well the library did in meeting the goals, using the measures set out in the] objectives [Worksheet 6: Evaluation]
  12. Revisit the library’s strategic plan and revise as needed
See Strategic Planning and Public Library Accreditation on the Nebraska Library Commission’s website for additional information.


   Building Planning

Few projects can be as interesting and rewarding for a library board as the constructing of a new or expanded library building. There may be individuals on the board who have dealt with some type of construction, but for the board as a whole it is often a new experience. New libraries just do not happen often enough in most communities for boards to become familiar with the process. Library building projects require intense deliberations, complex and extended procedures in securing and managing funds, extensive planning and follow-up on a multitude of vital details. Any building project, from deliberations to ribbon cutting, requires close and cooperative working relationships among the library director, local governing body and other local officials and agencies.

What are the library building project steps?
  • Determine the solution to the building’s inadequacies.
  • Provide leadership in the campaign to inform the community of the decided course of action and secure necessary support for the project.
  • Appoint a building committee and assign tasks.
  • Select and hire an architect.
  • Obtain financing for the project.
  • If a new building is needed, select and purchase the site.
  • Approve preliminary and final architectural plans.
  • Solicit and approve bid document.
  • Approve all contracts and any change orders to the contract.


   Planning for Future Building Needs

The process by which needs are determined is termed the “planning process.” Planning does not relate solely to plans for a new or expanded building, but it is a crucial part of the building process. There are consultants and publications that can help.

You will look at your community through the planning process: How many school-age children are in your community? How is this number expected to change in the next ten years? Are there changes in residential patterns? How many citizens are over 65? Will they be the dominant portion of the community in ten years? Where will schools be located ten years from now? All of these questions, and untold numbers more, will impact what needs to be done regarding library service for your community.

This preliminary planning serves a two-fold purpose: to determine community needs, and to help educate community members about those needs and what the new or remodeled building will offer.


   Planning for a Building Project

The reasons for needing new or additional space vary: too-small or outdated current structures, condemnations, community growth or other community changes, are the most frequent. Since planning for a new library takes into account changes that may occur 25 or more years in the future, flexibility is the watchword for design of library buildings.

There are several stages to a building project; the first is awareness. We would like to think that we plan in advance for needed space, but that seldom happens in real life. In most communities the public library is out of space (or out-of-date) long before plans begin for a new building. Sometimes the board is aware of the problem and hires a director with the specific goal of building a new facility. Sometimes the staff is aware of the situation and must educate the board before plans can move ahead. When the board and staff are aware of the problem (and convinced that a new building is needed), activity can move forward to make the community aware of the problem.

It is important to be sure that at every step the public is consulted, kept informed, and remains supportive through a public or community relations program. To these ends, be sure to publicize the need for a new or expanded library, the decision to study the situation, the results of the study; and especially the recommendations. Not only is a sizable amount of public money being spent, but also an institution is being created whose value and service for all people is projected far into the future. Preparing the community to build a new library is usually a long process. Just saying you need a new building will not win much support. You need to systematically document the need in a very businesslike manner.

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   Community Support

It is important that every board member and every staff member understand why a new building is needed. Knowledgeable responses to, “Why do we need a new library building?” given in the grocery checkout line or at church will carry much influence. At the same time that every staff and board member should be prepared for casual responses, a formal plan for public information should be prepared. Put together an educational (and entertaining) presentation on what a new library could mean to the community. Set your goal to educate everyone as to why a new library is needed. Understand that you will not convince everyone. Keep making the point that this is to be “their” new library. This will take longer than you think.

Community support for your plan will be strengthened by objective, verifiable information. If the law says that public facilities should be accessible to the handicapped and your present building cannot be made accessible, that is a strong argument. If the community encourages educational programs for children and your library has no room for programs, that is also a strong argument. If the building needs a new roof, new heating and air conditioning, is not handicap accessible, etc.; is it a sound business decision to continue putting money into a building that cannot be made adequate? Does another community organization need a building the size of the present library? If so, could building a new library meet the needs of both groups?


   Barriers to Service

Although strides have been made by libraries across the state to eliminate physical barriers for people with disabilities who need and wish to use libraries, too many physical, language, cultural and other barriers still exist. They pose a special challenge for library trustees. Many are still not familiar with Title 24, Sec 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (federal law requiring public access to public buildings).

Some sense of the challenge to serve these users adequately may be ascertained by nothing more than a simple walk through the library as though “walking in someone else’s shoes,” in order to evaluate how signs, interior arrangements and building design help or hinder users. For example, what may seem a logically laid out library for an able-bodied person may present almost insurmountable barriers for a library user in a wheelchair, a person using a walker, or one who is unsteady with a cane.

Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 underscored the necessity of removing those barriers. Title II of the Act requires nondiscrimination in state and local government services (including library services) and employment. A public entity must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs and activities because existing buildings are inaccessible. The public entity can avoid compliance only if it will result in documented “undue hardship.” All new library facilities that began construction on or after January 25, 1992 must be accessible. Newly remodeled buildings or parts of buildings shall be made accessible to the “maximum” extent feasible. But whether or not the building per se is accessible, the service or program when viewed in its entirety must be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities.


   Technology Planning

Libraries are in an extreme transition, and even the smallest rural public library is no exception. Computers have unquestionably given librarians and library users powerful new research capabilities outside the library’s walls. With these new technologies and the expanded role of libraries come policy questions for the local library and its board.

The following are questions to consider when developing a technology plan:
  • Is it best to acquire materials for the collection or provide access through electronic sources?
  • What services will be free vs. those that require a fee?
  • How will hardware and software be funded? How will upgrades be funded?
  • What policies are needed regarding access to information on the Internet?
  • How will access to electronic information published only as electronic information be provided?
  • How will copyright be protected?
  • How will our users be trained to use new library technologies?
  • What changes to our facilities should we be planning for?
  • What new networks and cooperatives can be formed using technology?
  • Who will secure and maintain the computer equipment?
  • What staffing needs will the new technologies require?
  • How will patron confidentiality be protected?
  • How do E-rate funding and other governmental programs affect our technology plan?
Information is a vital part of each library’s services, and it is a wise board which plans in advance when incorporating technology into the library facilities and services.

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   Disaster Planning

Most libraries will rarely experience a severe emergency or natural disaster, but it is necessary to be prepared, just in case. Fires, floods, tornadoes and hazardous materials accidents can endanger lives, and it is important for libraries to have plans and/or policies in place for dealing with these types of emergencies. It is also important that staff be trained to handle emergencies properly.

The library board has the responsibility of protecting the library building and its holdings as well as the staff and the public. To be prepared, the library needs a written disaster plan as well as policies and procedures which cover issues of safety. Consideration should be given to questions such as:
  • Where would the public go in the case of various emergencies such as inclement weather?
  • Are the collections and equipment, as well as the building itself, adequately insured against loss from fire, tornados, theft, flood and vandalism?
  • What is the library doing to prevent loss from theft or vandalism?
  • How would the library function in case of damage through a fire, storm or other natural disaster?
  • Is the staff knowledgeable of emergency procedures? Are regular drills completed?
Library board members have the responsibility to protect the interests of one of the cultural centers of the community. Insurance policies and disaster readiness plans should be reviewed on a regular basis in order to make certain that proper levels and types of coverage are being carried.


   Additional Resources:

Strategic Planning
       Nelson, Sandra S. Strategic planning for results, Fully rev. ed. Chicago : American Library
       Association, c2008.
Building Planning
       Public Library Space Needs: A Planning Outline / 2009, by Anders C. Dahlgren.
       ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities
Technology Planning
Disaster Planning
       Preservation of Library Materials

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created 2006; rev. 7/2015                                                        For more information, contact Holli Duggan

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