Here’s the latest update on activities that support SCLSNJ’s Strategic Plan:
Where’s the final strategic plan document?
The framework we’ve used to build our current strategic plan is unlike traditional planning processes. More traditional processes usually have a final document as their culmination, with lists of goals and objectives to be achieved over a three- to five-year period of time. We are using the Dynamic Planning Model which includes a mechanism for looping back around regularly to decide if we have made progress on our strategic priorities, to see whether or not what we’re doing is actually meeting the needs of the community, and to reexamine those needs as Somerset County changes and grows. This planning model allows us to be flexible as we try different approaches and respond to changing conditions.
Instead of a final document, we will be providing a concise quarterly update on our activities around our Strategic Priorities and Core Services.
- For our Strategic Priorities, we will detail programs, services and initiatives we have worked on over the preceding several months that specifically support those priorities, and provide information about upcoming plans and actions and the impact we intend for them to have.
- Our Core Services represent the things we do on an ongoing basis, so recent activities in these areas are just a part of normal SCLSNJ business. In our updates, we will provide some highlights and examples of core service activity from the preceding few months.
This framework outlines the Strategic Priorities and Core Services that SCLSNJ will be focused on for the next 3-5 years.
How were these items chosen?
Each of the priorities and services is based on the community data we have gathered over the last four months. Based on our analysis, these items:
- Have value to members of the community
- Address a community need
- Have an intended impact
The Strategic Plan Steering Committee, made up of staff from across the library system, have been looking at the data, developing drafts, and gathering feedback. Ultimately, the Somerset County Library Commission approves the framework as our strategic road map for moving forward.
What happens next?
Library staff will define the impact we wish to have in each strategic priority area over the next one to three years, and then develop specific initiatives, actions and assessment methods to help us achieve our desired impact.
How can I keep track of what you’re doing?
We will continue to update this site with additional planning documents and our quarterly progress updates to the Library Commission.
In conjunction with our strategic planning process, a small work team developed and deployed an anonymous Staff Survey in late June 2018. This survey was made up of 16 open-ended questions, many of which provided opportunities for staff members to comment on SCLSNJ as a workplace and as an employer. The Staff Survey Abridged Data Report focuses on the four questions that specifically addressed staff opinions about library services and community needs, as this data had the most value in creating our Strategic Plan Framework. (The work team continues to analyze the rest of the data for internal use.)
Staff acted as facilitators for over two dozen Community Conversations conducted in May, June, July and August 2018. Using methodology developed by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, we asked participants to talk about their concerns, hopes and aspirations about their communities. These were not library focus groups; rather we used these conversations as a way to learn more about ways SCLSNJ can make a difference in the community that may not already be reflected in our core services.
This report summarizes the broad themes and ideas that emerged from the conversations as a whole. Some of the individual conversations, especially those held in specific member municipalities, included more specific concerns, aspirations and actions. As we finish one-page overviews of these individual conversations, we’ll share them here.
Thank you to the nearly 900 people who responded to our Community Survey!
The Community Survey Report, which is one of the sets of data we’ve used to craft our draft strategic plan framework, includes summaries of the data we collected from June 1 through August 16, 2018.
Among the things we learned are:
- People use our materials more than any of our other services, and providing materials is the most important thing we do.
- Over 90% of respondents had visited an SCLSNJ branch location in the last month.
- People want to live in communities that are safe, friendly, helpful, diverse and kind.
See how we used this information in creating our draft Strategic Plan Framework (coming Thursday, August 30).
NOTE: You can still tell us how you feel about your community and your library. The Community Survey will remain open indefinitely, and we will pull data sets from it periodically to help us assess our strategic plan activities and results.
Our Community Survey is still open for your input. Tell us about the kind of community you want to live in and what library services are important to you. We’ll be using that data to craft the framework for our new Strategic Plan. We plan to release the framework in the first week of September, so provide us with your feedback now!
With a lot of help from Library patrons and residents, the Library has been gathering meaningful data about our communities’ needs and priorities. Much of the information so far has come from our Community Conversations, a series of focus groups that allow people to share their feelings about the kind of communities in which they want to live. We’re still sorting through the data and we will share our findings with the public once we’ve finished pulling them together, most likely by the end of August 2018.
As just one example, in several of the conversations we’ve had people have shared that they are looking for places in their communities where they can encounter and interact with their neighbors. This has been especially true in our member townships where there isn’t a defined downtown or town center. The public library is already that place for a lot of our patrons, but if we make this a strategic priority, we can look for ways to create spaces and events that help even more people feel like they are part of their community.
Look for data reports to be posted here over the next 4-6 weeks as we summarize and synthesize what we’ve learned.
Our new strategic plan will be made up of two areas: core services and strategic priorities.
- Our core services will be the things that are the library’s “bread and butter. ” Examples include circulating popular materials, providing public computers and wifi, early literacy activities, etc.
- Strategic priorities will be determined based on the feedback we get from the community.
We aren’t focused on feedback about the library!
Our community conversations will help us learn what people hope for and are concerned about for their communities, and how they want their communities to move forward. So instead of asking people what they want from the library, we’ll review feedback about what they want for their communities and look for ways that SCLSNJ can make an impact in the areas they care about.
So what does that actually look like?
If, for example, we hear a lot from our community conversations and other feedback about making sure that all children are meeting grade level reading targets, we might make Reading Competency a strategic priority. We might define some outcomes around improvement in kids’ level of comfort with reading, our plan actions could have to do with focusing our summer reading program activities on improving reading confidence, and we could measure kids’ attitudes toward reading at the beginning and the end of the summer to see whether or not we’ve having an impact.
One of the most important ways we’ll be gathering information for our strategic planning is through a series of Community Conversations. We’ll be pulling together small groups of people to talk about what their hopes and aspirations are for their communities, and then we’ll look for the ways the Library can help make a difference in creating the kind of place in which our residents want to live.
To conduct our Community Conversations, we’ll be using a proven framework and discussion guide from The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation that they have developed as part of their work with public libraries and other public institutions and nonprofits over the last 25 years. Our conversations will have 10-15 participants each, and will be guided by staff facilitators using the discussion guide.
We’re planning a series of more than 25 conversations and we’ll be inviting a wide array of people to participate, from elected officials and other community stakeholders, to current patrons and friends, to non-patrons and members of underserved communities. We want to get a picture of the hopes and dreams for all of the communities we serve so that we can find the best ways for SCLSNJ to help everyone move forward.
Also, knowing that the format of Community Conversations means opportunities to participate will be somewhat limited, your input is still welcome via our community survey.
We are using the Dynamic Planning Model, developed by the Public Library Association. It has four phases:
- Assess (through July 2018) – gather community data, conduct community conversations, perform community needs assessment
- Strategize (July-August 2018) – analyze data, identify core services and strategic priorities
- Engage (September-November 2018) – develop goals and actions that meet service needs
- Impact (December 2018-June 2019) – execute plan actions, establish outcomes and methods for assessment, evaluate success