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Helpful Information for Meeting Minimum Public Library Standards

Long-Range Plan

Each . . . library has a community-based, board-approved, written long-range plan of service developed by the library board of trustees and staff.

Why is a Long-Range Plan Important for Every Library?

Every library needs a long-range plan as a formal document to:

  • Provide information about the community and library to use in decision-making;
  • Clarify for board, staff, and community the role of the library in the community;
  • Evaluate the usefulness and quality of specific services and activities;
  • Assist in preparing for change (dropping old services or adding new ones);
  • Establish priorities for the allocation of resources;
  • Document the need for sustainable funding.

What is a Long-Range Plan? Does it Differ from a Strategic Plan?

A long-range plan and a strategic plan both involve investigating the library's services in light of community needs and resources, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the library and the services the trustees and staff believe the library should or can provide, and creating a structured plan for providing the resources and direction for the "right" services for that community. 

Long range planning prepares for the future. Strategic planning is based on the premise that change is necessary to survive and thrive in the future. Strategic planning answers the question, "What do we have to do now in order to improve our ability to operate five years in the future?" If the planning time frame is shorter it involves operational planning. Operational planning focuses on the improvement of things the library already does and is primarily concerned with the allocation of resources. (Handbook for Library Trustees of New York State, 2018 Edition, pg. 59)

What is the Process for Long-Range Planning?

The way a library moves through its planning process is as important as the plan itself. The planning process helps raise the community's awareness of library programs, services and needs and gains library support from the community.
The long-range planning process is a cyclical one. While there are a variety of ways to develop a long-range plan, a successful planning process often includes the following steps:

  1. Develop a board vision. Have a conversation at a special planning meeting to discuss the hopes, dreams, and concerns for the future of the library.
  2. Assessment. Identify usage trends through library circulation, program and technology data.  Comparing the library to others with similar budgets or service populations can be a useful planning activity as well. The New York State Library provides a compilation of financial and service statistics.
  3. Gather input from the community. Talk to the community. Use a combination of focus groups, surveys, and interviews with community opinion leaders to get a broad amount of input, from both library users and non-users, which will help the board to identify community trends, aspirations, and priorities. This is an outward-looking activity asking the community what their aspirations and priorities are.
  4. Analyze what was learned. Identify the library’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  5. Assess the library’s capacity to move forward in the areas of:
    • Personnel
    • Finance
    • Facility
    • Policy
    • Partnerships
    • Governance
    • Marketing & Public Relations
    • Measurement & Evaluation

Through these five steps, the board and staff will have the information they need to create and write a solid plan for the future of the library.