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Strategic planning for modern libraries
v15n1 PP: 7-18 1994
Once a consensus has been reached on introducing strategic planning, a planning
committee can be set up and a process agreed to. Before any plans can be made, it is
important to identify what the service needs to provide for in the future and how the
service is best able to make this provision. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and
threats analysis allows the identification of needs, potential problems, and issues and
plays an important part in strategic planning. A key starting point is identifying the
objectives of the parent organization or the local authority of which the library is a part.
The strategic issues are the ones which are going to have the most impact on the service.
Strategic issues commonly include: 1. financing, 2. technology, 3. stock provision, 4.
staff, 5. client groups, and 6. marketing. It is not sufficient simply to introduce a strategic
planning policy; a review of the strategies is needed to ensure that the strategies are still
running according to the timescale set by the committee and are still relevant.
SOME DEFINITIONS OF STRATEGIC PLANNING
The following are some definitions of strategic planning found in the literature:
A continuous process of making present entrepreneurial (risk-taking) decisions
systematically and with the greatest knowledge of their futurity; organizing
systematically the efforts needed to carry out these decisions; and measuring the results
of these decisions against the expectations through organized feedback[1, p. 125].
(1) Decisions regarding long-term strategic issues.
(2) Operations to put strategies into effect and "get the job done".
(3) Contingency plans to anticipate possible change.
(4) "Business plans" or expected performance targets are set for income and expenditure
so that likely financial performance and viability of projects can be assessed[2, p. 37].
Strategic plans allow the library manager to take calculated risks and develop
contingencies[3, p. 395].
The process of identifying and setting the objectives and goals of an organization[4, p.
The essence of formal strategic planning is the systematic identification of opportunities
and threats that lie in the future which, in combination with other relevant data, provide a
basis for a company's making better current decisions to exploit the opportunities and to
avoid the threats[5, p. 5].
THE IMPORTANCE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING
Librarians cannot live in the past, even though some have been guilty of this, but must
look to the future and anticipate what another decade may bring. Modern libraries have to
be managed according to modem practices, considering market forces and the current
economic climate. Libraries are still regarded as library heritage centres by many people
outside the library profession and it is important for libraries to justify their existence in
modern society. If librarians take the future of their services seriously then they will plan
for it, allowing for current trends and predicting future trends that will affect library
Libraries have similar problems to other businesses, and library managers, like managers
in industry, have often failed to realize the importance of strategic planning until a crisis
situation strikes. Often library managers in a crisis situation act in a hasty way that
eventually proves detrimental to the library[6, p. 10]. Library services are affected by
financial considerations, staffing problems and union matters. Libraries do not exist
unchanging and independent from the rest of the world; the library environment does
change and it is better to deal with something planned for, rather than having something
suddenly thrust upon the library. A library manager should plan for automation, for
example, and be prepared for it, rather than have the staff walk through the door one
morning to find a new computer which none of them know how to operate.
The biggest obstacle to thinking about, developing and implementing new strategies is
the need to run today's business. The day-to-day events drive out most strategic good
intentions[6, p. 10]. Strategic planning is essential to guarantee a future library service for
clients. Carried out correctly, it will provide a set of realistic measurable objectives and it
should motivate staff into helping the service to achieve these objectives. Good planning
should result in a satisfactory library service for those who use it and for those who
THE STRATEGIC PLANNING PROCESS
Bryson identifies seven stages in the process of strategic planning[7, p. 46]:
1. Initiating and agreeing on a strategic planning process.
2. Identifying organizational mandates.
3. Clarifying organizational mission and values.
4. Assessing the external environment: opportunities and threats.
5. Assessing the internal environment: strengths and weaknesses.
6. Identifying strategic issues.
7. Formulating strategies to manage these issues.
INITIATING STRATEGIC PLANNING
The decision to introduce a planning process into the library has to be agreed with staff
and key decision makers outside the library system in order to ensure that there is no
ground for complaint when the scheme is under way. Once a consensus has been reached
on introducing strategic planning, a planning committee can be set up and a process
agreed. The planning committee should include not only library staff but also other
interested parties. In public libraries, these could include members of user groups and
local councillors. In business libraries, senior executives could be invited to join the
Introducing planning means almost inevitably that things will change as the library re-
examines itself and questions previous assumptions about the service which it has been
providing. To initiate planning, a service must be willing to respond, in a rational manner
to the issues which it finds. If a planning committee discovers perturbing issues which it
is unwilling to confront, the idea of a planning process is a farce and should be discarded.
IDENTIFYING ORGANIZATIONAL MANDATES
A key starting point is identifying the objectives of the parent organization or the local
authority of which the library forms a part. The issues which need to be identified in
corporate planning are normally much larger than those found in the library context.
Planning within the organization may be a combination of Management By Objectives
(MBO), strategic planning, financial planning and intuition. When the institution has
identified issues and how these are to be met, it will draw up a document that states its
objectives--a corporate mission statement. The objectives or legal requirements of the
business, academic institution or local authority will influence the goals and objectives of
the library. There is no point in having a planning strategy for the library that runs
contrary to the objectives stated by the larger organization.
THE ORGANIZATIONAL MISSION
The mission of the service must first be considered: what is the principal reason for the
library's existence? This can be summed up in a "mission statement", i.e. a paragraph
summarizing the key values of the library service. Drawing up, such a statement will help
to clarify the library's position in the environment and encourage the planning committee
to think of possible strategies to achieve these values.
The following are examples of mission statements:
It is the mission of the library to provide a high quality library and information service for
all its actual and potential users, regardless of race, sex or disability. This service must be
of a nature and standard adequate to support all those needs arising from the
Polytechnic's Academic Programme and be able to nourish extra-curricular investigation
and personal development. (Extract from Lancashire Polytechnic (now University of
Central Lancashire) Library and Learning Resources Service Mission Statement, 1991.)
The library aims to provide an integrated library, information and learning service to
support the college's objectives. Services should be responsive, foster quality, creativity
and effectiveness, and incorporate good professional practice while recognising local
need. (Mission statement of St Helens Community College Library and Information
Service, April 1991.)
Our purpose...is to provide an information and library service to the people of
Cambridgeshire that enhances their quality of life and provides opportunities for
personal, community and economic development. (Extract from Cambridgeshire Library
and Information Services Mission Statement, July 1991.)
...to provide, promote and maintain access to books and related information for the
general community, and for any special needs of the community, by the most appropriate
means. (Mission statement of Northamptonshire Libraries and Information Service,
Mission statements obviously vary, depending upon the needs of the client group. An
academic library's mission will be to provide and develop an adequate learning resource
and research centre. A public library's mission is to cater for all the leisure and business
needs of its community. A mission statement for an industrial library will be based on the
need to provide users with up-to-date, relevant information.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Goals indicate long-term commitments and priorities. The goals of the service and the
narrower, measurable objectives needed to achieve these goals should be set down and a
list of goals and objectives can be issued to everybody who needs to know.
Goals can be divided into three types--service goals, resource management goals and
administrative/directional goals. Service goals have objectives that specify the types and
levels of service to be provided, resource goals support the service goals established by
the planning committee and administrative goals deal with developments in the
organization and future planning activities[8, p. 33]. Service goals may be qualitative.
Drucker quotes an example from a mental health clinic[9, p. 45]. Drucker says to a
mental health worker: "Working with paranoia must be terribly frustrating...with paranoia
there are very limited results". The health worker replies: "We have a simple goal. We
don't know how to cure it. We don't understand it at all. But there is a possibility of
helping people who are sick with paranoia to realize they are sick, and that is a
tremendous step forward. Because then they know that they are sick, not that the world is
sick. They are not cured but they function". In library terms this could be a simple goal of
providing a better quality of stock rather than quantifying the stock issued to a client
The objectives will indicate how successfully the goals are being reached. These
objectives must be relevant to the goals to which they relate and they must be
measurable, so that it is easily seen by glancing at comparable figures whether or not the
goal is being achieved. These objectives will be used in performance measurement
assessments and reviews. The following is an example of a goal and related objectives:
Goal: To make library collections more relevant to the needs of users.
Objective: To increase to 15 per cent the proportion of the total budget spent on
Objective: To increase turnover rate of materials to average three circulations per item
per year by 1984.
Objective: To spend 20 per cent of the annual materials budget for subscriptions.
Objective: To increase non-print holdings to 10 per cent of the total collection by the end
of a five year period.
Objective: To maintain an annual weeding rate of at least 5 per cent.
Objective: To increase the proportion of total new acquisitions devoted to popular in-
demand serials[10, p. 250].
Before any plans can be made, it is important to identify what the service needs to
provide for in the future and how the service is best able to make this provision. SWOT
(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis allows the identification of
needs, potential problems and issues and plays an important part in strategic planning.
The strengths and weaknesses are within the service--for example, the stock, the library
building or the staff. Opportunities and threats come from outside the service--for
example, funding or changes in the client groups.
Before any progress can be made, information about the opportunities and threats facing
the service from outside must be discovered. This information can be obtained by
checking economic, political or social trends. The library's strategy must be prepared to
meet changes in trends which may affect the service.
Surveys allow the collection of information about the service, though they may not
always be popular with users. The information given in user surveys can be a reliable
measurement of the users' perceptions of the service. This gives the service a starting
point from which to proceed. Surveys may reveal a change in client groups which should
be catered for. Alternatively, they may reveal a shift in attitude. Client needs are very
important in a service industry[11, p. 139]. Sometimes identification of external
influences is best done independently and objectively by somebody who is also outside
the service. All the available information about the service must be presented to the
planning committee. Threats should not be over-emphasized at the expense of the
opportunities which can arise from the situation. Statistics that are presented to the
planning committee may be used for performance measurement later on in the process.
Every service has physical and financial constraints, which may be construed as
weaknesses. Weaknesses are always easier to identify than strengths. Weak points may
include the size of the building, the size or scope of the collection, the accessibility of the
stock and poor staffing levels. Strengths can be shown by the positive use of statistics to
reveal how many clients actually borrow material, and how many make use of special
facilities such as online searching. The library may house the largest periodical collection
in the country or the greatest specialist stock on a particular subject. This would be a
great asset, but a great asset must be developed further so that it is always better than
those of competitors. The time to build up strengths is when the service is already strong,
rather than leaving a service saying, "We are best" and waking up one morning to find
that somebody else is better.
IDENTIFYING STRATEGIC ISSUES
The strategic issues are the ones which are going to have most impact upon the service.
Strategic issues commonly include financing, technology, stock provision, staff, client
groups and marketing. Changes in client groups, like demographic changes or the nature
of client needs such as a sudden interest in a certain industrial development, will alter the
nature of the service. The continual changes in the provision of library funding in the
industrial, academic and local government sector are another important issue, with
libraries looking to sources outside the institution. In academic and business libraries,
new technology can change methods of learning, research and disseminating information.
Key points can easily be identified from the statistics compiled during the SWOT
Strategies are the bulldozers of managers in that they convert what the library wants to do
into an accomplishment[9, p. 34]. The planning committee have already identified the
mission, goals and objectives of the service and they have studied all the information that
was made available during the SWOT analysis. The committee must now decide upon
effective strategies based on the strategic issues that were identified, assumptions about
the future, and backward analysis from their "ideal" library to the current situation in
which they find themselves. Different types of strategy, concerning different strategic
issues, have to be examined and discussed, focusing upon where they link with each other
and the library.
Strategy formulation will proceed more smoothly if some mistakes can be avoided.
Mistakes which are commonly made include: confusing strategies with goals and
objectives; making an incomplete description of strategy components; only stating the
manner in which a strategy will change the future; failing to see interrelationships
involved at the conceptual and operational levels; failing to distinguish different types of
strategies; forgetting to consider past actions in strategy formulation; and looking only for
explicit strategy statements[12, p. 44].
"Brilliant strategic thinking and magnificently prepared pieces of paper called 'strategic
plans' have little value unless implementation follows"[13, p. 3].
THE COMMITTEE MUST NOW DECIDE UPON EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES
The nature of the implementation is part of how power is used within the organization
and current political system. Strategies can be implemented by making coherent decisions
about policies which may already exist or may need drawing up. A key starting point is a
financial policy or a recognizable budgeting system which can be developed into a
financial strategy. This should be followed by recognized staffing, stock and technology
policies which the staff know about and are kept informed about.
Denning has identified the following problems of implementing strategic decisions:
• implementation took more time than was originally allocated;
• major problems surfaced during implementation that had not been identified
• co-ordination of the employees involved was not effective enough;
• competing activities and crises distracted attention from implementation;
• capabilities of employees were insufficient;
• training and instruction given to lower level employees was insufficient;
• uncontrollable external factors had an adverse impact on implementation;
• leadership and direction provided by department managers was inadequate;
• key implementation tasks were not defined in sufficient detail;
• information systems used to monitor implementation were not adequate.
It is not sufficient simply to introduce a strategic planning policy; a review of the
strategies is needed to ensure that the strategies are still running according to the
timescale set by the committee and are still relevant. It is futile to continue with a strategy
that is obviously either not working or irrelevant or both. To review strategies, a set of
consistent performance measures is needed to provide information which can be
compared easily to ensure that the strategies are working.
There are five aspects of performance measurement:
• the object/level of the performance measurement;
• inputs (what resources are necessary to accomplish the activity/service);
• outputs (how much work is achieved and how well it is achieved);
• effectiveness (how users assess performance); impact.
Performance measures are based on the quantifiable objectives and goals drawn up in the
strategy formulation process. Taken on its own, a performance measure only gives the
quantitative indication of the service; it does not provide any indication of performance.
An activity may cost L2,000, but this will give no indication of how well the activity is
performing. If attendance figures reveal that ten, 50 or a 100 people attended, then a
meaningful assessment of performance can be made[14, p. 3].
Once performance measurement has been agreed on, performance measures must be
considered. These can be divided as follows[14, p. 32]:
* Service input measures: amount of resources applied to services; amount of funding
applied to services; relevant attributes applied to services.
* Service output measures: quantities of output; qualities of output, timeliness of output;
availability of service; accessibility of service.
* Service effectiveness measures: amount of use; user perceptions of attributes; user-
expressed satisfaction; user-indicated importance; purpose of use; consequence of use.
* Service domain measures: total population size; total population attributes; user
population size; user population attributes; size of geographic area; geographic area
attributes; information needs.
The use of performance measures is invaluable in evaluating library services in an
economically-oriented society. Performance measures also evaluate strategies to ensure
that they are still relevant and are achieving the goals set by the planning committee.
STRATEGIC ISSUES FINANCING THE FUTURE
The stereotype of the librarian is of a chronologically challenged person with a stern face
sitting in front of a desk. This stereotype also portrays librarians as being reluctant to
have anything to do with finance. The title "library manager" brings with it all the
responsibilities of managers in other fields of employment, including financing and
budgetary control. A financial policy is important when considering the future of the
As a management tool, your budget becomes your plan for future activities. Without this
plan, you could not organize, staff, develop or co-ordinate the library's activities
knowledgeably[15, p. ix].
The only thing that can be said with absolute certainty about any budget is that it will be
wrong[16, p. 62].
Financing the library service of the future could be the most difficult part of the strategic
plan. The strategic planning system involves looking at everything which the service
should be able to provide and achieve. How much money does the library need to provide
its services? Is funding being wasted on one resource or service when it could be put to
better use on another? Is the library cost-effective and providing value for money? Cost-
benefit analysis and the use of a planning programme budgeting system (PPBS) will be a
good way to show senior managers that budgeting can be carried out by librarians who
take their responsibilities seriously and can be used to justify the provision of some
services or to make a case for others. Financial considerations are now a primary control
function in management.
Zero-base budgeting (ZBB) is a technique which involves reviewing and justifying each
aspect of library service beginning from zero. When a service can no longer be
financially justified, funds can be re-allocated to other parts of the library service. ZBB
requires detailed examination of current practices and requires agreed performance
indicators, based on a combination of experience and professional judgement, which can
be maintained against criticism. ZBB involves a large amount of detail and therefore
it may not be beneficial to use it throughout the whole of a large library service, but it
could be useful within smaller areas of the service.
Incremental budgeting, or forward financial planning, is another way of controlling
library finances. Forward financial planning should give a rough indication of how much
money is needed to provide a basic service. Each financial year, these costs can be
calculated and a rough projection of next year's costs can be produced and presented to
those who allocate library funding, whether it is a board of directors or a county council.
Projections can be feasibly made for anything up to five years ahead, but a set of basic
assumptions will be needed to make them. Assumptions may be that the cost of library
materials will increased by 2.5 per cent each year or that wages and salaries will increase
by 6.5 per cent. A minimum level of funding for the library service should be agreed
between respective departments. Unfortunately, library services are often among the first
to be affected when money is tight.
Library costs include:
• building costs (heating/lighting/maintenance); staffing costs (wages);
• bookfund (which may or may not include journal/periodical resources);
• technology (maintaining computer/CD-ROM resources);
• cataloguing/classification costs.
Finances for each group are normally based on last year's expenditure plus an allowance
for inflation, though not always. In industrial and academic libraries, where the library is
often part of a much larger building, library maintenance may be included with other
Staff, or "human resources", are the greatest single expense, which is why staff are
among the first areas where cutbacks are made. Fifty-five per cent of recurrent
expenditure in academic libraries in Britain is on staff[5, p. 1]. Bookfunds are the areas of
finance that fluctuate most dramatically and, unless the librarian can make a really good
case for funding in this area, a random figure is often agreed upon by people outside the
system who do not appreciate the needs of the library.
Online housekeeping systems are now common in libraries, but technology in the library
is often allocated under a separate budget due to the costs involved, which include not
only installation costs but also maintenance costs and new software products. CD-ROM
technology is a recent growth area that is still growing. Academic and business libraries
are very aware of this information medium and are supporting its use.
LIBRARY SERVICES ARE AFFECTED WHEN MONEY IS TIGHT
The costs of external cataloguing and classification services must also be regulated. It is
important to check that expenditure is remaining within the limits set at the beginning of
the financial year. The finances may be subject to a periodic audit to ensure that the
department is being effective and economic in its practices and is operating within the
law in financial terms.
Libraries have come under increasing pressure to generate more of their own income. The
consultative paper, Financing our Public Library Service: Four Subjects our Debate, was
published by HMSO in 1988, and there has been much debate on this subject ever since.
A policy of competitive contract tendering (CCT) has also been suggested by the
Government to public library services as a means of ensuring the provision of a service
without being directly responsible for it. This, it is felt by many librarians, would be to
the detriment of the quality of the service.
Income can be increased by raising fines and fees, but this policy may deter clients from
using the service. Also, higher fines may encourage readers to return books on time, thus
reducing income. Charges may be made for non-standard services such as online
searching. Other methods of income generation include sale of publications, book sales
and hiring out rooms for meetings, exhibitions and lectures. Special services for clients in
the private sector could also be provided to raise money for the library.
A survey of university and polytechnic libraries in 1986 showed that nearly half were
offering some kind of fee-based service. These services included loans from stock,
photocopying, inter-library loans, reference enquiries and online searching. Berkshire
Library and Information Service provides a number of contract services including
community profiling, current awareness briefings, libraries by tender, family history,
services to independent and grant maintained schools, nostalgia shops and laser discs.
Good quality staff are vital parts of an efficient and effective library service. The number
of staff needed and their training have to be considered when planning for the future. The
increasing use of part-time staff, job-sharing and flexitime working means that staff hours
can be regulated for maximum efficiency and effective service.
The recruitment process should be carried out carefully since funds are too limited to be
wasted on incompetent staff. The first stage of recruitment is manpower planning to
ensure that a new member of staff is necessary to do the work and would not be
encroaching on other staff in terms of workload. A job description must then be drawn
up, giving details of the duties to be expected in the post. A good advertisement is
important in attracting suitable applicants; it should be well-phrased and unambiguous,
stating the basic job description and the hours of work and whether the post is permanent,
temporary, job-share or part-time. A timetable should be drawn up for preparing
shortlists, holding interviews and notifying the successful applicant--as soon as possible
after the interview.
All staff need at least a basic level of training before they are able to do the job. Induction
training for new staff members enables them to adapt to the library and the service which
it provides. The main functions of the library can be demonstrated to enable staff to
provide a basic level of service--how to shelve books, how to answer enquiries and how
the issue system operates. Job rotation is one way of encouraging staff to learn the system
and preventing them from getting bored and dissatisfied with their employment. It also
makes staff more flexible in the event of another member of staff being absent.
More specialized training is needed if staff are to develop to their full potential and be
able to deal effectively with different situations or issues. In-house training courses may
be organized and/or staff may be sent on courses organized by such bodies as the Library
Association, Aslib and TFPL.
Women in many industries, including information services, are at risk. Verbal abuse and
physical attack have been experienced by some female staff members in public and
academic libraries. Staff need, therefore, to be taught how to deal with awkward
situations should they arise, especially if there are no security staff available. Staff should
also know how cope with the trauma that may result from verbal or physical assault.
Training is not a luxury, an optional extra which can be indulged in only in good times
when finance is available and staff are plentiful. In fact, the reverse is true: when times
are hard and all resources have to be fully and efficiently used, the need for training is
greater than ever. To sacrifice training to short term economics is a failure of vision[19,
Training costs money, and funds should be secured for the purpose of staff education in
all library services. Planning for staff training, and having a recognized staff training
policy, will help librarians to make a case for funds for this important activity.
Methods of appraising staff should be discussed and agreed on, especially as this is a
highly emotive subject for the staff being reviewed. Staff appraisal systems are
commonly used to ensure that staff are performing within reasonable limits and are
comfortable in the library service. Staff appraisal normally takes the form of a one-to-one
staff-supervisor interview every six months or annually. If staff are failing to meet the
standards expected, or appear to be unhappy in their work, staff appraisal can identify
problems and suggest solutions. Staff training needs and promotion prospects can also be
identified during the appraisal process, which can be a strong factor in motivation.
Traditionally, libraries have been the repositories of the written word, though this is no
longer the case with the advent of music and video libraries. All libraries should have an
acquisitions policy and it is necessary to consider how stock may be affected by strategic
planning. The stock should reflect the role and purpose of the library. How much stock
can the library physically accommodate? How many newspapers and periodicals does the
library purchase and for how long are they kept?
The acquisitions and weeding policies will be influenced by the long-term goals of the
service. The variety of the library stock will indicate the nature and purpose of the
library. Future client needs must be planned for. The development in the publication of
and demand for periodicals reflects an awareness of the importance of recent relevant
information. Planning for periodicals should include consideration of where to store
them, how to store them and for how long to store them. The following example of
selection criteria is taken from the Library Acquisition Policy of Huddersfield
Polytechnic (now the University of Huddersfield), 1983: The main criteria for selection
(a) Relevance to Polytechnic teaching and research programmes, both full and part-time.
(b) The standing of a work as reflected in academic opinion of its contribution to the
literature in critical reviews, citation frequency, etc.
(c) Knowledge of existing demand as gauged, for example, by analysis of the frequency
of inter-library loan requests for a periodical title not held by the library.
(d) Judgement as to the cost/benefit to the Polytechnic.
(e) Judgement as to the useful life of the acquisition within the library.
(f) Considerations of format, durability, etc.
(g) An awareness of the resources of her libraries in Huddersfield as well as the
possibilities for co-operative purchase.
Editing stock, weeding or relegating material is normally based on three main
considerations: saving space and money; making space for new stock; or improving the
stock. Stock should be checked regularly and less relevant items of stock should be
weeded frequently. The criteria for weeding include:
• subjective judgement;
• age of material;
• date of acquisition;
• pattern of past use;
• current use/circulation and shelf-time period;
• amount of non-use.
Material that has been removed from the shelf may be passed on to another library, given
away to some other source or sold through book sales or on the commercial market, thus
generating additional income for the library. The removal of periodicals saves a lot of
shelf space in relation to the time needed to remove them, but consideration should be
given to the need to microfilm them.
Technology is developing all the time. Software development and investment in online
systems are growing rapidly. The ability to access information is increasing, with
database response times getting quicker and online document request services available
for those libraries which have the need and the funds. A good library must be seen to use
modern technology in order to provide a more efficient service to its clients. If the library
is considering the introduction of a new computer system, a planning committee should
be set up to look carefully at the various options available. Installing an online
housekeeping system is one of the most important events for a library and must be
approached with care and thought. Special strategic planning is needed for the
introduction of new technology as an event in its own right.
THE MARKET FOR CD-ROMS IS CONTINUING TO EXPAND
The market for optical disk technology (CD-ROMs) is continuing to expand, with a
tremendous increase in the number of compact disks available on an ever wider range of
subjects. CD-ROMs contain a lot of information in a format that can normally be
searched easily and take up less space than hard copy. This is being developed further in
interactive video technology, the video being a large compact disk, the size of a 33 inch
record album. CD-ROMs and online databases are needed by some clients to provide
accurate and up-to-date information.
In 1987, 52 per cent of public library authorities had a computer issue system and this
had increased to 77 per cent by 1991[21, p. 2]. There were only seven online catalogues
available for public use in public libraries in 1985 and this had grown to 56 (out of 167)
in 1991[21, p. 8]. This is a positive indication of the growth in library automation, but the
number of online catalogues in public libraries seem small compared with the use of such
catalogues in academic and business libraries[21, p. 1]. It is noticeable that the public
libraries making microcomputers available to the public in 1991 were concentrated
around London and the metropolitan boroughs[21,p.34].
CASE STUDY BACKGROUND
The library service concerned is a multi-site English academic library service. The
academic institution was established in the 1960s from a number of colleges of higher
education and the library service was developed from the college libraries. Student
numbers are increasing at a time when the library funding has been cut in real terms. The
head of library services had used MBO but decided, after meetings with site librarians
suggested that this was not satisfying all the requirements of the service, to introduce a
formal strategic planning system as a long-term method of perceiving and achieving the
library service needed by the polytechnic.
The planning committee/working party comprised the head of library services, the site
librarian and staff from a cross-section of faculties and administrative posts. They
collected and examined a number of useful documents, including examples of other
libraries' strategic plans; polytechnic and library service reports; current library and
higher education publications; and demographic and economic information about future
society, higher education and libraries. This primary information was supplemented by
working reports prepared by members of the working party, which enabled planning
members to understand the internal and external environment of the polytechnic.
The organizational mission is:
to provide a wide choice of courses with adequate learning facilities for students and to
provide support for research by lecturers and research students.
The library service mission is:
to supply reasonable access to materials in any media that is required by users to progress
in their studies.
The planning committee discussed the desired future of the service in a progressive and
realistic way. The committee drew up a vision of the library in 1995 so that "backward
planning" would help to achieve the library which was envisaged. Goals of the service
were identified as:
• to assess library resources;
• to develop the range of media providing access to subjects;
• to provide more effective guiding in the library;
• to run the library within an agreed programme of cost-effectiveness.
The goals were then broken down into a series of objectives.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
(1) To assess the library resources needed to meet the needs of the academic community.
(1.1) To be involved in the planning of all educational programmes.
(1.2) To co-operate with members of teaching staff in developing collection policies to
meet the requirements of educational programmes.
(1.3) To assess the physical environment required to provide an effective study
(2) To acquire material in a wide range of media to serve the educational aims of the
(2.1) To build the collections in accordance with the development policies agreed with
members of the teaching staff.
(2.2) To provide basic materials regarded as essential for all courses organized by the
(2.3) To provide in greater depth materials for selected areas of postgraduate study or
special research, resources permitting.
(2.4) To provide a balanced but limited stock in support of the professional development
of all polytechnic staff.
(3) To provide effective guidance in library use.
(3.1) To hold introductory programmes for all new students and members of staff.
(3.2) To give guidance for student project and dissertation work.
(3.3) To provide adequate guiding to the layout of the library and the resources held in it.
(4) To manage the library service in a cost-effective manner consistent with the
polytechnic's policies, procedures and legal requirements.
(4.1) To plan future development of the library services and systems, using the available
resources in the most cost-effective manner.
(4.2) To guarantee that financial resources made available to the library service are used
in the most efficient and effective manner.
(4.3) To ensure that staff resources al developed to their full potential and that all library
staff are making the maximum possible contribution to the service.
(4.4) To guarantee that the library meets all the requirements specified in the health and
(4.5) To ensure that the library operates within the law with regard to the copyright of
A key strength was the number of access points, which meant that students did not have
to travel across the town to get to the library service. This, however, was also a weakness
in that more access points require more staff and more funding for library buildings. The
recently installed online system has also proved to be a strong benefit which has speeded
up the issue and return system at the library counter as well as encouraging students to
make more use of the catalogue without first making requests to library staff. The stock is
growing, but it is not sufficient to meet the demands of the rapidly growing student
THIS SYSTEM IS OF GREAT CONCERN TO ACADEMIC LIBRARIES
The most important threat perceived by the planning committee was the Government
funding of higher education, introduced at the beginning of the 1993/94 tax year. This
system, whereby funding comes directly from the Government rather than through local
education authorities, is of great concern to academic libraries which are already trying to
compete for the limited funds available.
Another threat is the recent development of modular courses, as part of the credit
accumulation and transfer scheme, in which students complete a module each term. Each
module has assessed course work during or at the end of each term, often combined with
a formal examination. This system already operates for most courses at Liverpool John
Moores University, resulting in all the texts for one subject being requested by 60-100
students in the space of four weeks, and the service cannot afford to meet the stock
demands of all students for all modular courses.
The polytechnic was investing funds in several new developments including a purpose-
built library, which should make the service more attractive to staff and students. The
development of a purpose-built library should give the service the opportunity for a new
start in terms of layout and accessibility of stock.
IDENTIFYING STRATEGIC ISSUES
The strategic issues identified were:
• funding: concern with the new system and how to make the library appealing as a
• stock: concern with modular courses that need large numbers of identical texts for
short spaces of time;
• the move to the new building, which will take place before 1995.
The planning committee met to decide on strategies for each identified strategic issue.
With regard to funding, it was decided to compile a detailed financial report for the last
five years with all the financial predictions for the next three years and put the complete
document before the senior management of the polytechnic and the board of governors. It
was decided that compact disks for CD-ROMs could be provided by individual teaching
departments if the teaching staff really wanted their students to use them.
A serious stock strategy was needed to deal with the development of modular courses.
The most feasible method of dealing with the situation was to negotiate with individual
teaching departments to match copy for copy with key texts and to identify the most
useful journal titles in relation to the subject. Important articles could be photocopied and
held in the library for photocopying by students.
A strategy was also needed for the impending move to the new library. The decision was
made that the move to the new library would take place over the summer vacation, when
library use was minimal. The strategy was that reserve stock, and stock held in special
storage, would be moved first. This would be followed by moving stock on the open
shelves by Dewey number. The move will also allow for weeding of seriously damaged
or dated stock during the packaging process. Shelving in the new library would give the
service the ideal opportunity for a stock check to ascertain what material had been illicitly
removed from the shelves.
For the funding strategy, a finance committee was developed from the main planning
committee. This sub-committee was given the task of collating and presenting all the
financial data for the library service from the previous five years and gathering realistic
estimates for the: next three years. It was also given the task of informing teaching
departments of the service's decision to cease stocking CD-ROM material unless paid for
by the teaching department concerned.
A stock committee was developed from the remaining members of the planning
committee. This committee had to approach the teaching departments with a match for
match offer. It had to look at the most popular and relevant journal titles used and cancel
subscriptions to any journal that was rarely used or appeared to be irrelevant to the
courses. The possibility of a photocopy collection had to be investigated further and
reported back on.
A ROTA WAS DRAWN UP FOR THE STAFF
The movement strategy was discussed further among all the library staff, including part-
time and Saturday staff. A rota was drawn up for the staff. Two weeks full attendance by
all staff would be needed to complete most of the move in the time allocated. Crates had
to be hired from a book supplier and collected two days before the first stock was moved.
For the funding policy, one performance measure was the number of compact disks
purchased in 1993 compared with 1992 and the amount of money gained by the non-
purchase of CD-ROMs. If there was a positive difference in the expenditure on CDs,
money had been saved. The other measure was comparing the funding of the two years to
see whether the long term financial report had had any effect.
For the stock policy, the effectiveness was measured by the number of photocopies made
per week per title, the number of inter-library loan requests per week per title and the
stock intake per week.
The moving strategy was measured by the number of books packed, transported and
shelved in one day against the number of staff present that day. This also gave an
indication of general staff productivity.
The use of performance measures proved that the strategies were generally successful in
achieving what they were designed to do. The library budget was increased by 2.5 per
cent and a saving of L5,000 was made from the non-purchase of some CD-ROMs in the
first year. The stock quantity increased slightly and the photocopying service was very
popular with students. The move was completed within the time originally set, with staff
working at maximum capacity throughout that period.
Strategic planning can be used to great effect within a library or information service. It
has a potential that is not fully appreciated by all those currently working in the
The strategic issues discussed in this article are only the most frequent issues to occur.
Other issues may arise, such as library buildings, library security and disaster planning.
These issues also need serious consideration by any library manager. It is important to
recognize a potential strategic issue, develop a feasible plan to deal with it and implement
the plan in the most effective manner.
Disaster planning is important in any library service. Most libraries contain highly
flammable material, as well as computer technology and expensive periodicals and
monographs. An emergency procedure for materials damaged by fire and flood has to be
arranged before the event and a member of staff should be "on call" for a library disaster.
Library security is also an important strategic issue. The figures for book theft from
libraries are quite high, so a good security system can be seen as an investment against
the total cost of items stolen from the library.
The case study demonstrates some of the issues that are facing academic libraries. It is
based on three academic library services in different parts of England, but problems were
similar in each library. The issues of funding, stock manipulation and library buildings
can affect every library service in some form.
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Heather Johnson is currently a Temporary Assistant Librarian at the University of Luton
and is a graduate of the Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University,