Category Archives: Planning

NDLCC Standards Compliance: Strategic Plan

Guest post by Mary Soucie, State Librarian (first published in the October 2016 issue of Flickertale)

This is the ongoing series we have on compliance with the ND Library Coordinating Council’s (NDLCC) Standards for Public Libraries. The standards are effective July 1, 2017, and public libraries must be in compliance with the standards in order to apply for NDLCC grants.

One of the standards for all libraries is to have a 3-5 year strategic plan on file with the State Library. Many people are intimidated by the idea of writing a strategic plan, assuming the process to be complicated and difficult to undertake. While certainly some processes are more complex than others, the process can be simple depending on the needs of the organization.

When the State Library decided to create a strategic plan last year, we opted to work with a facilitator. We did an all-day retreat with our staff, off site. We also conducted a staff survey to help narrow the topics to be discussed at the retreat. By the end of the day, we had identified three priorities for the State Library to focus on. Administration then worked with our facilitator to identify objectives that would be used to measure progress of the goals. Library Vision 2020 and our Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) 5 year plan round out the documents that make up our strategic plan.

Hiring a facilitator is one method that can be used to develop a strategic plan. Larger organizations often find it useful to work with an outside facilitator. Libraries that work with a facilitator may opt to utilize surveys, focus groups or a combination of both to help inform the development of the plan.

Smaller libraries may not find the use of a facilitator to be necessary or an option. You can still conduct a patron survey. You can develop the survey using the free version of Survey Monkey, Google forms or another method. The survey can be shared with patrons that come into the library and on the library’s website. Focus groups are also a very useful way to gather information about the community’s needs and wants from the library.

A very common place to start the strategic planning process is to conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are often internal to the organization while opportunities and threats are usually external. When identifying your library’s strengths, questions to ask include what do you do better than anyone else, what can you offer that no one else can and what do others see as your strengths? When identifying your weaknesses, ask what can you improve, what should you avoid, what do others see as your weaknesses? To identify opportunities, look at trends in both the library world and in your community, region and state. When looking for threats, identify what obstacles the organization faces, who your competitors are and what they are doing better than you; again, remember to look at the local, regional and state communities. These are samples of questions you can look at; they are by no means exhaustive. Once you’ve completed the SWOT, you can identify the weaknesses you want to work on and the opportunities you want to take advantage of.

There is no prescription for how long your strategic plan should be. Typically, a plan has three to five goals, with measuring objectives for each. Wendy Wendt, director at Grand Forks, refers to her strategic plan as a roadmap and points out that you will not necessarily complete every single item in the plan. I think that’s useful advice to remember. You want the plan to be obtainable while challenging your organization to grow.

While you are creating your strategic plan, it is the perfect time to examine your vision and mission statements to determine if they still work or if they need to be updated. A mission statement should be short enough that everyone associated with the organization, including trustees, can remember it. The mission statement can be full sentences or a series of short bullet points. The NDSL mission statement is “Making connections, strengthening communities, impacting lives”. This statement guides us when planning services and programs and helps us determine how to use our resources. That is the goal of a mission statement- to help guide the organization in the use of resources while conveying the message of what the organization is about. The NDSL Vision Statement is “providing pathways to information and innovation”. The vision statement is what you do while the mission statement is how you’ll do it.

Your Library Development Specialist can assist you with your strategic plan, from assisting you with conducting focus groups, drafting a survey or reading through the plan and making suggestions on ways to improve the plan. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can assist in any way. You can also visit our website at where we’ve pulled together a variety of resources on strategic planning.

I love strategic planning and would be happy to read your plan or answer questions on the process. If you would like me to assist with a focus group or help you conduct a SWOT with your board, please invite me for a Librarian for a Day; you can contact Cheryl Pollert to schedule a visit at

NDLCC Standards Compliance Resource Links

Whether or not you attended one of our recent Summer Summit meetings, I wanted to ensure these resources were readily available and in one convenient location. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact your friendly Library Development Specialist here at the North Dakota State Library!

Indie Author Day 2016

Libraries across North America are gearing up to host local events for the first annual Indie Author Day. SELF-e, a collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioLabs, is the driving force Indie-Author-Day-300x226behind Indie Author Day. What is Indie Author Day? It is a soon-to-be annual event commencing this fall that will recognize and support independent authors.

It can be challenging for authors to get discovered and find a foothold in the publishing world. However, indie publishing is on the rise, and indie authors can also work with their local library to build support and a fan base within their own communities. On the flip side, libraries are urged to support local authors. This is where Indie Author Day comes in. Authors connecting with their local libraries and libraries supporting local authors forms a critical relationship.

Libraries big and small are encouraged to participate in Indie Author Day and host programs. Libraries hosting this event may offer book readings, book talks, discussion panels, book signings, workshops, presentations, networking, and more!

In addition to the programs hosted by all the participating libraries, an online gathering will be held at 1:00 PM (Central) with writers, publishers, and other leaders in the industry. This will bring libraries and indie communities together, and the hour long gathering will also provide information, advice, and inspiration.

The 2016 Indie Author Day will be held on October 8, 2016. For more information, visit their website at:

For more information on hosting and planning an event, visit

Registering to host a local event for Indie Author Day can be done at:

Library Volunteers

volunteerAlmost every library depends on volunteer help at some time or another. Some libraries in North Dakota are run entirely by volunteers year-round! Summer, however, means summer reading programming. As one of the most time and labor intensive programs that most libraries offer, summer reading is one time nearly all libraries rely on volunteers for extra help. Finding and retaining reliable volunteers can be as challenging as planning a whole summer’s worth of programming, so here are some resources that may help.

The National Summer Learning Association has a tip sheet to help you recruit and select seasonal staff. It helps you identify potential sources for recruiting summer help, and it also provides tips for interviewing.

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Turning Outward to Better Understand and Serve your Community

transformingLibrariesThinking about revising your library’s strategic plan? Wondering how you can do more to better understand the communities you serve? In need of more informed advocacy and outreach? Consider utilizing the Turning Outward workbook from Transforming Libraries. It is a collection of tools designed to help libraries strengthen their roles as community leaders and bring about positive change in their service area.

The workbook is laid out as a 90-day plan, which sounds daunting at first, but it’s broken down into manageable installments. Since this step-by-step process was developed by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation in partnership with the American Library Association, you know it will be effective.

I do recommend reading through the entire workbook before you begin tackling the project, however, as this will ground your understanding of the process and assist with keeping things flowing forwards smoothly. There are a few awkward moments in the workbook, like where you’re asked to discuss aspects of the Cycle of Public Innovation graphic several pages before it appears. Knowing this in advance will keep you from getting hung up on such inconvenient details.

The entire workbook is available as a PDF online, free of charge right here.

You can learn more about Transforming Libraries and the Turning Outward program on this site.

Licensed under

“The Cycle of Public Innovation” by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation used under CC BY NC SA 3.0 license.


Help Your Library Gain the Edge


What is the Edge Initiative? A management and leadership tool which helps libraries create a path for the growth and development of their public technology services. It facilitates assessment of libraries’ technology offerings and user needs, and aids in aligning their future growth and services with community priorities. The self-survey takes a few hours to complete, but will profoundly benefit your strategic and advocacy endeavors. Want a taste? Check out this article from the International City/County Management Association’s Public Management Magazine, or explore these case studies.

You can learn more about the Edge assessment on this site. If you’re interested in taking the assessment, you can start by watching this video, completing this workbook, and registering your library.

Once you’ve completed the Edge Assessment, training is available in the areas of advocacy, technology management, library leadership, and community assessment and planning.

Still not convinced? Read Barbie Keiser’s article “Give Your Library the Edge” in Information Today. 


College Is Worth It, But Start Salting Away Early

CollegeBankIn the last 10 years, college costs have more than doubled. More and more students are graduating from college shackled to debt. Even families with above average incomes need financial help. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition and fees in North Dakota is about $6,000. That does not include room, board, books, and supplies.

Going to college and picking the right major can make a huge difference in work income. So there is more incentive to go to college even though it is expensive. The easiest way to pay for college is to start saving early, the day your child is born.

A Pew Research study states, “In a modern, knowledge-based economy, the only thing more expensive than going to college is not going to college.” The study found that millennial college graduates make about $17,500 more a year than their contemporaries with only a high school diploma. However, today’s college educated are not doing better than their parent’s generation. Yesterday’s well-paying blue collar jobs, that built the American middle class, have mostly vanished. Today, wages have stagnated and purchasing power has declined.

The bottom line: Yes, college is becoming grossly expensive but it still is a good investment for the long haul. It is also important to pick the right major in a field that is growing and looks bright.

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”  – Wendell Berry




Think Small to Think Big

graphAre you ever envious when you hear stories about libraries that are hosting programs that seem out of reach for your library due to lack of staff or funding? Do you ever get discouraged thinking how your library could never afford to do such an expensive or large scale project?

Maybe it’s time to change how you’re thinking! WebJunction hosted a webinar entitled “The Future is Now: Rural Library as Innovative Incubator” that focused on how to do just that. If you missed it, you can still access the content, or you can read this recap, which highlights how small libraries can still achieve big goals with a change in how they think about the goal.

One way of accomplishing this is to start with small changes. You don’t have to do everything at once! One librarian discusses how she learned that another library spent $10,000 on a digital media lab. Knowing she could not afford such a large amount, she focused on what she could do and invested in $400 worth of equipment to get her library’s lab up and running.

Some North Dakota libraries would balk at even a $400 project, but remember, the point is to focus on what you can do rather than why you can’t do it.

What’s a lofty goal you have for your library that you could break down into smaller pieces? Share your ideas in the comments!

Surveys, Valuable and Annoying

SurveyThe other morning National Public Radio had a story about customer surveys, which seem to be everywhere. In the library world, as well most other worlds (business, education, government, sports, etc.) surveys are extensively used to find out why people do what they do, and what they want.

On one hand, surveys have value. We even have a book club survey posted on our “Field Notes” blog. But on the other hand, surveys can be one of the banes of modern society. Occasionally I will fill out a survey, if it isn’t too long and if it relates to my experience. I’ve created surveys. Most times though when a survey pops up on a webpage, I close it or say, “No thanks.”

Online surveys are everywhere because they are inexpensive, immediate, easy to create, and have value for discerning what customers are thinking. Institutions and companies find surveys to be worth the risk of annoyance. So, if you see value in a survey, take it.

“Add a few drops of venom to a half truth and you have an absolute truth.” — Eric Hoffer

Harnessing the Power of Community Data

We are in the midst of a six-city tour of North Dakota, presenting 1-day workshops on long range planning for public libraries. It has been a really great experience to visit with library staff and board members to talk about planning for their libraries’ futures.

One of the main components of any library planning process is gathering data about the community the library serves. In order to plan the library’s future direction and services, it is critical to learn about the demographic characteristics of the community as a whole, as well as the views, opinions, and needs of both library users and non-users alike.

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