Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Planning: the mission statement

Long ago I wrote an entry here on planning. It was mostly about listening. While we will continue to listen to our users, our colleagues, and to the general hubub in the "infosphere", we are now entering a new stage in our planning. This month we are reviewing and perhaps revising our mission statement, in March we will be moving on to developing a short list of strategic goals or directions for the library to pursue over the next three to five years, and then in May we will get down to the level of an operational plan with annual projects etc.

One book I like on mission statements is Linda Wallace's "Library Mission & Marketing: Writing Mission Statements that Work." Chicago, ALA 2004. As Wallace puts it a mission statement should be a source of guidance and inspiration, define the unique contribution of your library, and be easy to say, read, and remember. (p. 16)

Our current statement is "The Olin Library provides instruction, information, and services to support the teaching and research needs of the Rollins Community." I like that it is short, and it covers the bases, but if it did not start with "the Olin Library" would it be unique to us? Couldn't IT or the Writing Center say much the same thing?

A couple I like from other Oberlin group schools include, from Union College, “Schaffer Library is a teaching library. We provide access to information resources that support the educational mission of Union College and we teach the critical and analytical skills necessary for the intelligent use of those resources.” It is blunt and to the point. The other is from Connecticut College "“Keeping you CONNected: Partnering with the college community to provide innovative, reliable, and universal access to information resources in support of academic and administrative endeavors.” I think I just like the creative use of CONN.

The other thing about mission statements is how you write them. Democracy and consensus can create buy-in which is important, but it can also lead to overly long, inclusive, and forgettable statements.

We have decided to do the following:

Having supplied them with some examples and some guidance from Wallace I asked everyone to write a mission statement for the library on their own. I also invited the Library Advisory Group (mostly faculty) to contribute their ideas if they wanted to. Then we held a 1 hour all library personnel meeting at which we did the following:

a) discussed the purpose of a mission statement.
b) Swapped all the individual mission statements are so that everyone had someone else's statement.
c) Everyone read the statement they had to the group and said what they think was positive/strong/exciting about the statement and why.
d) We divided everyone into four groups.

Each group was asked to appoint a facilitator (who will make sure the group gets its work done) and a reporter (who will report back to the next all library meeting.) Each group is asked to prepare a mission statement for the Olin Library before the next meeting. They can do this is a group meeting, via e-mail, whatever works for them as a group. It is the facilitator's role to make sure everyone gets to participate to the extent that they want to.

Then we will hold another 1 hour all library personnel meeting at which:

a) each group presents their mission statement.
b) we all discuss and arrive at a consensus (or as close as we can get) for what our mission statement will be.

If necessary, the librarians will meet afterwards and wordsmith the final product. Once we are satisfied, we will present it to the library and the Advisory Council for comment, and we hope endorsement.

The final product will be a revised mission statement by the end of February 2007. This puts us in good shape for the librarians to begin goal formation at an all day workshop during Spring break.

Wish us luck.

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