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Organizational Planning

Library staff engaged in futurist thinking might well embark upon long range planning for their libraries. We anticipate that some libraries/organizations that invite the MN Library Futurists to attend their meetings might like that long range planning to be a part of the discussion. If you intend to have the MN Library Futurists play a role in your long range planning, we ask that you consider completing some important groundwork in advance of the actual meeting. If you are doing future planning work on your own, consider the activities and exercises below to help frame your discussions.

Activities and Exercises

1. Library personnel, Board members, and a select group of users should evaluate their library/organization’s Mission Statement.

  • A mission statement is a statement of purpose. Who do you serve? What do you do? What do you provide that people cannot get elsewhere? Why do you exist? The mission statement is concrete. You should be able to read it and say “This is what we do; this is why we are here.”

2. Library personnel, Board members, and a select group of users should evaluate their library/organization’s Vision Statement.

  • A vision statement must be formulated with the mission statement in mind. If you know your purpose, your vision is how you carry it out. Who are you? How do you carry out your mission statement/ How do you behave? What are your priorities of service? The vision statement is philosophical.You should be able to read it and say “This is who the _____ Library is; this is what people think when they hear the name.” The vision statement forms the overarching strategy for the plan, so it is essential that you can think about the work you’ve already done, and see that it fits within the vision.

3. Complete a Community Evaluation

  • Define your community
  • Evaluate/study community demographics
  • Study your users and nonusers
  • Complete an Environmental Scan to determine the various groups, agencies, and businesses in your community

4. Complete a Community Needs Assessment – via surveys, comments, evaluations, focus groups, etc…

  • What are the community’s needs and wants?
  • How do we balance the needs and wants?
  • How do we respond with and allocate resources, services, space, and staff?

5. Consider conducting a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis should be carried out in a large group, representative of the entire agency or institution, as a brainstorming exercise. SWOT analysis is a framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that you may be facing. Carrying out an analysis using the SWOT method will help you focus your efforts to areas where you are strong and where your greatest opportunities lie. It will also help you address your weaknesses and develop strategies to handle your threats.

It is helpful if members of the group carrying out the SWOT analysis spend some time considering their answers before the actual event. Consider the following questions from your own point of view, and the consider them from the point of view of the people you serve. Be realistic.


  • What advantages do you have?
  • What do you do well?
  • What resources do you have access to?
  • What do the people you serve see as your strengths?
  • What do you see as the strengths of the library?


  • What could you improve?
  • What do you do badly?
  • What do you not do that you know you should be doing?
  • What do you avoid? Why?
  • What do the people you serve see as your weaknesses?


  • What do you see as the opportunities facing you? Financially? Politically? In your community? From changing trends?
  • Which of these opportunities do you think it is important to respond to?
  • What opportunities frighten you?
  • Are there opportunities that exist that you are avoiding? What are they?
  • What opportunities might be suggested by the people you serve?
  • What would they like you to do?


  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What are other libraries doing that you are not?
  • What is changing your job, program or services? Does it threaten you? Why?
  • Is technology changing so fast that it becomes the threat? How could this be helped?
  • What do you need to feel less threatened?
  • Are there financial concerns that threaten your organization?
  • Are there space concerns of safety concerns that threaten you?
  • Could any of your weaknesses eventually threaten the existence of your organization?