This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class. Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast. This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
by Jessica Miller, Coordinator,
Washington County Library System
Can you tell me your library’s mission? I’m sure that most of us can’t answer that question off the top of our heads. Yet, your library’s mission should be front and center in the minds of your staff, board and patrons because it tells them what you are doing better than anyone else. At the National Nonprofit Leadership Conference, I was lucky enough to learn how your mission statement impacts everything we do from strategic planning to technology choices.
Your mission is placed at the vanguard of your strategic planning process. At the conference I learned your strategic plan will show you where you want your library to be in 2-3 years and how you’re going to get it there. One of the things you should consider when beginning your strategic planning process is to see if your mission still has value–ultimately should you still exist. This is a great opportunity to ask your board to think about what would happen if you vanished tomorrow. While this can be a scary question to some of us, it can show your board not only where you are excelling in impacting your community, but also help it locate other opportunities for you to better serve it. Your community should not just be your local community either, don’t forget about your library system (if it is a member), district, and state goals.
Once you have a draft plan, watch out for the 5 signs of a bad plan: everyone indiscriminately supporting the plan without thinking it through, having the same people with the same information responsible for the plan as before, a CEO who tries to work around the middle management, getting a consultant so they can be blamed for a failed plan, and focusing on separate activities rather than the whole. Lastly, once your plan is finished make sure you actually use it. It will show the public you believe in your mission.
Mission statements are even important when considering technological decisions. Rosette Nguyen from TechSoup presented a session about integrating tech into your nonprofit’s success. TechSoup’s mission statement is to build a dynamic bridge that enables design and implementation of technology solutions for a more equitable planet. They believe that no matter what your mission –education, environment, wildlife protection, etc. –we live in a “knowledge economy” and tech is being used by your constituents and their peers, so they exist to help nonprofits with their technological needs. They support that bridge through their technology donation program for libraries and nonprofits where their most popular product is antivirus software, and they also offer support in the form of community forums. This is an area where you can ask questions and have other members answer them.
If you are looking to incorporate tech into your library’s success Nguyen provided the following five tips: technology leadership is not just for techies, start with the problem you want to solve- the person you want to help rather than with the technology, decide where to invest first –may not be software or hardware, mindfully implement tactics for choosing and using technology, and lastly- get inspired. You can use these tips to better your library for its community.
The National Nonprofit Leadership Conference was a wonderful way to learn more about many aspects of nonprofits that I don’t get a chance to necessarily see at the typical library conference. Many of the issues we face are not unique to libraries and it is great to have a chance to network with others in similar situations. I’m glad my library system’s mission statement supported this conference.