Strategic Planning starts with listening

When embarking on writing a strategic plan I think the best place to start is with listening. The University of Kansas Public Management Center has helped our managers and administrative team listen to more than 14,000 voices.

Last Friday, the administrative team and I sat down to share what we learned from the community engagement report. Though everyone has their opinion, the team was looking at trends and themes that continually appeared throughout the report.

We are still working to distill this information, and I wanted to share my thoughts and observations with you.

The collection was the highest priority, keeping it updated and current. Our community wants reassurance that we maintain a premier collection. From the feedback contained in the report, I think there is an unspoken desire to find new and improved ways to keep them informed.

Staying true to the vision and mission of the public library was another recurring theme. People did recognize that our community has many needs, and while they do look for the library to form strategic partnerships, they do not want the library to morph into an entity that simply provides social services.

For many of the people who responded to the survey, technology was top of mind. There was universal agreement that the library cannot fall behind technologically. The paradox is that our internal statistics continue to show a decline in PC usage. So what does this mean? In my opinion, technology and innovation are synonymous. The community wants us to innovate and find technological solutions to solve problems and add value to the experience of using a library.

We talked about using technology to extend library hours and to provide additional and more user-friendly online services. We did go down a rabbit-hole in our brainstorming, and we realized there are many areas where we could improve and enhance services using technology that is available today.

The third theme was marketing and communication. Our patrons shared that they want to receive information from the library in three ways, e-mail, our website and Facebook.

This challenged our thinking on the other digital and print channels we are offering. It is something that we need to investigate further and will be a strategic focal point.

Our patrons would like us to expand services for those who are experiencing poverty. They would like us to develop programs that would support teachers and our aging population.

The good news is that we are doing exceptionally well in certain areas. The community overwhelmingly understands and supports the work that we are doing in early childhood literacy development.

We continue to do good work in customer service. Patrons find our staff to be open, helpful and friendly. They like the conditions of the buildings and recognize that some of them need updating.

Johnson County is rapidly changing. The County continues to attract people, and as a result, the population continues to grow. The population is also becoming more diverse, and a theme we saw was the desire that the library offer more cultural events. It is unclear if these events were about ethnicity or a more broad cultural appreciation.

I am very happy with the survey. It reflects all the great work you are doing every day and it also provides a clear path and direction for the work that has yet to be done.