Strategic Planning Executive Summary

 

1.   INTRODUCTION

A growing library pursues opportunities in new fields of knowledge, new information formats, and new technologies by engaging in short term and long-range planning to develop goals and objectives. This ensures that the library remains current and relevant to community needs and expectations.

 

On August 26, 2014, the Sequoyah Regional Library Board initiated a strategic planning process to gather staff and community input into the future direction for the organization. This report details the results of the planning process carried out by an ad hoc committee of the library director, the library’s managers, and an independent consultant, Carla Beasley with Beasley Business Services.

 

Developing the Sequoyah Regional Library Strategic Plan 2015 - 2018 was a highly participative process. Activities included a review of the most current demographic data for the community, an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the library, a review of the results of online surveys and focus groups of residents and library users, an examination of trends in public library services, and a planning retreat with library management.

 

All of the collected data identified a future focus for library services and programs. Specific recommendations for an action plan were formulated, prioritized for implementation.

 

2.   PROCESS

The process began with a retreat by library senior management, held on September 24, 2014.  Ms. Beasley presented a timeline of the Strategic Planning process.

 

·         Board Approval                                            August 2014

·         Managers’ Meetings:                                   September -- October 2014

o   List of Focus Group participants

o   Environmental Scan Statistics

·         Staff Day:                                                       November 2014

o   Service Dimensions

o   Strengths and Struggles

·         Gather Data:                                                 January – February 2015

o   Compile Statistical Data

o   Facilitate Focus Groups

·         Draft the plan:                                               March 2015

o   Determine Goals

o   Support Goals with Objectives

·         Final Strategic Plan                                     April 1, 2015

·         Board Approval                                            April 28, 2015

·         Use the Plan                                                 2015 - 2018


 

The current Mission and Vision Statements and Values were reviewed, as they form the foundation for all future planning.

 

Mission Statement: Sequoyah Regional Library System will provide organized print, non-print and electronic materials to meet the informational, educational, recreational, and cultural needs of a growing, diverse community, with emphasis placed on the chosen roles of the library system.

 

Vision Statement: Sequoyah strives to anticipate and meet the needs and wants of its citizens by providing excellent service and materials.

 

Values: In all interactions, the staff of the Sequoyah Regional Library System are guided by these values:

·         A passion for quality customer service

·         Continuous learning and innovation in the pursuit of excellence

·         Integrity, fairness, justice, and equality

·         Respect for diversity and individuality with equal access for all

·         Being a gateway to knowledge and learning by having a balanced, diverse, unbiased collection with useful resources

·         Responsible stewardship of all resources and public funds

·         Being aware of and responsive to community needs

 

Ms. Beasley then explained why a Strategic Plan was necessary and how the process would develop at SRLS.               The meeting concluded with a brainstorming session to determine what community groups to survey, what internal statistics to gather, and what external sources to research in comparing SRLS with other state and national systems. Group results are reproduced in the scanned copies below:



 


 


 

In their next managers’ meeting on October 29, 2014, senior staff researched demographic data for the Environmental Scan part of the planning progress, drawing from the STEP and Internal Statistics lists they had made at the previous retreat.

 

Looking at U. S. Census data for the three counties (see chart next page), several predictions can be made. By 2020, all three counties will experience growth, but the growth of Cherokee County will be greatest and fastest. The percentage of children is similar in all three counties, but the percentage of “boomers” is much higher in Gilmer and Pickens Counties. The average drive time to work is consistently about 30 minutes in all three counties.  Hispanic or Latino populations are the second highest race, next to White, in all three counties, and are consistently about 10% of each county’s population. In education, Cherokee ranks highest in all categories, with post-secondary population percentage more than double of Gilmer.

 

The Census data leads us to observations about future service needs for SRLS. Children’s programs will be popular in all the counties, but there could be a much higher demand for programs appealing to seniors in Gilmer and Pickens. Workers in all three counties may look to the library for books and audio in digital or CD formats to use on their half hour commutes. Spanish language materials and literacy classes may be in demand at most of the branches. Educated families in Cherokee may have more home connections to technology and use online resources more. Job seekers will have differing demands among the counties based on educational attainment.


 

Census Data

 

People QuickFacts

Gilmer

Co

Pickens

Co

Cherokee

Co

 

 

Georgia

Population, 2020 projection

30,946

32,523

269,221

 

 

Population, 2013 estimate

28,579

29,584

225,106

 

 

Population, 2010

28,292

29,431

214,346

 

 

Population, 2000

23,456

22,983

141,925

 

 

Population, 1990

13,368

14,432

90,217

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persons under 5 years, percent, 2013

5.3%

5.1%

6.5%

 

6.7%

Persons under 18 years, percent, 2013

20.8%

21.2%

26.5%

 

24.9%

Persons 65 years and over, percent, 2013

20.8%

19.6%

11.3%

 

12.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

White alone, percent, 2013 (a)

96.4%

96.2%

89.3%

 

62.5%

Black or African American alone, percent, 2013 (a)

0.9%

1.4%

6.4%

 

31.4%

American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent, 2013 (a)

0.7%

0.5%

0.5%

 

0.5%

Asian alone, percent, 2013 (a)

0.4%

0.6%

1.9%

 

3.7%

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, percent, 2013 (a)

0.5%

Z

0.1%

 

0.1%

Two or More Races, percent, 2013

1.1%

1.2%

1.9%

 

1.9%

Hispanic or Latino, percent, 2013 (b)

10.6%

3.0%

10.1%

 

9.2%

White alone, not Hispanic or Latino, percent, 2013

87.1%

93.6%

80.4%

 

54.8%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Language other than English spoken at home, pct age 5+, 2008-2012

8.6%

3.6%

12.8%

 

13.1%

High school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25+, 2008-2012

75.9%

80.7%

88.9%

 

84.4%

Bachelor's degree or higher, percent of persons age 25+, 2008-2012

14.5%

22.0%

34.6%

 

27.8%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16+, 2008-2012

28

28.8

32

 

27

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per capita money income in past 12 months (2012 dollars), 2008-2012

$21,290

$26,833

$29,939

 

$25,309

Median household income, 2008-2012

$37,257

$50,829

$67,928

 

$49,604

Persons below poverty level, percent, 2008-2012

20.4%

11.8%

8.4%

 

17.4%

 

 

5


 

Additional statistics based on Georgia Public Library Services 2013 annual report figures underscore the findings from the U. S. Census. The Cherokee County branches are more heavily used than Pickens or Gilmer, reflective of the higher population demographics. However, Pickens and Gilmer in-house computer usage ranks high, possibly due to lower income wage-earners who do not have technology at home.

 

 

 

 

FacilityName

 

PatronsReg

Total

Circ

 

Visits

Print

Collection

User

Sessions

Ball Ground Public Library

5,227

37,014

63,586

29,613

4,819

Hickory Flat Public Library

13,275

144,419

106,205

37,341

17,034

R.T. Jones Memorial Library

21,322

210,894

131,908

69,996

25,712

Rose creek Public Library

18,852

151,017

139,307

38,957

15,462

Woodstock Public Library

29,426

254,266

154,018

49,580

38,036

Gilmer County Library

12,459

89,974

81,717

40,699

28,383

Pickens County Library

11,871

96,487

83,638

38,230

23,116

 

112,432

984,071

760,379

304,416

152,562

 



 



Program attendance for both children’s and adult programs again reflect the census demographics. In Cherokee County, the population of children ages 0-9 is decreasing, reflected by a similar leveling out of program attendance at all Cherokee branches except for RT Jones.


 

 


Pickens County children’s programming shows a similar trend, while Gilmer County shows a slight increase.


 




In adult programming, the increase in the “boomer” population reflects increases in all the branches.


 

 


The annual SRLS Staff Day was held on November 11th. All staff participated in planning activities, looking at past and future library trends and discussing the strengths of SRLS and the issues that cause the system to struggle.

 

Ms. Beasley presented four trend areas in today’s libraries, based on a national report from American Library Association’s Office for Technology Policy entitled Confronting the Future, Strategic Visions from the 21st Century Library. The four trends illustrated “continuums” in library services, as shown in an article illustration below. Placement on the continuums reflects service attributes. They are not meant to indicate “before and after” or “better and worse.”  They are simply visual indicators of service trends.


 

Large tri-fold charts replicated each of the four continuums. Staff was asked to place a round sticker on each continuum where they thought SRLS services were currently, and then a star on where they would like for SRLS services to be in one to three years. The purpose of this activity was to reveal how consistent staff perception is of the SRLS service levels and how willing and eager the staff is to change.


The first continuum, Totally Physical to Totally Virtual, illustrates library services focused totally in a brick and mortar building (such as the Law Library) moving to services focused totally online (such as the Digital Library of America). Staff response to this continuum indicates a belief that SRLS currently depends on the local facilities to deliver services, but staff envisions moving to a stronger online presence in the future.


 

 



The second continuum, Individual Focus to Community Focus, illustrates library services focused primarily on individuals, such as one-on-one reference help, moving to services focused on community benefits, such as classes, programs, and gathering places either physical or virtual. Staff response to this continuum indicates a belief that SRLS currently handles interactions one-on-one, but staff envisions moving to a stronger community gathering space approach.


 

 

 



The third continuum, Collection to Creation, illustrates the way library collections are obtained and provided to patrons. Collections are typically books and AV materials, both physical and digital. Librarians serve in a traditional role of choosing the materials purchased for library shelves and online use. Creation of materials allows library users to make materials themselves, such as through self-publishing, maker-spaces, and work groups. Librarians serve as teachers and mentors. Staff response to this continuum indicates the logical observation that most materials are now selected and purchased by library staff, and they envision that there will be little change in the future, although they are open to some change in this area.

 


 

 



The fourth continuum, Portal to Archive, illustrates the way library resources are accessed by patrons. A portal may be either physical (a building) or virtual (a library’s website), and the library user can access resources through the portal and beyond the walls or website of the library.  For example, a library loan program and digital databases don’t reside in the library, but can be accessed through the library portal. An Archive is like the Library of Congress, whereby users must access only the resources in the archive itself. Staff response to this continuum clusters around the center of the continuum, indicating that SRLS libraries currently provide both a portal and archives to its users, and staff don’t see this changing.

 


 

 

 



The second half of the Staff Day Strategic Planning presentation concentrated on staff’s view of a modified SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), a typical tool for long-range planning. Ms. Beasley used only two categories, Strengths (both internal strengths and external opportunities) and Struggles (internal weaknesses and external threats). Staff was divided into groups by branch and/or administrative department. Each group provided lists of Strengths and Struggles from their perspective. All responses were tallied, and keywords were applied to make evaluation and review easier. Below are the tables of Strengths and Struggles. Customer Service and Staffing were both seen as strengths in the system, and Marketing and Funding were the two most quoted struggles. (Every repetition is not necessarily listed in the table.)  These observations were later confirmed by responses from Focus Groups.

 

 

STRENGTHS

Item

Branch

Keyword

Good inter-communication in adult services

 

RTJ A/S

 

Admin

System is thrifty with resources

RTJ Admin

Admin

Makes do with limited resources

RTJ Circ

Admin

Provides a free service to the community

RTJ Circ

Admin

Efficient use of resources

RTJ Tech

Admin

Community offering STEM

Ballground

Admin

Profitable booksales

Hickory Flat

Booksales

Good book sales

RTJ Tech

Booksales

Strong ancestry information

RTJ A/S

Collection

Receives good book & magazine donations

 

Rose Creek

 

Collection

Strong collection

RTJ Admin

Collection

Library has something for all ages

RTJ Circ

Collection

Access to materials internally & externally

Ballground

Collection

Customer Service

Woodstock

Customer Service

Growth in new patrons/Library cards

Woodstock

Customer Service

Increased circulation & foot traffic

Woodstock

Customer Service

Good courier service

RTJ A/S

Customer Service

Quality customer service

Hickory Flat

Customer Service

Customer Service

Gilmer

Customer Service

Good rapport with patrons

Pickens

Customer Service

Caring community

Pickens

Customer Service

Patrons are satisfied

Pickens

Customer Service

Good customer service

Rose Creek

Customer Service

Provides patron information

Rose Creek

Customer Service

Good homebound outreach

RTJ Admin

Customer Service

Good customer service

RTJ Circ

Customer Service


(Strengths, cont.)

Branch

Keyword

Have great patron relationships

Ballground

Customer Service

Great customer service

Ballground

Customer Service

Have a computer lab

Woodstock

Facilities

Nice large facility

Woodstock

Facilities

Good facilities

RTJ Youth

Facilities

User-friendly branch

RTJ Youth

Facilities

Quality facilities

Gilmer

Facilities

Has a Georgia room

Pickens

Facilities

Have excellent facilities

RTJ Admin

Facilities

Meeting rooms are popular

RTJ Tech

Facilities

Have a low crime rate

Ballground

Facilities

Insufficient funds

RTJ Tech

Funding

Sufficient open hours

Pickens

Hours

Good relationship with local businesses

Hickory Flat

Marketing

Good community participation

Gilmer

Marketing

Provides community coverage

Pickens

Marketing

Has good relationship with press

RTJ Admin

Marketing

Good community involvement

RTJ Admin

Marketing

Have good relationship with city

Ballground

Marketing

Hold regular youth events

RTJ Youth

Programming

Strong summer kick-offs

RTJ Youth

Programming

Excellent programs

Hickory Flat

Programming

Provides good community programs

Rose Creek

Programming

Provides kid-friendly programs

Rose Creek

Programming

Excellent programming

RTJ Admin

Programming

Good children's programming

RTJ Tech

Programming

Good adult programming

RTJ Tech

Programming

Knowledgeable staff

RTJ A/S

Staffing

Strong staff

RTJ Youth

Staffing

Caring, educated staff

RTJ Youth

Staffing

Dependable and caring staff

Hickory Flat

Staffing

Staff teamwork

Gilmer

Staffing

Caring staff

Pickens

Staffing

Good staff teamwork

Rose Creek

Staffing

Keeps up with technology changes

Rose Creek

Staffing

Excellent & well-trained staff

RTJ Admin

Staffing

Good staff teamwork

RTJ Admin

Staffing

Staff teamwork

RTJ Circ

Staffing

Knowledgeable staff

RTJ Tech

Staffing

Shortage of facility staff

RTJ Tech

Staffing


STRUGGLES

Item

Branch

Keyword

Face dislike of change

RTJ A/S

Admin

Need consistency among branches

Pickens

Admin

Better communication among branches

Rose Creek

Admin

Need consistency in policy enforcement

Rose Creek

Admin

Hours are inconsistent among branches

RTJ Admin

Admin

Inadequate communication among branches

 

RTJ Circ

 

Admin

Need better directions from DMV

RTJ Tech

Admin

Need better communication among branches

 

RTJ Tech

 

Admin

Serve a small community

Ballground

Admin

Not enough incentives to draw patrons

Ballground

Admin

Need more children's books

RTJ Youth

Collection

Need to keep collections up to date

RTJ Youth

Collection

Need new digital titles

Rose Creek

Collection

Need more new books

RTJ Admin

Collection

Need more Hispanic resources

RTJ Tech

Collection

Has no homebound program

Gilmer

Customer Service

Inadequate communication with patrons

RTJ Circ

Customer Service

Not enough meeting room space

RTJ A/S

Facilities

Infrastructure problems (EE / HVAC)

RTJ A/S

Facilities

Not enough parking

Hickory Flat

Facilities

Aging building

Hickory Flat

Facilities

Poor branch location

Gilmer

Facilities

Poor location

Pickens

Facilities

Facility is too small

Pickens

Facilities

Insufficient parking

Pickens

Facilities

Insufficient outside lighting

Pickens

Facilities

Insufficient space for patron privacy

Rose Creek

Facilities

Lack of public parking

Rose Creek

Facilities

Libraries lack "neighborhood" feel

RTJ Admin

Facilities

Lack of community center feel

RTJ Admin

Facilities

Poor location

RTJ Tech

Facilities

Need space to expand and update facilities

RTJ Tech

Facilities

Funding problems

Woodstock

Funding

Need larger budget

Woodstock

Funding

Funding problems

RTJ Youth

Funding

Lack of funding

Pickens

Funding

Insufficient funds

RTJ Admin

Funding


(Struggles, cont.)

Branch

Keyword

Need more program funding

RTJ Admin

Funding

Insufficient funds

RTJ Circ

Funding

Need more hours

Woodstock

Hours

Need more open hours

Hickory Flat

Hours

Had to reduce hours

RTJ Admin

Hours

Need more hours

RTJ Tech

Hours

Need more public hours

Ballground

Hours

Technology issues are a problem

Pickens

IT

Insufficient IT equipment & bandwidth

Ballground

IT

Increase awareness of services

Woodstock

Marketing

Lack of information to community

RTJ Youth

Marketing

Need more communication to schools

RTJ Youth

Marketing

Need for marketing

Gilmer

Marketing

Need to improve public perception

Gilmer

Marketing

Improve relationship with school system

Gilmer

Marketing

Need more outreach

Pickens

Marketing

Need more school collaboration

Pickens

Marketing

Need more effective public communication

Rose Creek

Marketing

Lack of community involvement

RTJ Circ

Marketing

Lack of awareness of public

RTJ Circ

Marketing

Not taking advantage of social media

RTJ Circ

Marketing

Need more marketing

RTJ Tech

Marketing

Need better community relationships

RTJ Tech

Marketing

Need more community interactions

RTJ Tech

Marketing

Need more staff

Woodstock

Staffing

Need Children's coordinator at all branches

Woodstock

Staffing

Need more staff

Hickory Flat

Staffing

Lack of staff backups

Rose Creek

Staffing

Lack of bilingual staff

RTJ Admin

Staffing

Volunteers are not allowed due to policy

RTJ Admin

Staffing

Need computer training for staff

Woodstock

Training

Need cross-training

RTJ A/S

Training

More technology training

Hickory Flat

Training

Staff need technology training

Rose Creek

Training

Need staff training

RTJ Tech

Training

Need computer classes for patrons

Woodstock

Training


Focus Groups were scheduled in January and February. Library management did an excellent job in reaching out to library users, government officials, and library board members.  Administrative staff facilitated the focus groups, using four questions:

 

1.      If you were talking to someone about Sequoyah Regional Library System, what would you tell them are the key strengths of the library in your community?

2.      In what areas should the Library improve? Are there things we should stop doing?

3.      As the Sequoyah Regional Library System plans for the future, what new or existing services should be given the highest priorities to support our citizens?

4.      What else would you like for us to know?

 

Hundreds of results were collected through in-house surveys and focus groups of library patrons and community residents, library board members, and local government officials. Customer Service was highly praised at all branches, so much so that there were no areas to include as struggles or weaknesses, and no need to add this area to a specific goal in the plan.  Requests for additional services that were made repeatedly are summarized below.

 

·         More hours and more consistent hours among branches

·         More materials in all formats

·         Advertising in communities through the printed word (newspapers, etc.)

·         In-house signs & brochures to advertise branch services

·         Online newsletters / website for publicizing branch functions

·         Staff training on new products

·         Classes for the public in many areas

·         Updated online options to allow more use of the library at home

·         More Adult / Senior programs

·         Additional Early Childhood Literacy programs

·         Corporate and non-profit partnerships to aid funding

·         Use of volunteers to help with budget concerns

·         More use of meeting rooms by the public

·         Study Rooms added for community groups and student use

·         Faster computers in-house

·         More popular titles, especially bestsellers

·         Increase outreach and services to homeschoolers

·         Self-pickup of holds within branches

·         Lounge areas for social interaction


3.     Key Conclusions

Now it was time to compile all of the discovery data into a pertinent, timely document. Responses from staff, Focus Groups, and demographics fell into six broad categories.

 

A.   Marketing / Communication

B.   Facilities

C.   Technology

D.   Materials

E.   Programming

F.    Funding

 

These six categories became the bases of the four Strategic Plan Goals with Objectives spelling out implementation methods.

 

Goal 1:  Promote the library’s strengths and services

Marketing / Communication

This goal is derived from repeated requests from Focus Groups for more information both in-house and through community resources about what goes on in the library. Even within the Focus Groups, patrons were educating each other to services, materials, and programs. Staff asked for increased internal communication avenues between branches and between administration and staff. Objectives addressed these concerns

Objective 1: Communicate what we do and how we do it Objective 2:  Assess and improve internal communications

 

Goal 2:  Maximize public access to library resources and services

(Facilities and Technology)

The staff and the public indicated that they want to move toward library facilities that are welcoming and can serve as community gathering places. Meeting and study rooms are important, and additional library hours topped the requests of all Focus Groups.  Physical facilities are important, but the virtual library is just as important.

Gilmer and Pickens patrons need computers inside the libraries, and Cherokee patrons want faster online access with more digital services. Objectives under this goal reflect these needs:

Objective 1: Optimize access to physical library facilities Objective 2: Optimize virtual access to library resources Objective 3:  Create spaces where the community connects

 

Goal 3:  Encourage the love of reading and learning

(Materials and Programming)

What is a library without its collections? More popular titles, more e-books, more children’s materials – more, more, more! – was heard over and over by staff at Focus Groups.  Patrons don’t want to trade their print materials for digital, they want them both. Research materials online were also popular. Demographics showed that SRLS falls below comparable libraries with their collections. Somehow, the budget for materials needs to be increased.


Life-long learning comes not only from reading, but also from attending classes, programs, and training events. All ages asked for more.  With census figures indicating a rise in the “boomer” population, adult programs become an important focus. But early childhood literacy has always been the hallmark of public libraries, and patrons want it to continue. Learning to use technology is an often-heard request, both from staff who have to keep up with a myriad of devises and programs, and from patrons who want to attend classes in technological literacy.  These needs provide objectives.

Objective 1: Build and maintain a collection to reflect community needs and expectations

Objective 2: Develop high-quality programming to serve the interests of all sectors of the community

 

Goal 4:  Grow existing funding and secure new funding resources

(Local funding, volunteers, partnerships)

All of the data derived through the strategic planning process requires some kind of budget support, whether staffing concerns, new computer systems and programs, outreach efforts, increased hours, or facility modifications. Keeping existing funds and raising new funds are difficult tasks in an economy barely beginning to recover. Local library systems have little control over state funds, but library administrators recognize the responsibility to retain local funds and to reach out to new resources within the community.

Objective 1:  Increase local government funding

Objective 2: Seek additional sources of non-government revenue Objective 3:  Involve volunteers

Objective 4:  Investigate partnerships with local organizations & agencies

 

4.     Next Steps

 

Once the local and regional Library Boards approve the Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives, then library administrators with senior management staff begin the process of implementing the plan, fulfilling the Goals and Objectives over the next three to five years.

 

How is this accomplished? First, the Library Director and her staff create Strategies under each Objective. The strategies are short-term, task-driven projects that can be measured and their effectiveness determined as to whether and how well the Objective was achieved. Preliminary thought has been given to Strategies by the Library Director and Assistant Director and senior managers at a managers’ meeting on March 18, 2015. Ms. Beasley presented the Strategic Plan Goals and Objectives. Strategies were proposed based on collaborative work within the planning committee. Staff asked questions and suggested alternatives.  The Library Director and her staff will consider all issues and factors in developing the final Strategies.


5.     The Future

Sequoyah Regional Library System’s Strategic Plan provides a cohesive vision and direction for the Library for the next three to five years.  How will the plan shape the future of SRLS?  It is a document of ongoing discovery, not a plan so much as a process. The goals in this plan are ambitious but attainable. Building on a wide range of research and community input, the plan reflects the best practices and national trends in public library service delivery. The Strategic Plan’s flexibility allows the library to evolve in an era of rapid technological change and tightening public budgets, to meet the needs and preferences of current and future library users.

 

The Director and her staff will keep this plan in the forefront of decisions, referring to it to set priorities in the near future. At set times throughout the year, the Director and senior staff will evaluate the effectiveness of the projects and tasks that are in process to implement Strategies, Objectives, and Goals. Having developed a strong sense of where SRLS as an organization is today through all of the data and feedback collected, the library can chart a strategic course forward for the future.