Strategic Planning: DIY Works!

Colleagues, I fully expect many to disagree with this post! Nevertheless, I wanted to share that in my experience do-it-yourself strategic planning works well in libraries and library organizations.

My first full-fledged strategic planning was done as Vice President/President-Elect of the Illinois Chapter of the Special Libraries Association/SLA, in the late 1990s. Our Board, and some invited others, created the strategic plan out of brainstorming sessions. The process was engaging, and the plan was helpful, we actually did much of it!

Most recently, at USC we completed our strategic plan, The Essential Library, in January 2008, with the official launch and publication in April 2008. The plan is available online here: .

Back in 2002-03, when the USC Libraries organization was linked with IT Services, a strategic plan for the dual organization was organized by the Academic Senate, with some librarians and library personnel on some of the groups. But it was very much faculty driven, and, while it gave us some pathways for development, in my opinion it was both technology-heavy and teaching-faculty-leaning.

The Essential Library we did ourselves – our Dean Catherine Quinlan convened a committee of librarians and library staff, by invitation, but only if members really wanted to serve (no arm-twisting involved!). A veteran of strat planning, our Dean guided us in the process, but the content was entirely developed by the committee AND everyone in the libraries – we held a number of public fora (aka forums!) and brainstormed and prioritized our top issues (which all turned out to be foundational changes needed). The engagement and participation of people across the libraries system was excellent! We are now beginning to implement these changes, and will continue to do so over the next 12-18 months. We are doing it! We will also soon be embarking upon planning for the next plan.

I have heard both positive and negative stories about plans developed with the aid of outside facilitators. Having never experienced that, but having been part of two in-house, if you will, strategic planning processes, I definitely favor DIY!

Looking forward to hearing others thoughts!

Sara T., a newly minted Associate Dean, who will be posting here occasionally, thanks to my colleague Felicia’s encouratement!


Sara Tompson is Associate Dean for Public Service, USC Libraries, University of Southern California. Previously she served as a science and/or engineering librarian at USC and at one corporate, and several research and academic institutions in Illinois. Her hobbies are aviation and gardening.

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