Refining the mission, vision and role of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
Planning for the Next Decade
By Gina Millsap
“A library is a growing organism”, S. R. Ranganathan’s fifth law of library science, is one I often cite when asked to describe a public library. Our public library has been a respected institution since 1870, symbolizing the best in community values and culture. As beautiful as our building is, what’s even more important is quality collections, current information resources, and professionally managed programs and services.
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 strategies. This ensures that the library remains current and relevant to community needs and is responding to our community’s changing needs and expectations. What won’t change is our commitment to continuing the library’s tradition of great service. We expect our plan for the next decade to be in place by the end of 2008.
We began the process in 2005, when I joined the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library staff. I knew how to be a library director but needed to learn how to be the best director for this library. With that in mind, I drew on the collective wisdom of staff and trustees to identify organizational priorities based on what matters most to our customers. This “to do list” had five key areas: customer service; leadership; programs, services, collections and infrastructure; valuing staff; and organizational development. Our short term goal was to respond to the fact that people used their new library very differently than the old one, so we focused on removing barriers to good service and making improvements that a new building needs once you’re actually “living” in it.
Planning for the future based on solid data, is also a priority in our strategic planning process. Working with Civic Technologies, a data-mining technology firm, the library is using data based on demographic and marketing information about our community. Using GIS (geographic information systems) analysis, “mapped” with our customer records, we have a complete picture of our community, of both library users and those who don’t (yet) use the library. Using this information will allow us to forecast what we need to do to deliver more effective public services, make better informed decisions and allocate resources more wisely.
We kicked off planning for the next decade on June 5, by hosting a planning workshop with 70 community representatives who helped us identify the library’s contributions and opportunities in key areas including arts and culture, economic development, community vision, and supporting our youth. The results, along with the Civic Technologies report can be found on this page.