Motivation matters in planning

At the beginning of a planning project, planners should take time to discuss the motivation for doing a plan.  The reasons may vary widely by participant, of course, but the perceived need often affects the outcome.  It is best to understand the motivations involved.

The level of effort and commitment will be far different if the planners are committed to meeting the demands of the future than if they are preparing a plan merely to meet the requirements of a state or regional library authority.

Sometimes libraries undertake a major planning effort because of a recent scandal or a failed referendum.  At other times it is because a city council member has questioned library activities.

Counties and cities frequently demand long range plans from all departments and on a regular basis.

Many libraries have established a three to five year planning cycle because they have found such plans to be useful.

Because the list of possible motivations is seemingly endless, everyone involved should understand the background of the planning process.

The library board, administration, staff and, especially, the planning committee, should all understand why the planning is taking place.

For more, see Planning Overview




Blue Skies

We provide a fresh look rather than a one-size fits all solution for library long range planning.  A Hennen Library Consulting project urges participants to visualize “blue skies” even at the cloudiest of times, but that doesn’t mean we won’t insist on hard choices and comparisons.  We deliver plans with teeth.  You need them to make a proper smile!
Phone: 262-880-7055

Best Practice Libraries Research: Altoona Public Library (Iowa)

Using HAPLR 2.0 metrics, we help libraries compare themselves to comparable libraries throughout the U.S.   Using that data, we sort libraries into a variety of comparable classes.  For example, we identify all libraries in the U.S. serving 25.000 to 50,000 residents that are close to major metropolitan centers and are organized as non-profit libraries.  Another example would be that of city-county libraries on the West Coast serving under 10,000 residents.  Our dataset allows for a great amount of flexibility in the comparisons chosen.  Our reports compare by broad categories peers.  Then we identify libraries that are “best in class” for closer analysis.  We identify libraries with extraordinarily high performance metrics.  We examine both current and historical data for these libraries.  These “Best Practice Libraries” can provide clues on how to achieve high performance.  We ask their administrative staff what they believe contributed to their high performance.  Examples are listed below.

Altoona Public Library, Iowa

The intended purpose of the report was to provide perspective for evaluating how the Altoona Public Library compares to similar libraries throughout the country. The report moves from the historical to the more general and then to the very specific. We started by looking at 20 year trends in library data for over 800 of the nation’s city libraries that are of a comparable size to Altoona. Next we narrowed the field of observation to look at the average input and output statistics for broad groupings. This allowed us to compare things such as staffing to broad but more comparable groupings of libraries. That allowed us to begin to see patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Finally, we sorted the field even more closely, narrowing it to just 16 of those 814 city libraries. Here we were specifically looking for libraries that have numbers that appear better than Altoona’s. The goal was to find libraries that may have lessons from which library planners can learn. It is very likely that any or all of these 16 libraries in 9 counties will have advice to give and stories to tell to Altoona Public Library’s planners.

Library website: