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Evaluating the strategic plans of public libraries : an inspection-based approach

Buchanan, Steven and Cousins, Fionnuala (2012) Evaluating the strategic plans of public libraries : an inspection-based approach. Library and Information Science Research, 34 (2). pp. 125-130. ISSN 0740-8188

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For public libraries, as with most organisations, effective strategic planning is critical to longevity, facilitating cohesive and coordinated responses to ever present and ever changing political, economic, social, and technological (PEST) forces which shape and influence direction. However, strategic planning is widely recognised as a challenging activity, which can be both time consuming and unproductive, and there exists limited guidance regarding how to evaluate documented and disseminated strategic plans, particularly within the not-for-profit sector. In response, this research proposes and tests an inspection-based approach to the evaluation of strategic plans, based upon a rubric specifying the key attributes of each of the core components of a plan, combined with an appropriate assessment scale. The rubric provides a method to identify and assess completeness of strategic plan, extending to qualitative assessment of communication aspects such as specification and terminology, and synergistic aspects such as cohesion and integration. The method is successfully trialled across the devolved Scottish public library sector with the strategic plans of 28 of the 32 regional networks evaluated. 17 of 28 plans (61%) were found to be incomplete and/or to contain contradictory or uncoordinated components, with it recommended that Scottish public libraries improve not only completeness of plans, but also their precision, specificity, explicitness, coordination, and consistency, and overall mapping to library services. Recommendations are made for further widespread application of the rubric.