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Santa Clara County Library adopted a new Strategic Plan in October 2008, with an overarching goal of obtaining the largest percentage of library cardholders of any library in the nation. To further this goal, the Library conducted significant research efforts to study non-users of library services in 2009 and current library users in 2010 to identify future directions that would move the Library toward its goal. While the research produced significant information to help target new potential cardholders, the translation from high level results to action steps on the ground proved challenging, with many supervisory and front-line staff either unclear about future directions or unmotivated to pursue a new service approach.
The Library created a tiered set of staff groups to identify concrete action steps and to jumpstart initiatives that could move forward, even in challenging financial times. The Strategic Action Steering Group is co chaired by a manager and a front line librarian, and numbers 11 staff members representing a great diversity of backgrounds, experience levels, classifications, and work site locations from throughout the Library. All permanent staff had the opportunity to apply to serve on the Steering Group, and members were selected not only to represent a cross section of the staff, but based on their enthusiasm and creativity. The charge of the Steering Group was to break down the research results into manageable chunks, and to identify the best people in the organization to begin implementation through the appointment of Action Teams. Four recently appointed Action Teams total 26 additional staff members, again representing a great diversity of staff and again chosen through an application process that encouraged all staff members to step forward to participate.
With the appointment of the Action Teams, more than 1 out of every 8 permanent staff members is now directly responsible for shaping the future direction of Santa Clara County Library. With each stage of the process, more and more staff members volunteer and demonstrate enthusiasm for elements of the strategic plan. Utilizing an almost viral approach to staff involvement has proved far more effective than any top-down direction ever could. Each group is pursuing concrete goals to focus on specific target user groups (such as young families or single adults in their 20s and 30s) or specific activities (such as creating an infrastructure to simplify outreach or developing a promotional video). These highly motivated, empowered staff groups are truly integrating the strategic goals of the organization in the Library’s daily work, and moving us forward in expanding and reinforcing our connections with the residents of our service area.