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The Next Chapter Strategic Plan

Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
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Innovation Summary

In January 2012, Cuyahoga County Public Library initiated The Next Chapter; a strategic planning process to gather staff and community input into the future direction of our organization. We sought a deeper understanding of the areas where the community most wants to see us focus our resources.

Innovation Leader: Sari Feldman, Executive Director, sfeldman@cuyahogalibrary.org

Problem Statement

Demand for Cuyahoga County Public Library's materials and services continues to trend upward year after year. At the same time we’re faced with the challenge of reduced funding. We’re doing more with less. For that reason it is imperative that we truly understand the needs of our community and then focus our efforts and allocate resources accordingly. In January 2012, Cuyahoga County Public Library initiated a strategic planning process to gather staff and community input into the future direction of our organization. We sought a deeper understanding of the areas where the community most wants to see Cuyahoga County Public Library focus its limited resources. We extended an invitation to the community to help us answer these and other important questions: • What are we doing well? • How can we improve? • What aren’t we doing that we should be doing? • Are our six priorities relevant to residents in Cuyahoga County? • What else should we focus on?

Innovation

We held 36 focus group sessions throughout our district. Approximately 200 individuals participated. We also asked community members to complete an online survey. 8,730 people took the time to respond to our survey and made their voices heard. 9 key findings emerged: #1 – Importance of Reading All respondents expressed strong feelings that promoting reading should remain our core focus. #2 – Branches Are Community Hubs Respondents clearly believe that we’re making a positive difference in the community. #3 – Technology Access & Training Respondents generally think our offerings of technology access and training are extremely valuable, but not enough. #4 – Materials, Materials, Materials! Respondents love our collection, but want more. The overall message we received was that our materials are critical and our customers view them as our core business. #5 – Skill Building Helping the workforce build skills through adult learning was cited by many as a top priority. #6 – Staff Are the Heart of the Library We received tons of positive comments regarding the outstanding customer service our staff strive to deliver every day. #7 – Awareness Even among frequent users, there was some surprise about the scope of our materials and services. #8 – Clear Focus on what the Library Does Best Most respondents supported focusing on excellence in core library functions than expanding into new, less traditional functions. #9 – The Risk of Prioritizing Based on Special Groups Our challenge moving forward will be to find the right balance between group specific priorities and broad-based services. We followed all of this up in September with a telephone survey of 400 registered voters to validate our findings.

Progress

So, what did we find out? For starters, an amazing 97 percent of survey respondents rated our overall quality as either “good” or “excellent,” with the majority (65 percent) rating us “excellent.” 82 percent of respondents said they believed we make good use of the money we receive. 99 percent of respondents believe a good public library is needed to keep pace with today’s changing world. 97 percent of respondents believe we’re making a difference in their community. From this process we learned that community residents overwhelmingly support three primary areas of focus as either “extremely important” or “very important”.