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Strategic Initiatives: A Hatchery for Innovation

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Strategic Initiatives: A Hatchery for Innovation

Free Library of Philadelphia, Penn.

Operations & Management | 2015 | Top Innovator

Innovation Synopsis

In recognition of the shifting dynamics of library services and need for better use of statistics, the Free Library of Philadelphia created the Strategic Initiatives Department (STR) to make better use of library data and serve as steward of the Library’s strategic plan, in-house data manager, and launching point for new and innovative programming.


The Free Library is awash in data, both internally created and externally available, that is often left underutilized in assessing the impact of programming and services. The Strategic Initiatives Department is working to develop better analytics around statistics and use these findings to better inform the strategic direction of the Free Library.

Key Elements of Innovation

As part of the Free Library’s efforts around statistics and measurables, STR has developed an innovative, analytical tool that objectively and effectively “stress tests” programs and services to determine impact, feasibility, viability, and sustainability. This includes analyzing both current and new/proposed Library initiatives, ideas and services to determine their value and fit in relation to the strategic plan. The purpose of this work is to continually reassess the freshness and viability of the Library’s strategic direction, while also ensuring that we are meeting customer needs and demands.

Achieved Outcomes

To date, STR has worked cross departmentally to “stress test” seven library based programs and services and, based on results, has recommended either eliminating, putting on hiatus, or moving forward with these reviewed initiatives. Additionally, through work in cultivating greater staff participation in fiscal year planning, STR has received over 80 submissions of staff generated ideas around new and innovative programming. As a result the Library has supported or implemented initiatives around expanded prison library services, autism, family literacy, New Americans, and health services. Strategic Initiatives is also working to develop a new budgeting process in coordination with the library’s Development Office to shape the direction of funding requests.