How a Small Library System Developed a Focused Plan and Used Data to Make the Case for Expansion
Queen Anne’s County Library (QACL) completed their three-year strategic plan in early 2017. Their goal was to build a data-driven strategic plan, with a built-in mechanism to measure their success along the way. Working with OrangeBoy, the library achieved both by using the company’s planning consulting services, accompanied by Savannah®, OrangeBoy’s cloud-based intelligent library management suite.
John Walden, library director, had a vision for their new plan and hired OrangeBoy to facilitate a data rich and measurable plan. “I was reading a lot about it, and in the literature there was a lot of focus on outcomes. That changed my focus, and I brought that to the board and said, I think this is important for us to look at, moving in a different direction with the plan.”
As the strategic planning process neared the final stages, the board was tempted to start adding broad ideas back into the draft, which resembled previous plans. Walden took what might have been the unpopular stance to stay focused. “We had all these objectives, which sounded great on paper… but again, without any measurement of it, how do you know it’s successful?” He added, “I wanted a plan that was not going to sit on the shelf after we did it.”
Measurement has become very important to the library. "At a board meeting, I can just pull up our dashboard on Savannah and show a real-time figure as to where we are with the areas we’re trying to measure,” stated Walden.
As the plan took shape, one of the measurements that stood out was Market Penetration, which is measure of the percentage of active households with at least one library user in relation to the total number of households in the service area.
Walden explains. “With the Kent Island Branch, we could see 60 percent of our usage came from that branch. The Kent Island Branch wasn’t just for people on the island—people from all over the county use its services due to the commuter population. That reinforced it as a priority.”
He added, “Also, when we looked at our market penetration, we knew the North County was not an area of the county where we had a lot of customers, and the data bore that out. The other three districts were 36-45 percent market penetration, but the North County was driving the overall numbers down with a penetration of 11-12 percent. It was obvious, after seeing that, we’re not reaching that area of the county. Nearly 25 percent of the county population lives there, so it’s an under-served area.”
Walden sums up his experience with the strategic planning process. “I’m a big believer that you cannot plan too far ahead. Years ago there were five-year plans, but even a three-year plan is challenging just because there’s so much changing. You have to think about the goals and objectives that are attainable in the time frame you’re looking at.”
On working with OrangeBoy, Walden concluded “I think you guys came along just at the right time for us, when I was looking for ways to really measure the impact of a plan.”