Strategic Planning for the LIS Student


My final class project at Florida State University involves the creation of a strategic plan for a fictional academic library. It’s becoming one of the most applicable assignments in my library career. I’ve learned about the importance of strategic planning without which libraries wouldn’t be able to budget appropriately for future expenses, plan for emerging technologies, or prepare for space renovations that meet the needs of their users.

Strategic planning sounds like an ominous business phrase with a daunting series of tasks behind it, however, don’t let it scare you. If you can re-frame it for a moment, consider it to be one of the best tools in your career arsenal. Taking what I’ve learned from the assignment, I’ve modified the parts needed to write a strategic plan and tailored it for the individual so this is NOT a formalized strategic plan, but a variation thereof.

Using a single sheet of paper, I challenge you to create your own strategic plan. That’s really all it takes. After you get the basic components down then you’re free to expand the plan to 2, 3, 5…or however many pages you need to write it out. But remember, you don’t have to go “totes” extravagant with the details, being succinct and clear is the key.

Let’s begin…

Uncover your background:

In order to proceed forward, you must have a starting point. Consider your personal history as your foundation for your program track or your library career. Remember this is just a spring board to help you fill out the rest of your plan, not what ultimately defines who you are or want to be.

How to do it? Write a small paragraph and list some or all of the following: where you were born, cultural background, your hobbies, talents, interests, issues that you might be passionate about, volunteer work, internships, events that have made an impact in your life, people or quotes that have inspired you, roles that you had in high school and/or college, your undergraduate degree and anything else that helps to outline your traits and personality.

Write a vision and mission statement:

Now that we know a little about who you are, hopefully you’re also getting a glimpse of where you want to be. Here is the part of the strategic plan that helps to elaborate on the “future you”.

How to do it? For the vision statement, it should be no more than a phrase. Think of it as your slogan, mantra, or motto. Let it be something that you want synonymous with your name. For the mission statement, this should be about a paragraph in length and it should cover in more detail what your overall plan will be in library school or in your library career. See the examples below.

Vision statement: Leading the way in digital preservation practices

Mission statement: To be an expert in digital preservation of cultural objects and participate in major projects that would enhance my skill set and knowledge of technologies related to long-term preservation in order to be an asset at a major academic or cultural institution.

Complete a SWOT analysis:

Here you will address your (S)trengths, (W)eaknesses, (O)pportunities, and (T)hreats. Your strengths and weaknesses are internal aspects of yourself. What are YOUR strength and weaknesses? Your opportunities and threats are external. Look for outside influences that affect these areas.

How to do it? Write one-two phrases per SWOT component using the box below:

Internal Strengths:Excellent writing skills  Weaknesses:Poor verbal communication skills
External Opportunities:Participating in conferences, networking with librarians Threats:Slow economy, not many full time openings

Highlight your strategy areas:

So now that we have your background, vision and mission statements, and your SWOT analysis, now we can begin defining specific areas to drive your success. Use this section to list areas of improvement. Do you like working with adults and teach computer classes? Well, that could be a strategy area. What about gaining coding skills to improve your job prospects, or just wanting to publish a paper before finishing library school? That too is a strategy area that can help to better define your library school track and/or career. List 3-5 strategy areas that will enhance your skills and overall job portfolio.

How to do it? First list the strategy area, then provide an “I will” supporting statement finally followed up by a strategic outcome. See this example:

Strategy area: Instructional Design Supporting statement: I will take a course that centers on teaching/instruction Strategic outcome: Gain instructional experience prior to graduation

Strategy area: Library administration Supporting statement: I will become a leader in the library field Strategic outcome: Become a library supervisor at my current institution

List your strategic plan reference:

This part is optional; however, it actually provides the opportunity to look at how formal strategic plans are implemented in libraries. Take a moment and familiarize yourself with strategic planning in libraries. Place one resource citation here.

How to do it? Using your school’s resources, Google Scholar, or just a general Google search and find an academic journal article or actual strategic plan of a library you would like to work in or are currently employed at. List the resource’s citation reference here (typically in APA format). See the example below.

Lewis, D. W. (2007). A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st century. College & Research Libraries, 68 (5), 418-434. Retrieved from

Now that you have all your parts, take a moment and start writing out your plan. Write a little here and there. Tweak it when you need to and keep revamping it through your career. Try to keep it to one page so that you can quickly refer to it.

Remember, strategic planning is very similar to writing out goals. The great thing about this form of planning is that you can do it anytime. Library school takes about two years depending on the program and your schedule. Library careers can last 20+ years. Make a plan now to ensure success later.

Ciao for now,


4 replies

  1. I really enjoyed this post, especially since I’m in my final semester too. Just this week (Monday night after class), I was chatting with my professor after class about a paper on library strategic plans that I did for Foundations class my first semester. I’ve been thinking about that paper a lot lately, not because it was all that good, but because I’m pondering my own future. Great idea, writing my own strategic plan! 🙂


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