https://librariestaskforce.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/30/an-evidence-based-strategic-planning-toolkit/

An evidence-based strategic planning toolkit

[Editor’s note: Ian Leete, Senior Adviser – Culture, Tourism and Sport at the Local Government Association, introduces the first of two new toolkits. Look out next week for Ian’s second blog post about the new benchmarking framework that works hand in hand with the strategic planning toolkit described here.]

In March 2017, I wrote about plans to develop an evidence-based strategic planning toolkit. This is Action 10 in Libraries Deliver: Ambition - an action led by the LGA. And I'm pleased to be able to write that we can now share a beta version of this toolkit with you.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition said library authorities should think long-term as they plan and change their library service - and should do this in consultation with their communities. It also said that councils should be looking at how the library service can help meet wider corporate objectives, taking into account other local service provision both within the area and across council boundaries.

How have we developed this toolkit?

Since March, we’ve been working away to develop those proposals into something practical that would help hard-pressed services easily pull together the information they need to plan for the future. We started out by focussing on:

  • identifying relevant core datasets that already exist and are available to library services
  • identifying gaps in existing data, and how library services can gather some of this information locally
  • tools and advice on using the information to lay the groundwork for communication with councillors and communities

We’ve run through a number of drafts, asking for comments by Taskforce members and colleagues in a number of councils - I’m recording my thanks to them here as their contribution has been invaluable.

Ian presenting progress on the toolkit at an event in the Whitechapel Ideas store.
Ian presenting progress on the toolkit at an event in the Whitechapel Ideas store. Photo credit: Julia Chandler/Libraries Taskforce

As a result of this feedback, we’ve changed and iterated our original proposals. In particular, we:

  • repurposed the toolkit for use by council strategy and policy teams as well as library services
  • developed an outline of what can go into a library strategy, and some key questions to answer
  • included more signposting to tools and advice on engaging and consulting with the public (clarifying the difference between consultation and engagement)

Using evidence to support your planning

All this work revealed that a lot of the necessary information is already out there and agreed by local decision-makers and partners. A trawl through things like Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs), Corporate Plans and Local Plans should provide much of the content you’ll need to develop your strategies and make the case for investment to your corporate leaders and to partners and commissioners.

For those of you with data-minded leaders who respond well to statistical information and charts, we’ve drawn up some simple free-access reports on LG Inform (and, if you’re one of the 130+ councils with a corporate subscription, LG Inform Plus) so you can bring together local data for your service in a comprehensive report. These reports can be found towards the end of the toolkit.

We’re not going to claim that this toolkit solves everything. There will still be some bits of data that you could usefully figure out how to collect locally – such as linking user postcode data to computer use. But we hope that you’ll find this toolkit helpful in having discussions with your corporate strategy teams about the future of library services. We’ve also flagged up in some sections where the Taskforce will develop more guidance to help services respond to particular issues - for example, on doing user research.

What do you think?

As with most Taskforce toolkits, we’ve launched it in beta so that we can continue to update it with your feedback. We’d welcome your comments on how you are using it and anything you think could be added or amended to make it more useful.

And what next?

As well as adapting the toolkit to reflect any feedback we receive, we also plan to design a masterclass to help people implement both this and the benchmarking framework. We're still  thinking through what format this might take - and indeed whether to run both topics in a single session, or to have 2 separate events. Having looked at the documents, please let us have your preferences on how you might like to receive practical implementation support.

Please send feedback to librariestaskforce@culture.gov.uk

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Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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