Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO)
- Organization, coordination, and management of a strategic planning process.
- Analysis of trends and changes in the library and information management world and their impact on METRO and its member libraries.
For more than 40 years, METRO has served as a unique resource for library organizations throughout New York City and Westchester County. The largest of New York State’s nine reference and research library resource systems, METRO helps its 260 members coordinate their diverse activities and initiatives to create a highly effective information service network for the region.
Against the backdrop of complex and dramatic changes in the library and knowledge management world, METRO embarked on a planning process to address three related strategic issues:
- The professional trends, societal issues, and technological advances most pertinent to library institutions over the next decade or so;
- The impact of the larger changes in the library and knowledge management world on METRO’s members; and
- How METRO can best support its member library institutions in meeting their needs, challenges, and interests; what METRO’s mission, vision, and services should be going forward to assist its members to meet these needs; and what capabilities (financial, technological, human resources) METRO requires to deliver these services.
METRO engaged in the strategic planning process from a position of considerable strength: it had strong reputation among its members for quality services and activities; a diverse membership, ranging from high-profile public libraries to leading academic libraries, medical libraries, archives, and smaller specialized institutions; and a strong financial footing.
But it was also facing formidable challenges. METRO lacked visibility outside the library world; its identity was not clear to the broader public; and its member organizations were facing major questions about how to best adapt to the impact of technology and changing user interests and needs, thereby raising fundamental questions about those organizations’ missions, purposes, viability and funding.
The METRO Strategic Plan was developed through a broadly consultative and inclusive process. It was guided by a strategic planning committee chaired by the president of the METRO board and composed of seven Board members and two staff members; the committee met eight times throughout the process to review findings, discuss alternative approaches, comment on draft documents and react to drafts of the strategic plan. The METRO Professional Planning Group, comprised of METRO members and library/information professionals, worked in tandem with the strategic planning committee and met several times to review and give input on findings, hypotheses, and ideas regarding METRO’s strategic goals.
In addition, AKA interviewed more than 60 people (individually and in focus groups), including METRO board members and staff and informed observers from library organizations, analogue organizations, and non-library organizations with significant information-management functions. Further, Kane, Parsons & Associates, a public opinion and survey research organization, administered a telephone survey of some 152 METRO members.
AKA also undertook a comprehensive literature review to take advantage of the best and most recent thinking in the world of libraries and knowledge management.
AKA recommended that METRO establish a leadership position within the library and knowledge management world in New York City, Westchester County, and beyond by becoming the essential link between its members and the world’s increasingly complex information needs. Doing so would mean helping members anticipate evolving trends and issues; serving the public in making library resources widely available; helping society understand the importance of librarianship and knowledge management during a time of information overload; and supporting New York State in its efforts to serve the public effectively.
The strategic plan suggests a number of key strategic objectives for METRO to secure its leadership position, including becoming a recognized leader in the library and knowledge management world; providing members with innovative services; expanding its membership; strengthening organizational and management capabilities; and ensuring long term financial health.
The engagement underscores the lesson that envisioning an organization’s best future(s) and developing appropriate strategies for achieving that vision requires rigorous analysis of key contextual trends and issues; thoughtful understanding of organizational culture and capabilities; and bold thinking that “peers over the edge of the horizon” to suggest new approaches and innovative ideas.