Strategic Plan 2013-2017

Introduction

Northern Waters Library Service (NWLS) is a joint agency of Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Sawyer, Vilas, and Washburn Counties. It is a federated public library system which includes as members all 29 public libraries in the eight participating counties. Collectively NWLS and its member libraries provide public library service to the 155,000 residents of the eight-county area.

NWLS is established under Chapter 43 of the Wisconsin Statutes, and receives state funding through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. State statutes define the parameters and requirements under which the system must operate. Within these requirements, however, the system has considerable flexibility in determining how they will be implemented and in establishing priorities for services and funding. Strategic planning is an effective tool for determining the best ways in which the system can accomplish its statutory mission.

NWLS began in 1959, with an agreement between Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, and Price Counties to provide bookmobile service to communities without a public library and rotating book collections to public libraries. At that time, the organization was known as Multi-County Library System. In 1962, Price County withdrew from the system and Douglas County joined. In 1965, Vilas County became a member, followed by Burnett County in 1966, Washburn County in 1967 and Sawyer County in 1969.
 
In 1972, the Wisconsin passed legislation that enabled counties to form public library systems. The goal of the new law was to give every Wisconsin resident access to public library service and to improve the quality of public libraries in the state. The Multi-County Library System became Northwest Wisconsin Library System; in 1989, the name again changed, this time to Northern Waters Library Service.
 
NWLS has changed dramatically since 1959. Bookmobile service and rotating book collections (later supplemented with rotating collections of non-print media) ended in 1999. In 2000, the Merlin shared automation system began and NWLS began to support Internet service to its member libraries. This change from direct service to patrons to service through member libraries and a related change in focus to technology-related services reflect changing expectations of society, similar to other library systems in Wisconsin.
 
At its meeting in January 2012, the NWLS Board of Trustees approved a strategic planning process to be facilitated by NWLS Director Jim Trojanowski. Under the plan, three stakeholder groups were involved: member library directors and staff, NWLS staff, and the NWLS Board of Trustees. The strategic planning process is described in Appendix A. The following document is the result of the strategic planning process. .

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Mission

The mission of Northern Waters Library Service is to provide access to quality public library services through its member libraries.


Vision for Northern Waters

Residents of and visitors to the Northern Waters Library Service area have convenient access to quality library services that enrich the communities of Northern Wisconsin.

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1 | Strengthening Library Services Through Training and Education

Northern Waters Library Service and member library staff have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide exceptional library services.

Goal 1:

NWLS staff will receive the training necessary to fully support member library needs.

Strategies:

1.1.1  NWLS staff members will develop and complete annual continuing education plans.
1.1.2  NWLS will adequately budget for implementation of staff training plans.
1.1.3  NWLS staff will share knowledge and provide cross training at weekly staff meetings.

Goal 2: 

NWLS member library directors and staff will receive the training necessary to do their jobs well.

Strategies:

1.2.1  NWLS will develop a continuing education and training schedule in consultation with member library directors and staff.
1.2.2  NWLS will publicize webinars provided by other systems and library organizations that are of interest to member library directors, staff, and trustees.
1.2.3  NWLS will provide training for member library staff on basic services such as interlibrary loan, circulation, cataloging, and use of e-readers on an annual basis.
1.2.4  NWLS will conduct individual orientation sessions for all new directors of its member libraries.

Goal 3: 

NWLS and member library trustees will be fully prepared to govern and promote the system or library they serve.

Strategies:

1.3.1  NWLS will provide not less than an annual trustee workshop on topics chosen in consultation with trustees and member library directors.
1.3.2  NWLS trustees will discuss a chapter of Trustee Essentials at each of their meetings.
1.3.3  NWLS will provide an article for trustees in its Streams newsletter.
1.3.4 NWLS will help member libraries develop orientation sessions for new trustees.
 

2 | Strengthening Library Services Through Public Relations, Marketing, and Advocacy

Every resident of the Northern Waters Library Service service area understands the value of public library service and the role of the public library system in helping provide it.

Goal 1: 

NWLS will develop a public relations program to make the public, elected officials, and member libraries aware of its services.

Strategies:

2.1.1  Streams articles will highlight ways in which NWLS serves member libraries.
2.1.2  NWLS will highlight the value of system services in annual letters to library trustees.
2.1.3 NWLS will issue press releases about its projects.
2.1.4 NWLS will encourage member libraries to promote system services.
2.1.5 NWLS will promote the value of system services to member counties through county library committees and at county board meetings.
2.1.6 NWLS will participate in WLA’s annual state legislative day to promote the needs of public libraries to state elected officials serving the system service area

Goal 2: 

NWLS will help its member libraries communicate their value to community residents and elected officials and help member libraries promote their services.

Strategies:

2.2.1  NWLS will provide workshops on marketing and public relations for library staff and trustees.
2.2.2  NWLS will encourage member library directors and staff to share effective public relations and media campaigns through Streams, on the NWLS listserv and at system meetings.
2.2.3 NWLS will encourage member libraries to make use of state and national public relations efforts such as the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries.
2.2.4 NWLS will promote ways to attract and retain high-quality library staff.

 


3 | Strengthening Library Services Through Funding and Use of Resources


Northern Waters Library Service and its member libraries receive the funding necessary to provide quality library services while also making the best possible use of the resources they have.

Goal 1: 

NWLS will receive the funding to continue its most vital programs and develop new ones as necessary.

Strategies:

3.1.1 NWLS will meet at least annually with officials in each member county to preserve county-funded programs.
3.1.2 NWLS will continue to encourage each member county to appoint a county board member to the NWLS Board of Trustees.
3.1.3 NWLS staff will participate in Wisconsin’s Library Legislative Day to inform state elected officials serving the NWLS service area about the value of public library systems.
3.1.4 NWLS will seek grant funding to help fund new programs.

Goal 2:

NWLS will assist its member libraries in obtaining the funding necessary to provide services their communities need.

Strategies:

3.2.1 NWLS will assist member libraries with use of plans, data, and other documents to make a case for library funding.
3.2.2 NWLS will encourage counties to write and maintain up-to-date county library plans.

Goal 3:

NWLS will seek ways to make more efficient use of its staff and funding.

Strategies:

3.3.1 NWLS will meet at least annually with representatives of other systems to explore ways to share staff and services.
3.3.2 NWLS will seek and implement new cooperative purchasing programs that save it and its member libraries money.
3.3.3 NWLS will cross-train staff in order to make sure critical services are available even on days when few staff members are in the office.
 
 

4 | Strengthening Library Services Through Technology

Northern Waters Library Service and its member libraries meet the information needs of their communities through use of library technology.

Goal 1: 

NWLS will provide leadership in the use of information technology.

Strategies:

4.1.1  NWLS will budget for training of its staff who provide technology-related services to member libraries.
4.1.2 NWLS will subscribe to resources that enable its staff to identify emerging trends in information technology.
4.1.3  NWLS will explore new ways to use technology to enhance services to its member libraries as part of its annual budget process.
4.1.4  NWLS will discuss ways to increase bandwidth with its member libraries.

Goal 2: 

NWLS member libraries will have the training and resources necessary to meet the technology-related service demands of their patrons.

Strategies:

4.2.1  NWLS will conduct workshops that help member libraries identify trends in technology-related services and ways to select those that meet community needs.
4.2.2  NWLS will assist member libraries with development of budgets for technology-related services.
4.2.3  NWLS will help member libraries develop strategies to explain to local elected officials the needs and benefits of technology-related services.

Goal 3: 

NWLS member libraries will provide assistance with technology to their patrons.

Strategies:

4.3.1  NWLS will work with its member libraries to create a list of people available within the system service area to offer training and workshops on a variety of technology-related topics.
4.3.2  NWLS will provide annual technology-related training and workshops to member library staff.


 


5 | Strengthening Library Services Through Communication and Cooperation

Northern Waters Library Service assures that every public library and library system trustee and staff member has the information necessary to provide excellent service.

Goal 1: 

NWLS will communicate with member library staff and trustees in a timely manner.

Strategies:

5.1.1  NWLS will encourage member library directors, staff, and trustees to subscribe to Streams.
5.1.2  NWLS will use current technology as an efficient communication tool.
5.1.3  NWLS will maintain its toll-free number to enable member libraries to contact system staff in a cost-effective way.

Goal 2: 

NWLS libraries will share ideas and information freely and effectively.

Strategies:

5.2.1  NWLS will promote its own list-serv, the statewide list-serv, and other state and national online discussion groups to its members as effective learning and information sharing tools.
5.2.2  NWLS staff will conduct workshops on effective communication.

Goal 3: 

NWLS will promote the value of cooperation.

Strategies:

5.3.1  NWLS will create a list of cooperative services it provides or coordinates and an estimate of the amount of money its members save by participating in them.
5.3.2  NWLS will conduct a workshop on effective participation in cooperative groups within the state, the library system, and the community.

 

6 | Strengthening Library Services Through Planning

Northern Waters Library Service and its member libraries are well-prepared to provide library services in a time of rapid change.

Goal 1:  

NWLS provides services based upon careful consideration of the needs of those it serves and the resources available to it.

Strategies:

6.1.1  NWLS will develop a plan for its intra-system delivery service.
6.1.2  NWLS will develop a plan for services to children and special populations.
6.1.3  NWLS will develop a technology and resource sharing plan.
6.1.4  NWLS will develop a system-wide disaster plan for library technology.
6.1.5  NWLS will encourage the Merlin Consortium to plan for its continued development.

Goal 2: 

NWLS, member libraries and counties will plan for future library services in their communities.

Strategies:

6.2.1  NWLS will include articles about the importance of planning in Streams.
6.2.2  NWLS will conduct workshops on effective planning.
6.2.3  NWLS will assist its member counties with county library planning.
 

7 | Strengthening Library Services Through Services and Collections

Northern Waters Library Service members have exceptional print, media, and digital collections.

Goal 1: 

NWLS will assist its member libraries with the development of print, media, and digital collections.

7.1.1  NWLS will use a portion of its county funding to provide collection development grants to its member libraries.
7.1.2  NWLS will use a portion of its county funding to pay for participation in the state’s digital media buying pool.

Goal 2: 

NWLS member libraries will provide collections that meet changing needs.

Strategies:

7.2.1  NWLS will lead discussion on the formation of a system-wide digital media buying pool to enhance the resources available through the statewide pool.
7.2.2  NWLS will hold a workshop on building excellent local collections.

Goal 3: 

NWLS libraries will assist their patrons in the use of digital media.

Strategies:

7.3.1  NWLS will provide workshops to member library staff in the use of e-readers and digital collections.
7.3.2  NWLS will provide links to online assistance in the use of e-readers, resources in the statewide digital media buying pool, and other digital collections available to residents of the NWLS service area.

Goal 4: 

NWLS libraries will promote expanded availability and ease-of-use of digital collections.

Strategies:

7.4.1  NWLS will work with state, regional and local groups to encourage publishers to make all new titles available to the public library market.
7.4.2  NWLS will explore alternatives to OverDrive for accessing e-books.
7.4.3  NWLS will work with state and national groups to encourage standardization of formats used by e-readers, methods for downloading digital library media, and other barriers to easy use of digital library collections.
 

Appendix A:  The Strategic Planning Process

The strategic planning process used by Northern Waters Library Service was developed in an effort to permit and encourage each member of three primary stakeholder groups to be actively involved in its development.  These three groups are member library directors and staff, NWLS staff, and the NWLS Board of Trustees.  As facilitator of the planning process, Director Jim Trojanowski met with each stakeholder group to gather information and help identify priorities for system services.  The comments from each group were integrated and widely shared among the three.
 
The process was meant to be streamlined in order to limit cost and staff time dedicated to it while also providing multiple opportunities for each stakeholder group to share ideas and participate in developing the plan.
 
Planning began with webinar by Kurt Kiefer, Assistant State Superintendent for Libraries and Technology, on January 24, 2012 that introduced the planning environment.  Library directors and NWLS staff attended the session and a summary of it was provided to the NWLS Board of Trustees at its March 19, 2012 meeting.
 
The following steps in the planning process took place in a series of meeting and webinars with stakeholder groups:
•    April 4: Library directors and staff (Webinar)
•    April 25: Library directors and staff, NWLS staff (Webinar)
•    May 15: NWLS staff
•    May 19: NWLS Board of Trustees
•    June 5 & 7: Library directors
•    July 21: NWLS Board of Trustees (Webinar)
•    August 1: Library directors, NWLS staff (Webinar)
 
Review of the mission statement
Analysis of strengths and weaknesses
Identification of service priorities
 
After the Committee completed these steps, the facilitator drafted a preliminary strategic plan which was reviewed by the three stakeholder groups on August 30, 2012.  The preliminary plan was revised by the facilitator and submitted to the NWLS Board of Trustees for approval on September 15, 2012.


Appendix B:  Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses

In this exercise participants were asked to list things Northern Waters is doing well and things it is not doing well.  No distinction was made about whether something was done well or poorly due to priority-setting, the resources dedicated to the task, or any other factor.
 
What Northern Waters is doing well?
 
Staff
 - Staff is friendly and professional
 
Delivery
- Delivery  
- Delivery of library materials
 
Merlin
 - Cataloging
 - Provide a good shared ILS (ie Merlin)
 - Merlin support
 
Continuing education and training
 - CE webinars
 - Staff training
 
Communication
 - Communication through list-serv, emails, and newsletters
 - Strong web presence
 - Streams as a source of information about legislation
 - Member library directory
 
Member support
 - Consultant services
 - Consulting on policies
 - Prompt responses to questions
 - Act 420 and 150 statistics
 - Keeping us aware of trends in legislation
 - Erate
 - Annual report support
 - Mediating for LSTA grants
 - Inventory help
 
Direct services to patrons
 - Mail-A-Book
 - Assisting children and parents with getting library materials
 
Library technology
 - Technology services (Mike and Benjamin)
 - Technology services
 - Provide a lot of IT service for very little cost
 - Technology assistance
 
Library websites
 - Library website help
 - Library websites
 
Downloadable digital media
 - Good help desk to answer patron questions about e-readers
 - Assistance with e-readers for patrons
 
Budget
 - Managing money
 
Cooperation and collaboration
 - Improve library services through cooperation and collaboration
 
Leadership
 - Provide leadership

What could Northern Waters do better?
 
Public relations
 - Public does not understand what the library system does, needs to be promoted
 
Trustee support
 - More trustee training besides the spring event
 - Help with new trustee orientation
 - Better help for getting more trustees to attend annual trustee workshops
 
Technology
 - Still unclear on what technology needs Mike and Ben will respond to
 - Staff training on technology – hardware and software
 - Lack of new technology in-house
 
Collaboration and cooperation
 - Collaboration with other public library systems
 - Multi-type library cooperation
 - Develop cooperative book purchasing
 
Communication
 - Give more notice before deadlines
 - Have a sheet that lists who to contact for different topics
 
Problem solving
 - Recognize differences between libraries (not one size fits all)
 
Service quality
 - Don’t always get a prompt response and sometimes no response
 
Funding
 - Need to work toward getting more funding (donations, grants, etc)
 - Need to improve communication and relationships in regards to NWLS funding
 
Policies and standards
 - Enforcing cataloging standards for on-order records
 - Having member libraries adhere to Merlin policies that they sign
 
Delivery
 - Work toward 5 day a week delivery
 - More delivery days
 
Electronic resources
 - Databases we can share regionally beyond BadgerLink
 - More information and prep on meeting patron needs and demands on eReaders
 - Teaching patrons how to use e-books
 
If Northern Waters received a dramatic funding increase, what service should it add?
 
Public Relations
 - More advertising promoting library services for member libraries and NWLS (including group purchases for promotional materials)
 
Technology
 - More technology training
 - Gadget or webpage tutor
 - System gadget package
 - Bandwidth
 - Laptop/tablet lab
 - 3-D printers
 
Direct services to patrons
 - Bookmobile service for communities more than 15 miles from a public library
 - Remote media kiosks for poorly served areas
 - Purchase e-readers for Mail-A-Book users
 
Continuing education and training
 - More one-on-one training for librarians
 - Circulation statistics training
 - Scholarships for conference attendance
 - Group transportation to conferences
 - Online tutorials
 - System conference
 - Videoconferencing
 
Consulting services
 - Literacy
 - Grant writing/fundraising
 - Planning
 - Building projects
 
Digital and print collections
 - More downloadable content
 - Online databases
 - Strengthen local library collections
 - System-wide digitization of books, media and information (archivally safe)
 - Create a system e-book collections
 
Patron training
 - Funding for computer classes for patron
 - Patron training – technology (21st century skills)    
 
Delivery
 - Delivery days
 - Add delivery days
 
Facility and capital equipment
 - Improve meeting space
 - System vehicle
 - New carpet and windows
 
Cooperative purchasing
 - We do a good job on computer purchasing, extend to office supplies
 
Environmental concern
 - Create a recycling service for books
 
If Northern Waters received a dramatic funding cut, what service should it eliminate?
 
Continuing education and training
 - Less workshops; many webinars available
 - More webinars instead of workshops with food, etc
 - Hate to lose CE opportunities
 - Eliminate meals at workshops
 - Have pot luck lunches at workshops
 - Hold all CE as webinars
 
Cost sharing and service charges
 - Share database costs with libraries
 - Charge for e-rate
 - Charge for some services:
  • Website creation, maintenance, training
  • One-on-one training for member library staff
  • Shared services, ie movie licensing
  • Graphic design
  • IT services: • On-site • Desktop • Centrally managed services (Anti-virus, Email, Pharos) • Purchasing
Direct services to patrons
- Mail-A-Book
 
Travel
- Don’t pay mileage for directors
- More combined directors/Merlin meetings
- Eliminate travel and meals for board of trustees
- Legislation, state & federal
- Use web meetings more
 
Delivery
- Less delivery per week
- Create in-house delivery service
 
Cost savings programs for libraries
- Cut erate
 
Communication
- Streams
 
Payments to libraries
- Cut collection development grants
- Renegotiate resource library contract
 
Merlin
- Don’t add new products to Merlin
 

Appendix C: Goals

Members of the three stakeholder groups developed a proposed list of goals for the new plan.  Once each group was finished adding goals to the list, participants were given 5 dots to place on the goals in order to help determine which had the highest priority.  Each stakeholder was allowed to place all the dots on one goal, to place one dot on each of five goals, or to distribute them in some other manner.  The following is a list of the goals within categories along with a list of the number of dots each received.  Goals are listed in more than one category when they relate to more than one.
 
Advocacy and public relations
Help libraries with marketing (13)
Explain/promote NWLS to/for patrons (3)
Explain/promote NWLS to trustees at board meetings (2)
Encourage publishers to standardize download methods for digital media (2)
Promote databases (2)
 
Cataloging
Accurate and complete cataloging records, ie create/meet standards (10)
 
Collections
Improve access to e-content (14)
Add to collection of downloadable media (5)
Explore alternative sources for downloadable media (3)
Encourage digitization of resources (2)
 
Communication
Have NWLS staff visit libraries more regularly (7)
Continue to inform library directors and staff of continuing education opportunities in all geographic areas (6) (CE & Training; Communication)
Create a list of people who will provide technology training for patrons and library staff (5)
Improve communication between NWLS trustees and member libraries (3)
 
Consulting
Help libraries identify and develop services that appeal to new users (12)
Have NWLS staff visit libraries more regularly (7)
Create a list of people who will provide technology training for patrons and library staff (5)
Assist libraries with determining the proper balance in the communities between digital and print media (3)
More trustee training / tracking for new trustees and more experienced trustees (2)
Provide a planning template (2)
Help libraries with planning (2)
Assist with transition between directors (1)
 
Continuing education and training    
Provide adequate staff training on new technology (19)
Provide technology training (12)
Help libraries identify and develop services that appeal to new users (12)
Refine/improve online training for libraries and patrons (7)
Continue to inform library directors and staff of continuing education opportunities in all geographic areas (6) (CE & Training; Communication)
Tutorials for downloading e-books (6)
Assist libraries with determining the proper balance in the communities between digital and print media (3)
More trustee training / tracking for new trustees and more experienced trustees (2)
Archive webinars (1)
 
Cooperation
Explore ways to save time/money through cooperation & collaboration (16)
Improve communication and cooperation among libraries (11)
Explore service sharing with other systems (5)
Collaborate with other agencies to provide services (1)
 
Funding
Explore fundraising opportunities to offset cuts (14)
 
Services to special populations
Add an NWLS staff position to coordinate youth and special needs (4)
Improve services to users with special needs (3)
 
Staff support
Ensure quality library services by hiring & retaining good staff (8)
 
Technology
Provide adequate staff training on new technology (19)
More bandwidth (15)
Provide technology training (12)
Stay on top of technology trends (9)
Disaster planning for if/when technology crashes (4)
Add remaining libraries to Merlin (1)
Improve help desk (1)
 
Other
Continue to provide services to libraries as budget allows (12)
Adjust services to meet patron expectations/demands
Adapt/remain relevant (0)

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