Current Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan FY2021-2025

Our vision for libraries in the Commonwealth:

Every library in Massachusetts is a thriving community hub, transforming lives through access to knowledge, information, and lifelong learning. 

Our mission:

As a state agency, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners promotes equitable access, advances innovation, and fosters resilience in libraries across the Commonwealth through funding, guidance, partnerships, and the coordination of statewide services.

Core Principles:

The principles below affirm who we are and who we aspire to be.

  • Equity and diversity: We prioritize our work and resources in service to a more equitable world where diversity, in all its forms, is valued and leveraged for the good of all. 
  • Inclusivity and belonging: We support the work of libraries that create environments where people feel included, respected, and that they belong. 
  • Partnership: We are trusted partners, collaborators, and convenors, connecting people to ideas and to each other. 
  • Leadership: We lead with courage, integrity, accountability, and compassion. We nurture these qualities in those we serve. 
  • Stewardship: We are good stewards of the public funds entrusted to us, and the well-being of the Massachusetts library community.

Assets

The following list of qualities was compiled from stakeholder input throughout the planning process, and observations made by the consultants during the creation of the strategic plan. Together they form a solid base and serve as a powerful lever for creating the future. 

  • Dedication: MBLC Commissioners, leadership and staff are dedicated to what they do. They care deeply about the Massachusetts library community and are prepared to do what it takes to ensure that it thrives. 
  • Partnership: The MBLC is a strong partner to library-related organizations throughout the state. 
  • Communication: Everyone in the organization is keen to continue making open, transparent communication a priority. This is essential to keep systems functioning well.
  • Excellence: The people of MBLC aim for excellence in all they do and are willing to do the work to create it. 
  • Innovation: The MBLC works to make a difference through innovative service to the library community and to make the organization the best it can be.  
  • Courage: The people of the MBLC consistently display curiosity, care deeply, advocate for the library community and try new approaches in the face of uncertainty.

Goal 1: Strengthen the Massachusetts Library Community

The MBLC provides support and guidance to help libraries in the Commonwealth thrive.

Objectives:

  1. Provide advice and guidance to libraries and their communities
  2. Working with affiliates and partners, ensure that the Library Community is informed about and supported in taking action to achieve equity, diversity, and inclusion 
  3. Working with affiliates and partners, ensure that library trustees, directors, librarians, and staff receive the training they require and the tools they need to sustain and adapt their services, collections, programs, and facilities in support of their communities’ evolving needs and conditions
  4. Provide a variety of grant opportunities to libraries of diverse types and sizes, ensuring equitable access by all communities to grant funds

Goal 2: Cultivate Partnerships for Mutual Benefit

The MBLC develops robust relationships in support of libraries and their communities.

Objectives:

  1. Continue to clarify the roles of library-related affiliates and partners in Massachusetts and communicate these roles to libraries, library advocates, legislators, and governing authorities
  2. Identify and cultivate traditional and non-traditional partnerships

Goal 3: Develop Sustainable Resource and Funding Streams

The MBLC works to ensure that libraries have the resources they need to serve their communities.

Objectives:

  1. Work with advocates, partners, and affiliates to secure sustainable state funding for all MBLC budget lines and for the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program, and to secure sustainable federal funding to support the MBLC’s programs and services
  2. Work with partners and affiliates to achieve maximum effectiveness of resources through alignment of effort and efficient use of funds
  3. Lead the exploration of alternative monetary and other resources that can help support libraries in Massachusetts

Goal 4: Advance Equitable Access to Resources

The MBLC facilitates access to physical and digital tools and resources for libraries and library users of all abilities throughout the Commonwealth.

Objectives:

  1. Ensure equitable access to statewide electronic library resources
  2. Promote excellent connectivity and technology infrastructure, training, and support frameworks to equitably meet the needs of library users in Massachusetts

Goal 5: Build Resilience

The MBLC supports libraries in preparing for and adapting to a changing world.

Objectives:

  1. Lead statewide exploration of the future of libraries in Massachusetts and the conditions in which they are operating
  2. Develop alternative, adaptive service models and methods for continuity in disruptive times and support libraries in doing the same
  3. Support the Massachusetts library community in learning about and implementing sustainable practices, including adaptable physical facilities

Goal 6: Build Capacity at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

By developing the capacity of staff and Board and by improving our culture and ways of working, the MBLC increases its ability to fulfill its mission.

Objectives:

  1. Strengthen the MBLC Board and staff with the tools and training they require to operate efficiently and effectively
  2. Identify and provide opportunities for individual and team development for MBLC staff and leadership
  3. Optimize MBLC's culture, structures, and ways of working together
  4. Ensure that MBLC advisory bodies represent diverse library stakeholder constituencies
  5. Ensure that all activities of the MBLC support equity, diversity, inclusion, and racial and social justice

The MBLC Strategic Planning Process

Conducted over an eleven-month period from December 2019 through October 2020, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) strategic planning process engaged a broad range of stakeholders to consider the future path of the MBLC. These included MBLC administration and staff, Commissioners, representatives from MBLC affiliates and networks, Massachusetts library directors from a variety of library types, and officials from library-related state agencies. 

Interviews and informal conversations were conducted with MBLC leadership, staff, Commissioners, and stakeholders to deeply understand the role played by the MBLC and the issues facing libraries in Massachusetts. Seven strategic planning workshops were scheduled so participants could explore contexts and trends and conduct a dynamic analysis of the MBLC’s current activities to suggest what the MBLC might keep, abandon, invent or re-invent to better serve the Massachusetts library community. Before the workshops could be completed, the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, resulting in statewide stay-at-home orders which effectively shut down in-person meetings. Workshops resumed in April using the online service Zoom™ to facilitate conversation among participants. All subsequent focus groups and meetings were conducted virtually. Despite the challenges everyone was facing, participation was robust and productive.

Other resources included Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Strategic Plan FY2018 – FY2020, Public Libraries in Massachusetts: an evolving ecosystem (2018), and the snapshot of the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program survey (2020).

A report of findings was created by the consultants at the end of the stakeholder engagement period, which provided data and recommendations from which the framework was created for the strategic plan. Some key findings appear below.  

Trends

Workshop and focus group participants and interviewees cited many of the same issues facing libraries across the Commonwealth, including social issues such as homelessness, growing income disparity, addressing the needs of immigrants, and an aging population. The digital divide was another common topic, made ever more pronounced by the need for internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic. Other issues include lack of diversity in librarianship, access to resources by differently abled people, and concerns around privacy and big data.

Throughout the strategic planning process, participants expressed a strong desire for Massachusetts library services, particularly as led by the MBLC, to focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and racial and social justice.

Challenges

There are several major challenges to be met with this strategic plan. Although it is unknown at this time what the financial effects of COVID-19 will be, it follows that its significant disruption will have an impact on funding sources for years to come. It will be a great challenge to secure sustainable resources and funding streams, but the MBLC can lead the way for the library community. For many years, libraries and library staff have been reinventing themselves to meet the needs of their communities in the digital age.

The pandemic has demonstrated the imperative for digital connection, but many communities are lagging in their ability to provide equitable access to the digital world. As a state agency, the MBLC faces the challenge of finding ways to work with state and local governments to provide these vital services to all who need them. The MBLC can also look inward to compassionately understand how it works as an organization and to mindfully consider how its structure and culture can increase engagement, trust, productivity, and morale so all of its energy is free to serve its mission.

Making the Plan

The FY2021-2025 MBLC strategic plan is the product of hard work and creativity on the part, not only of the MBLC board and strategic planning committee, but also the staff. The process was designed to involve the whole organization, so everyone would own the plan.

The resulting plan contains revitalized vision, mission, and principles statements, strategic goals and objectives. A separate document, for agency use, contains actions to realize the objectives, with measures of success.

Adopted by the Board of Library Commissioners December 17, 2020.

For Further Information

James Lonergan, Director
617-725-1860, x222
(in Massachusetts) 800-952-7403, x222
james.lonergan@mass.gov