Strategic Planning Update

EBD 12.58


June 18, 2004

Keith Michael Fiels
Executive Director

As we move toward the planning retreat scheduled for September 17-19, 2004, a number of activities are completed or underway, all involving both ALA members and leadership in the development of ALAhead to 2010 .

Focus groups

Focus groups are an important source of information about member expectations, concerns and needs, as well as their ideas about the future of the Association.  These are controlled, structured discussions led by professionals with specialized training, using standard reporting techniques. These focus groups have been generally organized according to length of membership and level of experience with the Association, with some organized by type of library when conducted at divisional conferences. 

Summary reports of the completed focus groups have been posted on the ALAhead to 2010 website.  Prior to the Annual Conference, eleven focus groups had been conducted:  three at the AASL National Conference in Kansas City, five at the 2004 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego, and three at the 2004 PLA National Conference in Seattle. 

Six additional focus groups are scheduled for the Annual Conference in Orlando: academic librarians who have been members of ACRL for at least five years, academic librarians who have been ACRL members for more than five years, new ALA members who are first year members in most cases and members for under five years, ALA members of five to ten years, very active ALA members who have been members for over ten years, and a group of student members who are ALA student interns attending the conference.

Non-members can also provide valuable insights for the Association.  Since conference-based focus groups have not proven to be an effective means of reaching non-members, Planning Consultant, Paul Meyer of Tecker Consultants, LLC will be conducting a series of telephone interviews with non-members during the summer as an alternative approach to gathering information from this group.
All focus groups, surveys and telephone interviews will fully respect and protect individual privacy. All data will be presented in the aggregate, and no information relating to an individual member will be released without their explicit permission.

Membership Forums-Chapters and Student Chapters

Since September 2003, members and staff have conducted twenty-six Membership Forums.  These include eighteen Chapter forums, four Student Chapter forums, two ALA Committee forums, and two forums of Affiliated Groups.   A number of ALA committees, round tables, and divisions will also conduct forums at the 2004 Annual Conference. 

Initially, forum participants were asked to respond to the questions "What is ALA doing well?" "What is ALA not doing well?" and "What should ALA be doing in the future?"  In later forums, the question "What are the most important issues that the American Library Association needs to focus on in the next 5-10 years?" has been asked in order to more specifically identify critical planning issues.  In forums conducted with student groups or affiliated organizations, issues relevant to the organization or group have also been discussed and documented. 

The reports that appear on the ALAhead to 2010 website closely represent the actual, conversational input of the twenty-six individual forums.  The Preliminary Summary is a snapshot analysis of recurring patterns from the first seven forums.

The following additional Forums are planned in Chapters through the fall: 

 Alabama  Michael Dowling
 Connecticut  Michael Golrick
 Florida  Gerald Hodges
 Idaho  Keith Michael Fiels
 Kentucky  Keith Michael Fiels
 New Hampshire  Gerald Hodges
 Ohio   Keith Michael Fiels
 Oklahoma  Carol Brey-Casiano
 Pennsylvania  Keith Michael Fiels
 PNLA/Washington  Keith Michael Fiels
 Texas  Carol Brey-Casiano







Additional Student Chapter Forums are also planned:

 Pittsburgh  Carla Hayden
 Dominican  Kathleen Bethel
 University of Iowa  Susan Craig (Chapter Councilor)
 Catholic University  Nancy Davenport




Member Survey

As part of ALA's strategic planning process, ALAhead to 2010 , all personal members have been invited to complete an online survey to "help shape the Association's future and build a better, stronger and more responsive Association".  The survey allows members to evaluate the quality and importance of ALA services and benefits.  The survey is located at

Members log in using the seven-digit ALA member number found on their membership card.  The survey asks members to assess a series of value statements, which describe the various services and activities of the Association, in terms of "Importance" and "Performance." 

A postcard was sent to all members alerting them to the availability of the survey site.  An email message and other communications have alerted members of the opportunity to participate and have encouraged their input through the survey.  Three additional links to the survey appear on the ALAhead to 2010 website.  Members who have not participated prior to Annual Conference may do so in the Internet Café in Orlando. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete and will be available through July 4.

The survey has been made available to all members in order to gather the broadest possible input, to increase member awareness of the Association's planning, and to increase awareness of efforts to involve members in the planning process.  Through the use of stratification, we will also be able to draw statistically valid conclusions from the survey results.

As of June 9, 7,567 members (12.30% of the personal membership) have responded to the survey.

Member Services Benchmark Survey
A random sample of ALA members, division members, and former members was sent a survey in April 2004.  Survey respondents were asked to assess the degree of satisfaction and level of expectation with member services.  Major areas of emphasis included how well ALA responds to members via phone, email, and mail; the effectiveness of the Association's voice mail system and the website as communication devices; expectations for responses from ALA staff; the effectiveness of processing financial transactions, etc.  Results will be used to benchmark member satisfaction, to help in setting standards of excellence, and to identify staff training needs.  The survey ended on May 31, and results will be reported in July 2004.

Planning Activities at the Annual Conference

A number of activities designed to involve members in the strategic planning process are scheduled for the 2004 Annual Conference in Orlando.

Board/Council/Membership Information Session Planning Discussion

A planning discussion for ALA councilors will be held as part of the ALA Executive Board/Council/Membership Information Session on Sunday, June 27, 8:30 - 10:20 a.m. The goal of this session will be to allow full participation by ALA's elected policy-making body in shaping the plan at its earliest stage. The session will involve councilors and board members in identifying key external factors, developing a vision of a successful Association and identifying "mega" issues.

Membership Meeting Planning Discussion

A planning discussion is also scheduled to be held at the Membership II Meeting on Monday, June 28th.  This session will involve members in identifying key factors in the future environment and identifying "mega" issues.

Both planning discussions will be conducted by consultant Paul Meyer of Tecker Consultants, LLC. Tecker Consultants is the nation's leading consultants in the area of planning for nonprofit and educational Associations. Tecker consultants have plenty of experience in working with ALA. Glen Tecker has worked with ALA in the past, and Paul Meyer has recently worked with ACRL and PLA in the development of their new strategic plans. 

Planning and Budget Assembly

On Friday, June 25th, from 2:00 - 3:30 pm, the Planning and Budget Assembly will meet to discuss and identify critical issues for the Association over the next five to ten years. This discussion will provide representatives from ALA's divisions and round tables with an opportunity to contribute to the planning process. The results of this session, the council session and the membership session will help set the stage for discussions at the September planning retreat.

Divisional and Unit Planning Activities

A number of divisions, round tables, committees and other groups have scheduled a variety of planning activities at the Annual Conference in Orlando that are designed to gather member thoughts about the Association and how it can better serve them in the future.  Some sessions relate to individual Division plans, while others relate to the overall Association Plan ALAhead to 2010 .  All planning activities, whether divisional or Association-wide will become part of the data gathering for ALAhead to 2010

The Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) will hold a Board Strategic planning session on Thursday, June 24 and a roll out of the plan and discussion of mega-issues by the ACRL Leadership Council led by Paul Meyer of Tecker Consultants on Friday, June 25. On Sunday, June 27, the ACRL Chapters Council will hold a discussion of the plan and mega-issues, and the ACRL Fellows (former/current leaders) will discuss Strategic planning and prioritization of mega issues.

The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) will hold a planning retreat on Friday, June 25. Ninety ALCTS leaders will participate in a session hosted by Maureen Sullivan.  This is the official launching of the ALCTS strategic planning cycle that will conclude with a new plan by Annual 2006.  The planning cycle has been pushed out one year to take advantage of and inform the ALA planning process.

The ALCTS Planning Committee will meet on Sunday, June 27, and on Monday, June 28, the ALCTS Board will discuss the retreat.  Every committee, interest group, and discussion group chair was sent the three questions ALA used for its own focus groups.  They are being asked to take a few minutes to talk about the questions and have their committee members send in responses and comments to ALCTS after the conference.

Planning Activities after the Annual Conference

Further data gathering activities will occur after the Annual Conference in preparation for the Fall Planning Workshop.  Environmental scanning activity and the Progress Report on Action 2005 are discussed below. 

Telephone interviews and threaded discussions will be conducted by Consultant Paul Meyer of Tecker Consultants, LLC. Telephone interviews will gather information from non-members, and threaded discussions will be conducted involving member leaders from various ALA divisions, round tables and committees.
Environmental Scanning

Part of the planning process will consist of identifying those environmental factors, whether societal, political, technological, demographic or other, that are most likely to affect the environment for libraries, librarians and the Association over the next decade. Information on what members believe these environmental factors are is being gathered through the focus group discussions and the planning sessions at Annual Conference.

In addition to these activities, key articles, studies and reports are being gathered as part of the planning process. A recent outstanding example of one such report is The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition.  This study and others will be included in a resource packet for retreat participants and will also be available via the Ahead to 2010 Web Site.

Members are encouraged to share information on any articles, reports or studies, which discuss future trends that they feel, would be of interest in informing the planning process. Please send any suggestions to Mary Ghikas at
ALAction 2005

An evaluation of progress in achieving ALA's current action agenda is a critical first step in any future planning, and work is currently underway on a progress report tracking achievement of the goals included in the ALAction 2005 plan. This progress report will be available in August, and an executive summary will be distributed to the membership.

For further information on the ALAction 2005 plan, visit the Ahead to 2010 Web Site.

Fall Planning Workshop

A two-day fall planning retreat has been set for September 17 - 19, 2004. The retreat will involve key stakeholders from throughout the Association in identifying key goals, priorities and action areas for the next five years.  Participants will include ALA and Division elected officers and representatives of the Roundtable Coordinating Assembly. 

Work from the planning retreat will then be circulated to the membership for discussion in fall of 2004. Discussion and consensus building will be a major focus of the 2005 Midwinter Meeting, with further review and refinement of the plan in spring 2005. This process of member discussion and refinement should allow adoption of the new Ahead to 2010 plan by Council at the 2005 Annual Conference, and incorporation of the plan's priorities into the ALA FY 2006 budget so that priority projects can move quickly ahead.

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