Close reading X: The reader-centred library service

Open book

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Chapter ten: Reader-centred strategy

There is so much important stuff in this last chapter – stop reading this, get your hands on the book and just read it!

The strands of advocacy and services and procedures are all linked into a strategic plan; yet I wonder how many of us in New Zealand school libraries have actually put any recent thought into a vision or goal for our libraries? Time, resourcing and staffing mean we often lack the opportunity to just sit and think, however, a number of big problems that can arise would be solved if we did. Maybe it’s time we give ourselves permission, or ask it of our principals, to think about the big picture so that we can ensure what we are doing day-to-day is effective and moving us towards our larger goals.

Of course, a school library’s goals should always be linked to those of the school and reflect the community they serve, but they should also have a vision of their own. How do you want the school library to be seen? to be used? to contribute to the school and community? From this thinking, a strategy can then be mapped out. From page 315:

A strategy should articulate why you’re doing what you’re doing, why it matters and how you can get to where you want to be with the least effort and use of resources…A clear strategy will help set priorities for daily work.

A strategic plan will help you advocate for your library and yourself, you will have a clear understanding of what you want your library to achieve and how you are helping to do that. Strategic thinking will allow you to evaluate the services you offer, drop those that aren’t helping you move towards your goals and introduce new ones that will. Day-to-day practices should also be looked at through the lens of your strategic plan – if it’s not getting you where you want to go stop doing it and do something that will. (For example, is your overdue policy helping to grow the love of reading in your school?)

This, from page 353, really highlighted for me why I need to have a plan for what I’m doing:

Wherever you are in the power hierarchy, you will have more effect if you are able to show clearly why what you want to do matters, who it will benefit and how you will make it happen.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • update policies and procedures manuals – include vision / strategic goal
  • survey staff and students about what they want from the library – use this to inform strategic planning
  • collect evidence for why reading matters to act as bedrock for strategy / services / procedures and budget negotiations


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.


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