By creating an environment of continuous learning, by finding ways to stay aware of changing trends and needs, and by staying committed to thoughtful planning, it is possible to achieve that future-focused service vision in your rural library.
How can your library achieve goals and prepare for an unknown future? When doing strategic technology planning, here are seven key areas to consider:
- Staff technology skills (and volunteers and trustees) as a continuous priority. Make learning an expected part of everyone’s work routine. Find ways to teach one another and to help keep each other appraised of changes and ideas. This culture of learning will help alleviate some of the stress around not feeling “caught up”. The reality is, there will always be more to learn. Try to embrace this thought and even make it fun!
- The continued development of patron skills. Some people come to the library with strong technology skills and high expectations. Find ways to stay aware of popular tools and “gadgets”. Are you noticing a lot of people carrying iPods or other MP3 players? Ask questions and pay attention to the uses. There is also a need, however, to always look at the gaps. Who does not know about technologies that could potentially benefit them? What role can the library play in closing that gap?
- A means for continued awareness and planning need to be in place. Some ideas to be discussed in more depth later in this section include the development of a new technology advisory group, a guest speakers series, and/or panel discussions on technological topics.
- A larger library world connection to glean new ideas/create partnerships for learning, purchasing, and more. Use online resources like WebJunction to connect with librarians from many places. Consider organizing face-to-face meetings or partnerships with libraries in your geographic area, too.
- Community outreach and communication to develop relationships. The goal here is for the library to be seen as a center of technology in the community. Are there other.
- The Pew Internet Reports site offers an overview of the changing ways in which people use technology. You may also find it useful to view census data for your community – past, present, and future predictions – and to think about the implications they may have for library services, including public computers.
- Advocating for the library! Make sure that you get the word out about all of the great services you offer. Do not take for granted that people know about the technology that is available in today’s libraries. Many do not. When you begin offering a new service, make sure to highlight it prominently with publicity efforts. Develop relationships with your local legislators. When a library technology issue is being discussed in the legislature, make sure your local legislators know how the issue affects your library and community.