Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time for accountability from ALA when talking about strategic plans

I know what I’m about to voice concern over is something that happens frequently in all types of organizations. However, it just irritates me to no end when I see educational organizations commit this error because they should know better. There IS a difference between “goals” and “objectives”.

Goals are general statements of direction, an aim being taken. On the other hand, objectives are specific, measurable statements. They allow you at the end of the stated time period to step back and say “we achieved ‘x’ against our goal of ‘y’ ”. It is perfectly acceptable to have objectives tied to goals if they support the goal and serve the purpose of allowing the measurement of progress in achieving the stated direction of the goal.

So yesterday, when I saw the American Library Association, come out with this story which contained the heading: “The Digital Revolution and the Transformation of Libraries; Transforming libraries and the 2015 Strategic Plan” it grabbed my attention. It is exactly what we need in this profession – a true strategic plan by which to set our course in these turbulent times.

As before however, when it comes to ALA and strategic plans, when you open up the document and start reading, you’ll find this kind of language:

“The goal outlines four objectives:
  • Increase opportunities to share innovative practices and concepts across the profession, nationally and internationally, and among all libraries.
  • Increase recognition of and support for experimentation with innovative and transformational ideas.
  • Help libraries make use of new and emerging technologies by promoting and supporting technological experimentation and innovation.
  • Increase leadership development and training opportunities designed to support the ongoing transformation of libraries.”
In other words, what you’ll find are more goals masquerading as objectives. There are no real objectives in sight.

Using their language we must ask: how do we measure success in achieving these things? How do we know if we succeeded? How do we hold the elected and administrative officials of ALA accountable? Especially when all we get for a strategic plan is mushy sentences like these? I want to know HOW??

The profession of librarianship needs real objectives linked to clearly stated goals. We need to align behind them to make sure the measures are achieved. Furthermore we need accountability from our elected and administrative officials that lead ALA in achieving those goals and objectives.