A friend of mine who runs a marketing research company (and
who has appeared in the Bubble Room) alerted me to this article from the
Harvard Business Review. "Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits" has much to tell libraries, and offers some thoughts on how to move us toward the growing imperative — to quote my last blog interviewee, Tony Tallent — we can’t be all things to all people.
In an era of limited resources and information everywhere, what are libraries going to be in the future? I know that is something many of us are scratching our heads over, and this article 1) shows that other nonprofits are asking the same questions; 2) suggests a difficult-but-necessary road map to get there.
The authors suggest starting with four essential questions:
Which results will we hold ourselves accountable for?
Historically libraries have looked to circulation as a marker for results. Can we hold on to that marker in the next twenty years? Don’t think so.
How will we achieve them?
This will require not doing some things, which gets back to the mantra above: we can’t be all things to all people. With a passionate staff, this can be some of the hardest work we have to do.
What will results really cost, and how can we fund them?
Even in today’s environment, funders aren’t satisfied with knowing that X number of kids participated in Summer Reading Club. They want to know what difference does it make — how are kids better prepared for school because of Summer Reading Club?
How do we build the organization we need to deliver results?
Fortunately libraries have no shortage of smart and passionate people who know how to find answers. If we combine that with a willingness to embrace change — which can be tough stuff — we can get to where we need to go.