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A study concerning strategic planning as a vehicle of the Greek Central Public Libraries at the beginning of the 21st century. Evangelia – Maria Laskari 1 & Petros A. Kostagiolas 2 & Christina Banou 2 1 Director of the Central Public Library of Corfu,

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A study concerning strategic planning as a vehicle of the Greek Central Public Libraries at the beginning of the 21st century

Evangelia – Maria Laskari1 & Petros A. Kostagiolas2 & Christina Banou2

1 Directorof the Central Public Library of Corfu,

MSc in Library Information Science, Greece,

2Department of Archive & Library Science, Ionian University

Palaia Anaktora, Corfu 49100, Greece. &

METLIB Conference:

“Libraries for Everybody Seeking to Understand the World and Themselves”

01 /06 June, 2008

setting the scene for the study
Setting the scene for the study
  • The Public Libraries play a significant role providing information services to the community …
  • The aim of the study is twofold, a. to provide an overview of the present situation in the Greek Central Public Libraries concerning long term planning, and b. to identify the current situation in relation to five areas (education and training, social and economic development, e-government, cultural identity, reading policy).
  • In this changing era prior to the forming of a strategic plan it is necessary for the Central Public Libraries,
    • to understand themselves,
    • to redefine their aims and policies, and
    • to consider the needs and expectations of their users and of the society as a whole.
  • This study may overall assist in providing some evidence for a rather “conscious” long term planning for public libraries.
libraries for all
“Libraries for all”
  • The ancestor of the public libraries is the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice, founded in the second half of the 15th century.
  • In the USA libraries were considered to help substantially every incoming person so as to be a citizen of the country.
  • In Britain, according to the Public Libraries Act in 1850, cities were allowed, but not yet required, to create public libraries and expend tax money on their maintenance.
  • The public library was a constant value, being in the centre of the city among the other “important” buildings forming thus -through its collections, lectures, exhibitions, editions- a nucleus of knowledge, information, communication and freedom.
  • One perspective is the following:

…in an ideal socio-economic process, libraries-information services would be organised so as to constantly satisfy the real needs as well as to meet the expectations of the users…

issues for the past and the present of public libraries
Issues for the “past” and the “present” of Public Libraries

In the current era of novel information technologies and the internet, public libraries continue to play a significant role and over the last decades have tried to satisfy user emerging needs and to exploit the new opportunities…

  • Digitization of the collections, creation of information centres with free access to the internet for the users, on line catalogues and other services have created new conditions and have altered the profile of public libraries.
  • Bookblogs are sometimes structured and used by public libraries in order to inform and encourage especially young people to be members of and visit the library.
  • The enlargement of the reading audience and the reader development ought to be among the main values and aims of a public library nowadays.
  • Public libraries may exploit new opportunities and promote new capacities in order to gain the appropriate funding.
  • Public libraries require access to consortiums, “as strategic opportunities arise more steadily for the consortium than for the stand alone library”.
  • Competencies and skills of librarians are redefined and the role of information specialists must adjust to the new environment.
  • Libraries may be viewed as “street corner universities” thus as significant factors in the social, cultural, economic and educational life
long term planning against the current uncertainties
Long term planning against … the current uncertainties
  • Long term planning may be seen as a methodological useful way for handling the threats and taking advantage of the opportunities imposed by the external environment:

… the uncertainty in higher nowadays than ever…!

  • A strategy is defined as a guide for future action (Matthews, 2005) which focuses on the organization as a whole taking into consideration the aims and values of the library.
  • The strategic plan is a communication tool, designed to provide information to all interested parties and to develop policies and actions, such as for example reading policy.
  • Long-term expresses the library’s organizational and management culture, as well as the professionalism of its employees

…a long-term plan creates opportunities and choices, and therefore should be high in the library’s priorities…

the conscious rather a technical library planning process
The “conscious” rather a “technical”… library planning process

The term “conscious” refer to libraries SEEKING to understand themselves as well as the world around them…

The long-term plan may contribute in

  • defining the library’s mission and goal statements,
  • documenting the current situation and identifying the library’s main problems,
  • gathering and analyzing important information regarding the operation of the library in relation to the external environment,
  • exploring investment and financing opportunities.

Public libraries are conscious of the necessity for long-term planning not only in a rather technical sense but as a way forward … International literature contains an abundance of examples of long-term business plans.

overview of the public libraries in greece
Overview of the Public Librariesin Greece
  • Most of the Public Libraries n Greece have been established after the foundation of the Hellenic State in 1830, however, the origins of some of them can be found before this year as for example the Public Libraries of Corfu (18th century), of Zante (17th century), of Samos (early in the 19th century), of Andritsaina (early in the 19th century)
  • In Greece nowadays there are forty six Public Libraries financed from the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs:
    • Twenty nine of them are defined as “Central” (Metropolitan) Libraries;
    • Nine of the Public Libraries are characterized as “historical”; among their collections include old and rare, sometimes really precious, editions;
  • Greek Public Libraries during the last twenty years have made considerable efforts to achieve these goals and to develop new, important services; in most cases they use financial support from the European Community:
    • “Hellenic Public Libraries Union Catalogue”
    • The Greek Central Public Libraries have bookmobiles units
    • The ARGO project provide access to the library catalogues through the internet
the empirical research conducted
The empirical research conducted

The objective of the empirical research conducted was to study the perceptions of the public library directors concerning long-term planning in Greek public librariesand the current maturity of new services in the lines of the CALIMERA project.

  • As far as we know, this is the first formal investigation for long term planning in the Central Public Libraries in Greece.
  • The empirical research study was based on the development of a structured questionnaire that was distributed; an initial communication with each public library director had been made so as to obtain agreement.
  • The questionnaire took its final form after a qualitative pilot study for consistency and reliability with a group of experts consisting of two library directors and three academics.
  • The questionnaire was distributed during the first months of 2008, via e-mail, fax, and/or conventional mail, depending on the each library’s technological infrastructure.
  • The questionnaire developed…
presenting the structure of the final questionnaire
Presenting the structure of the final questionnaire

The questionnaire comprised questions of open and closed type and was divided into three sections.

  • Section A consisted of eleven closed ended questions and one open ended question all documenting information of the library directors as well as information about the public library’s history. Within the open ended question of the first section the information recorded in a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis arrangement.
  • Section B examines if specific information services are present in the public libraries, according to the five guidelines compiled by the CALIMERA programme coordinating action.
    • Learning/education/training (information services for supporting primary and secondary education, collaboration with higher educational institutions, adult learning programmes and reader development).
    • Social/economic development (tourism, public health, support businesses as well as information resources for legal, tax and other issues).
    • Electronic government and citizen participation in public affairs (electronic government services, communication with special interest groups, communication with government officials).
    • Cultural identity and social cohesion (foreign language materials, material on the history and culture of other countries, support of multiculturalism).
    • Social inclusion (flexible opening hours, accessibility to the disabled, mobile library services for individuals in prisons and hospitals)
  • The last Section of the questionnaire, Section C aims at the investigation of the existence or not of a formal long-term plan in the public library, as well as the perception of the library director for need of such a plan.
methods of analysis and the profile of the participants
Methods of analysis and the profile of the participants
  • The information recorded and the qualitative analysis produce indicative results based on expert’s opinion(a pilot study took place in January 2007).
  • The survey after a preliminary communication and agreement on it included all the central public libraries throughout Greece which are in total 29.
  • The group of experts agreed to participate in this survey includes all the directors of the (29) central public libraries in Greece
  • The percentages were computed for each research question; for the open-ended questions content analysis was employed in order to determine the frequency of statements of interest.
  • Most of the participants hold a higher educational diploma and the 59% stated they have been working at the public library for over 15 years.
  • In regard to the size of the public library collections, the 69% percent of the study participants reported more than 40.000 titles and the vast majority (97%) use ABEKT for the cataloguing.
results of the open ended question
Results of the open ended question
  • The participants were invited to express their perceptions regarding the five most significant issues for the strategic planning of the central public libraries in Greece through an open-ended question. 93% of them (i.e. the 27) did participate in the open ended question of the third section of the research.
  • A hierarchy has been created regarding the most common strategic issues stated by the library directors as follows:
    • New and/or maintenance of library building
    • Digitization of library material (old and rare books)
    • Library collection expansion
    • Personnel increment both qualitatively and quantitatively
    • Assuring and improving the Quality of Library Services
    • Library material cataloguing
    • Reading development and reading policy
    • Financial resources and development of E.U. projects
    • Co-operation with local authorities
    • Cultural and educational events development
the development of a formal long term plan
The development of a formal long term plan
  • The third section of the questionnaire consists of four questions investigating the existence of long-term planning, as well as the factors related to its development.
  • Only a few of the central public libraries have developed a formal long term plan and only at four central public libraries such an long term plan is under consideration / development, while the vast majority do not have a formal long term plan.
  • It is however indicative that most are willing in the near future to develop a formal long term plan:
conclusions perceptions of the public library directors
Conclusions … perceptions of the public library directors
  • Public libraries in Greece are facing new challenges in an era of reduced financial resources, while at the same time their role is becoming increasingly important.
  • The diachronic role of the library as a centre of the city’s activity is recognized and underlined nowadays by the directors.
  • Novel information technologies are not considered as a threat but as a challenge.
  • Reading policy is high in the priorities. The aim of the reading policy of libraries is as well to cultivate a reading taste capable of moulding the intellectual, moral and aesthetic attributes of the readers
  • Cooperation especially with universities constitutes a necessary element for developing new library and information services.
  • This research has demonstrated the need to develop long-term planning specifically for central public libraries in Greece.

It seems that we are in a crossroad for “Public Libraries in Greece”… the uncertainty of the present challenging put additional pressure on the public libraries … A very interesting question that further arises isthe shape of the public library in the future“… a conscious rather than a technical long term plan may help libraries understand the world and themselves and thus make the proper decisions at present …in order to be open and useful for all…”The authors would like to express their gratitude to all those participated in either the pilot study or the survey presented in this workThank you