RAILS Strategic Plan (2018-2022)

Approved by the RAILS Board, September 28, 2018; amended January 18, 2019

RAILS Mission & Vision Statements

Mission Statement

A mission statement defines an organization's core purpose or reason for existence. RAILS mission statement is:

RAILS is a multitype regional library system that fosters collaboration and resource sharing among libraries to empower them to better serve their clientele or library users.

Vision Statement

A vision statement focuses on the desired future of an organization, including goals and aspirations. The following is the proposed vision statement for RAILS, keeping in mind all of the data collected during the strategic plan revision process.

As a leader, innovator, and partner in encouraging and supporting a powerful network of vital and energetic libraries RAILS envisions a future where:

  • All RAILS members share resources seamlessly and robustly.
  • All RAILS members are resilient and prepared to meet the ever-changing future.
  • All RAILS members are highly-valued and seen as essential to anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in the state of Illinois.

Strategic Goals & Objectives

Goal One: Promote, support, and expand resource sharing to optimize use of tax dollars and other funding and help libraries share resources to the fullest extent possible

Because libraries are stronger together, RAILS advocates for and works with them to share their resources through traditional means, such as physical delivery of library materials, and we constantly seek innovative strategies to expand resource sharing, such as providing access to digital content and creating opportunities for library staff to share knowledge and expertise. RAILS also leverages economies of scale to increase our libraries' purchasing power.

Objective: Promote, support, and expand resource sharing among RAILS libraries and beyond

Objective: Lead and work with RAILS-area consortia and standalone libraries to expand resource sharing

Objective: Work with the Illinois State Library, Illinois Heartland Library System, and other stakeholders to improve physical delivery services through streamlining and standardizing operations and evaluating alternative methods and best practices

Objective: Develop and implement innovative projects to expand access to a wider variety of resources for Illinois residents, including providing access to digital content/e-resources and expertise

Objective: Use economies of scale to provide greater purchasing power for member libraries so they can offer more resources to their customers than they would be able to afford on their own

Objective: Offer members a variety of opportunities to build collaborative relationships to share best practices, expertise, and to develop innovative solutions to common issues and challenges

Objective: Foster networking and collaboration between staff from all types of libraries (academic, public, school, and special) to create a community of connected peers and to build on the strengths of multitype cooperation

Goal Two: Work with libraries of all types to tell the library story

It is important that all libraries learn to effectively tell their story so that users and potential users know what libraries have to offer and so that taxpayers and other funders understand the value of library service. RAILS helps our members articulate their value to users, potential users, funders, elected officials, and other stakeholders. RAILS also articulates the importance of all types of libraries, advocates for issues affecting libraries as appropriate, and helps libraries advocate for themselves.

Objective: Help member libraries ensure that current/potential customers are aware of all of the programs/services/resources the library has to offer

Objective: Help member libraries prove their value to administrative bodies, funders, elected officials, etc.

Objective: Advocate for and help members advocate for all libraries as they face funding and other challenges

Goal Three: Help libraries be the best they can be

RAILS wants to help staff in all of our member libraries grow and develop so they can help their libraries be the best they can be and to help them be vital players in their organizations or communities. We provide a broad range of training and consulting - from basic skills to new technologies and other innovative services. We also encourage and support the development of library leaders, leadership skills, and staff development in general.

Objective: Continue to provide continuing education (CE) to ensure ongoing staff development for all levels of staff at all types of libraries

Objective: Ensure that all libraries are able to offer the best possible service to their community of users

Objective: Ensure the ongoing education of library leaders and the development of leadership skills for library staff

Goal Four: Prepare libraries for the future

RAILS strives to ensure the long-term sustainability of all libraries. Libraries have always played a vital role in building a civil and engaged society by upholding core library values such as intellectual freedom, access to information, and providing resources and services that educate and inform all library users and potential users.

RAILS helps our members to stay resilient by providing leadership on issues affecting them, helping them to navigate an ever-changing world, and assisting them in determining how to best respond to their customers' changing needs. In addition to preparing our member libraries for the future, RAILS also helps to ensure the future of libraries and librarianship as a profession by preserving and advancing core professional values.

Objective: Help libraries anticipate, understand and respond to changing social issues and customer needs

Objective: Partner with libraries and other stakeholders to foster an educated, engaged, and civil society

Objective: Expand access to library resources and services by addressing issues related to unserved and underserved Illinois residents and continuing to work toward a statewide library card

Goal Five: Aim to be the best library system in the country

RAILS needs to be the best we can be as a system to help our individual member libraries be the best they can be. This means doing all the necessary work "behind the scenes," including maintaining a solid infrastructure, ensuring fiscal sustainability, engaging and maintaining the highest quality staff possible, implementing numerous and varied communication channels targeted to our different types of libraries, and modeling innovative and best practices for all members.

Objective: Fully communicate and engage with members from all types of libraries throughout the RAILS area to ensure they are aware of system programs/services of benefit to them and to better understand, anticipate, and meet their needs

Objective: Continuously evaluate RAILS programs and services to ensure that they are having an impact and are helping to create the best possible future for all of our libraries

Objective: Recruit and engage a RAILS Board that is representative of the system membership and that creates and models best practices for board leadership

Objective: Ensure that all aspects of the RAILS organization use and model best practices in all that we do

Objective: Deliver on the promise of organizational excellence by being agile, innovative, future-oriented, and member-focused

Objective: Engage in innovative projects on a statewide, national and international level and help RAILS members model these projects for their community of users

Objective: Provide excellent stewardship of RAILS financial resources to ensure maximum benefit to member libraries, library users, and Illinois taxpayers

Objective: Maintain a research and development role to provide leadership and innovation to help members provide the best possible service to their customers