Strategic Plan Progress Report - December 2017

In February 2014, the RAILS Board approved our current strategic plan, which is based in large part on input from our member libraries. This input came from:

  • Focus groups - in person and via webinar - with staff from all types of libraries (academic, public, school, and special)
  • Member-wide survey of staff from all types of libraries
  • Environmental scan examining key issues, challenges, and trends affecting all types of libraries
  • Seeking input about the plan at RAILS Member Update sessions and at other meetings

We are currently re-examining our strategic plan to ensure that it continues to provide a high-level direction for meeting the needs of as many of our member libraries as possible. As a part of this effort, we will conduct a member-wide survey to determine whether our members' needs have changed in the last few years.

Here are the major needs we identified from your input during our 2014 planning process, and actions we've taken in response:

Resource Sharing

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Make it possible for more libraries to participate in online catalogs and to expand services/support to independent consortia throughout the RAILS area.

In response, RAILS:

  • Launched a grant program to help with costs to join a RAILS LLSAP (Local Library System Automation Program) consortium
  • Advocated for and achieved Illinois administrative rules changes to allow library systems to recognize independent consortia
  • Instututed a Consortia Committee representing all RAILS catalog consortia and charged with expanding resource sharing
  • Expanded definition of an "LLSAP" to include independent consortia; examining possible expansion of funding to support resource sharing among all consortia
  • Worked with eight Illinois RiverShare members to help them rejoin PrairieCat
  • Is leading efforts to help members deal with OCLC costs and pricing inequities
  • Provides leadership, direction, and support to facilitate LINC and MAGIC consortium libraries joining the SWAN consortium

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Create a single discovery layer that would provide library users with access to the disparate online collections across the RAILS area, making sure to include standalone systems and school and special library online catalogs.

In response, RAILS:

  • Initiated and continues to develop an overlay project to allow a single point of access to catalogs of all RAILS consortia and standalone libraries wishing to participate

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Expand on the successful eRead Illinois grant project and to offer more e-resources to members at low cost.

In response, RAILS:

  • Continues to grow and develop eRead Illinois
  • Began offering all Illinois residents free access to different e-resources via the BiblioBoard platform through our partnership with BiblioLabs
  • Continues to work with the Massachusetts Library System, New York Public Library, and Minitex on the IMLS SimplyE for Consortia grant project to test single sign-on access for libraries subscribing to multiple e-book platforms

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Convene a group of library leaders to develop a vision of 21st century resource sharing.

In response, RAILS:

  • Led efforts to plan and convene the 2015 Better Together statewide preconference on resource sharing

Discounts

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Negotiate discounts and group purchases for databases, e-books, technology products, and other library resources.

In response, RAILS:

Serving the Unserved

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Take the lead in developing a strategy for providing library service to all Illinois residents.

In response, RAILS:

  • Strategized and continues to meet with the Illinois State Library, Illinois Heartland Library System, and other stakeholders on how to address the unserved issue
  • Developed a draft plan for serving the unserved
  • Provided an intergovernmental agreement template for library boards interested in expanding library service through partnerships with school or other agencies
  • Rolled out statewide implementation of the BiblioBoard platform to deliver e-content to anyone in Illinois
  • Produced the State of Resource Sharing in RAILS map to highlight gaps in library service in the RAILS area

Delivery

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Provide and expand efficient, streamlined delivery service to all types of libraries on an equitable basis.

In response, RAILS:

  • Outsourced delivery/sorting operations for libraries in the Burr Ridge and Wheeling areas through Continental Transportation
  • Contracted with Comet Messenger Service to provide delivery for Chicago academic and special libraries
  • Contracted with CARLI to provide statewide delivery to 131 locations
  • Formed community delivery partnerships to provide libraries receiving delivery one to three days per week with additional options
  • Implemented a ticketing system to make it easy for members to report issues and provide delivery feedback
  • Standardized system delivery procedures, including containers and self-stick delivery labels
  • Began analyzing current delivery stops and hub locations to provide better efficiency

Continuing Education (CE) and Consulting

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Reinstitute consulting and CE as core services for library system members.

In response, RAILS:

  • Advocated for and achieved changes to the administrative rules for library systems to recognize CE and consulting as core system services
  • Hired a Consulting/Continuing Education Manager and Consulting/Continuing Education Specialist to focus on meeting member CE and consulting needs

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Provide in-person and online CE on a variety of topics for all types of libraries and all levels of library staff, including trustee training, leadership development, technology, and other topics.

In response, RAILS:

  • Regularly seeks input on member CE needs via a variety of channels
  • Offers CE at locations throughout the RAILS area, so as many members as possible can attend workshops and programs
  • Offers CE webinars for those who cannot attend RAILS CE in person, and webinar recordings via the online CE archives
  • Partners with United for Libraries to provide trustee training
  • Offers RAILS networking group grants to bring additional CE opportunities to RAILS members

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Provide orientation/training for new library directors.

In response, RAILS:

  • Worked with other Illinois library leaders on Directors University for new library directors, and plans to offer this opportunity annually
  • Hosted group viewings of a Library Director Boot Camp webinar series
  • Offers a 'Directors Only" email list for directors to share best practices and ask questions

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Provide consulting services in specific areas, including legal advice, technology, and human resources.

In response, RAILS:

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Visit libraries throughout the system on a regular basis as an offshoot of its consulting services.

In response, RAILS:

  • Visits at least 20% of RAILS libraries of all types each year on a rotating basis
  • Evaluates member visits program to ensure that visits are as beneficial as possible to members

Multitype Cooperation/Networking

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Offer opportunities for more interaction between libraries of the same type, libraries of different types, and for staff with similar jobs at different libraries.

In response, RAILS:

  • Expanded email discussion lists for members, which include library type lists, regional lists, and topical forums by staff position
  • Hosts email list for networking groups and other library organizations, including type of library organizations
  • Schedules member networking meetings throughout the RAILS, hosted at libraries of all types
  • Encourages members to add to our networking group directory

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Develop grants for projects that encourage cooperation among different types of libraries.

In response, RAILS:

RAILS Communication Tools

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Make the RAILS website easier to navigate, create areas for different types of libraries, and expand information about RAILS staff so members know who to contact.

In response, RAILS:

Members asked RAILS to:

Enhance communication with all types of libraries.

In response, RAILS:

  • Conducted a member-wide survey to determine whether we were meeting communication needs in most effective way possible
  • Regularly exhibits at library conferences for all types of libraries
  • Offers periodic e-newsletters for academic, school, and special libraries

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Expand the number of RAILS videoconference sites, so members throughout the RAILS area could participate in RAILS meetings, including establishing locations in the southwestern area of the system.

In response, RAILS:

  • Has videoconference sites throughout our service area, including in Macomb and Quincy
  • Offers a live streaming service (RAILS Live) for members to participate in events online

Marketing/Advocacy

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Work with other Illinois library organizations, particularly the Illinois Library Association (ILA), to help libraries advocate for better support.

In response, RAILS:

  • Developed revised membership standards to help all types of libraries provide the greatest possible service to their communities
  • Regularly works with ILA and other organizations to promote/support legislative initiatives beneficial to libraries
  • Provides marketing-related continuing education to help libraries tell their story and promote themselves more effectively

Leadership & Innovation

Members asked RAILS to:

  • Provide leadership and innovation to help members provide quality library service, stay on top of emerging trends, and help them lead their customers into the future.

In response, RAILS:

  • Has been exploring new models to increase resource sharing throughout the state of Illinois and beyond
  • Works with other Illinois library leaders on statewide projects of importance to libraries, including advocating for the unserved and legislative initiatives of benefit to libraries
  • Works on statewide and national projects to find new and efficient ways of providing e-content to library customers
  • Provides leadership training for library directors through RAILS continuing education and the Directors University
  • Provides CE on new technologies and other emerging trends
  • Develops different models for providing efficient delivery service that save members time and money
  • Forms partnerships to offer members a variety of CE and consulting services rather than recreating the wheel
  • Produces a monthly episodes of the Sparks podcast to keep members aware of trends in the library field

Many of our projects referenced in other areas also relate to leadership and innovation.