Making Strides to Reach Our Collective Aspirations

Posted by Richard Kong on March 07, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL

Skokie, IL is a vibrant urban/suburban community on Chicago’s north side with a uniquely diverse population hovering around 65,000.  Approximately 43% of the population was born outside of the United States, and over 90 different languages are spoken throughout the community.


As a springboard for personal growth and community development, Skokie Public Library promotes discovery, enrichment, and the exchange of ideas through a broad spectrum of materials, technologies, and experiences. In order to accomplish this mission, we embark on a strategic planning process every three years. This year, we used the Aspen Institute’s Action Guide as a precursor to our strategic planning, to help our staff adopt a proper mindset to evaluate what we’ve done recently and look ahead to the future.

To accomplish this goal, we spent 10 weeks with the activities in the Action Guide. A large number of staff, including our management team and most of our FT professional staff from various departments, met in small groups. Our Board of Trustees also set aside time specifically to use the SOAR assessment. Many of the staff benefited from stepping outside of their daily work to engage in strategic thinking.

Throughout the process, we discovered a lot about ourselves, including strengths and areas where we can do more. The process affirmed that we have made great strides in turning outward to work with our community to reach our collective aspirations. It also reinforced the value in many of our recent efforts to create more learning experiences and to improve access to resources for people of all ages. However, we were also reminded that we can do more to serve certain groups in our community, including new immigrant families. After the 10 weeks, we analyzed the notes from the various discussions to identify some key themes that we can explore further during our strategic planning process. These themes include the following:

  • Collective impact
  • Equality, equity, and opportunity
  • Experience and usability
  • Organizational culture
  • Sense of community
  • Stories, outcomes, and data

Richard Kong
Deputy Director
Skokie Public Library