A five-step cycle for strong library programs


Strong libraries are the heart of thriving communities. At OCLC, we don’t just believe that, it’s at the heart of our WebJunction program. It also informs the model we see forward-moving libraries using to drive an ongoing cycle of success.

The cycle of your work is our work

What is a “strong library?” It can actually be defined by this cycle:

  1. five-steps-blogIt starts with understanding and identifying the needs of your community.
  2. Next, you have to build the capacity to serve those needs, which, yes, involves making choices and defining priorities.
  3. You then design and deliver the services that meet the needs.
  4. Those services aren’t successful if they don’t reach your target audience, so outreach and communication is essential.
  5. Finally, you evaluate the effectiveness of your services and their impact on local priorities, such as lifelong learning, health and economic success.

Communities shift over time and external factors—whether crisis or opportunity—can rise up unannounced, so this is a cyclical process, not a one-off exercise.

Library success is a cyclical process, not a one-off exercise. Click To Tweet

The same model applies to us

You can see this same cycle in the work WebJunction has done since its 2002 birth out of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to OCLC. We launched in order to “provide training, content and a supportive community for the staff of libraries that manage computer and internet technology for public use.” In more recent years, we’ve applied the same cycle to help design programs that connect what people do inside the library to their lives outside the library. In essential areas, such as lifelong learning, health and employment, we were able to “evaluate service outcomes” from library programs around the world on behalf of others. In this way, successful, strong libraries become models and their results replicable.

This cycle applies to all our work across the board at WebJunction. We seek to understand library needs, build capacity to meet those needs, design and deliver services to meet those needs, reach the libraries that have the needs and evaluate the outcomes. To do this:

  • We stay in touch with our library audience on Facebook, Twitter and local media, through polls and surveys, chats and calls.
  • We scan for knowledge across both the library field and outside resources.
  • We treat learning seriously and report back with information like how to make the most out of webinars, the value of self-paced courses and how blended learning combines the best of online and offline content.
  • We connect you to other library staff through live and online learning programs.
  • We partner with funders and library organizations to harness the collective impact of public libraries, including projects on the economic crash, consumer health information, “supercharged” storytimes for young children and re-envisioning library spaces to support active learning.

And, just like public libraries do for their communities, we offer these resources for free. Because you keep telling us that you love that WebJunction is free to use and is accessible from anywhere, anytime, by anyone.

What’s new…what’s next

Over these 14 years, WebJunction has expanded our focus to cover more of what works and what our members have told us is important to them. Our staff—passionate about the transformative power of libraries and deeply immersed in the opportunities of scalable learning—is able to use established methods within a flexible platform in order to respond to important changes in the landscape.

As you may know, the Gates Foundation is winding down its Global Libraries program, which means we will be looking to new and renewed partnerships to fuel our mission into the future. We will remain hardcore about designing and delivering learning content and programs that provide the inspiration, skills and confidence to keep libraries looking and moving forward.

Step 1: We want to hear from you—again and again—about how we can best support your library’s learning needs and your community’s priorities. You can reach me directly at streamss@oclc.org with questions for us, examples of great work your library is doing or ideas on how we can improve WebJunction programming across the board.

Question…What cycles of learning has your library gone through recently? Let us know on Twitter with the hashtag #OCLCnext.