Strategic Planning - Melanie Houlden, Surrey Libraries

Through Vantage Point’s Strategic Planning, Surrey Libraries created a document outlining their plan to strive for excellence, engage with the community, and inspire.

 

We have to be based on what the community needs

When asked what Surrey Libraries is known for, Chief Librarian Melanie Houlden delivers an impassioned response about the role of libraries in all communities. “People still think of them as institutions that distribute books…it’s more about community engagement, working with partners here to address issues like integration of newcomers, early literacy and poverty issues.” As Melanie describes, “the library is really becoming an octopus out there…finger in every pie.”

With so many arms extending into Surrey’s booming population, strategic planning is an essential part of achieving the Libraries’ goals. Having previous experience in Vantage Point workshops, Melanie and her team put their trust in Vantage Point once again when the time came to update their strategic plan.

With more than a decade in a senior leadership role and a recent Not-For-Profit Leader Award at the Surrey Women in Business Awards Luncheon, it’s clear that Melanie is an effective and experienced leader. She points out how beneficial it was to pass the role of leader to Vantage Point facilitator Mark Friesen, as it allowed her the opportunity to be part of the creative process. Melanie says that Mark’s vast knowledge of governance, along with his ability to draw boundaries between the roles of board and staff, brought clarity to the strategic planning, and his energy infused the process with a “sense of renewed optimism.”

One of the biggest successes of their strategic planning has come in realizing that the values at the heart of Surrey Libraries remain strong. Melanie feels it was “a really good signal that those deeply held values and deeply held sense of who we are and what we do in the community hasn’t shifted much.” With this reaffirmation of strong core values, Melanie and her team became able to focus on planning for the future.

Conducting stakeholder interviews became a key element in achieving the Libraries’ goal of engaging with the community. “It’s super important from our point of view,” Melanie explains, “we have to be based on what the community needs.” With stakeholders in areas as diverse as school boards, immigrant service agencies, and the Board of Trade, Melanie says that reaching out and asking questions of organizations with over-lapping goals allows “a little cross-training,” where each party comes away with a strengthened recognition for the other’s value, and with new ideas for future collaboration.

Upon completion of Vantage Point’s Strategic Planning, Surrey Libraries created a document outlining their plan to strive for excellence, engage with the community, and inspire. Melanie muses that “lending books doesn’t really show up here at all…it’s very aspirational, very future focused…makes you feel proud of what you’re doing.” With a reaffirmed pride in their work and this strategic plan in place, Melanie and Surrey Libraries continue to innovate while they inspire the community they serve.