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					ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

                     Planning for the Future:
A Strategic Planning Cycle for the Special Library The Example of
                   the MCYS Resource Centre
             Khor Su Min                                      Lee Kwee Eng
   National Library Board, Singapore                 National Library Board, Singapore                 


The aim of this paper is to share on the model of strategic planning adopted by the
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports’ Resource Centre (MCYS RC) to
achieve its vision of becoming the premier resource centre in Singapore for social policy
and social issues. The planning cycle is based on three deliverables: ‘Corporate
Governance’, ‘Capability Building’ and ‘Delivering Value to the Customer through Value
Added Services, Products & Activities’. We present the example of the MCYS RC, which
has put in place a 3-year, 4-phased, planning cycle for the financial year (FY) 2010 –2012
ie April 2010 – March 2013. As 2010 is the first year of the planning cycle, we discuss the
framework, practical implementation, and the learning points gained so far. In the process,
we hope that this paper will be a useful reference for other Special Libraries to
systematically plan for their future.

Keywords: Government libraries, strategic planning, corporate governance, capability building,
value added services

1. Aim
   The aim of this paper is to share on the model of strategic planning adopted by the
MCYS Resource Centre (MCYS RC) to achieve its vision of becoming the premier
resource centre in Singapore for social policy and social issues. In so doing, we hope to
offer a fresh perspective to other Special Libraries like ours, on how they may innovate,
come up with strategic plans for their libraries, and systematically put in place their ideas.

2. Introduction
   To achieve its vision, the RC implemented a progressive multi-phased “Strategic
Planning Cycle”. This planning cycle offers a framework and direction for the Resource
Centre to work towards, and applies the following principles:
           i)   Corporate Governance
                To introduce a framework of rules and practices that will ensure
                accountability, fairness, and transparency in the library operations.
           ii) Delivering Value to the Customer
                The development and delivery of services and products to address the
                needs of the client.
           iii) Capability Building
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

                  The process of building up the potential for the library to respond to the
                  needs of the community it serves.
This planning framework clearly states the principles and goals of the RC.
   In this paper, we present the example of the MCYS RC, which has put in place a 3-year,
4-phased, planning cycle for the financial year (FY) 2010 – 2012 ie April 2010 – March
2013. As 2010 is the first year of the planning cycle, we hope to share in detail the
framework, practical implementation, and the learning points gained during this first year
of the plan‟s implementation. In the process, we hope to show how this model is replicable
in other libraries. Our hope is that this paper will be a useful reference for other Special
Libraries to systematically plan for their future.

3. The planning cycle: Framework & guiding principles
   The Planning Cycle brings together in a single framework the many aspects of the
library‟s work, and further, provides a roadmap for a Special Library to build upon and
enhance those processes and products over time. This is so that the Special Library may
fully realize the potential value of the library to the organization, with the overarching aim
of creating a robust, tightly run library that offers value added services to its clientele.
   The 4 –phase plan follows this trajectory: (figure 1)
            i)    Phase 1: Housekeeping Phase
                  This phase involves ensuring all the basic processes and workflows in the
                  library are in place.
            ii) Phase 2: Initiative Phase
                  This second phase sees initiatives taking off, and revisions to existing
                  operating procedures and guidelines.
            iii) Phase 3: Consolidation Phase
                  The new initiatives are considered to have had time to “stabilize”. This is
                  the time when the library is better able to review its work, to see how this
                  can be further refined, or better exploited.
            iv) Phase 4: Regeneration Phase
                  Initiatives that yield positive results remain, but those that do not are
                  reviewed, and if necessary, discarded. New ideas can also be introduced at
                  this stage.

                            Figure 1. The Strategic Planning Cycle
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

   Within each phase, the different components of the plan are grouped based on their key
deliverables: „Corporate Governance’, ‘Capability Building’, and ‘Delivering Value to the
Customer through Value Added Services, Products & Activities’.
   Overall, the plan aims at achieving continuity and reinforcement for the Special
Library‟s workflows, processes, and services over the years, with each work plan year
following up on the previous year‟s initiatives, consolidating them, exploiting them, or
reviewing them to see how they can be tweaked and improved.
   In the process, it is hoped that the combination of robust and disciplined policies, and
processes, together with a team of professional staff, will help the MCYS RC to deliver
greater value to its customers and move towards its vision of becoming the premier
resource centre in Singapore for social policy and social issues.

4. The example of the MCYS Resource Centre
   The MCYS RC is a Special Library dedicated to the information needs of the staff in the
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) in Singapore. The
Ministry initiates policies and runs programmes with community and social partners to
support seniors, empower youth, strengthen family ties, ensure the less able are not “left
behind”, and bond Singaporeans through sports (MCYS, 2010).
   To support the Ministry, the MCYS RC maintains a collection of some 16,000 titles, and
oversees a Research Portal on the Ministry‟s intranet that offers access to subscription
databases and a database of internally produced publications. It also assists with research
requests and sends out weekly alerts on management and social issues. The RC has a staff
strength of 6 (1 Manager, 3 Librarians and 2 paraprofessionals) to serve the staff of the
   To achieve its vision, the MCYS RC embarked on a 3-year planning cycle in 2010. The
planning cycle for FY 2010 to FY 2012 adopts the framework listed in the previous
section. (Table 1) briefly illustrates the progression and components of the Resource
Centre‟s 4-phase cycle. The MCYS RC developed a comprehensive list of deliverables for
FY 2010, and is currently planning deliverables for the next financial year. Some of the
projects planned are phased out in deliberate sequential order, while others are discrete
events conducted concurrently with the library‟s other activities. A more complete Table
can be viewed in Appendix 1, Table 3.

     Table 1: A brief illustration of the MCYS Resource Centre‟s 4-phase cycle & its
Period         Phase              Components (Selected examples)
2010 -2011     Phase          I:       -   Review of Policies
               Housekeeping            -   Silent Overdue Loan Recall
                                       -    Stocktake Exercise
                                       -    Collection Audit
                                       -    Weeding Exercise
                Phase         2:       -    New Library Management System
                Initiatives            -    New Research Portal
                                       -    RC Learning Journeys (small group sharing sessions
                                            that use the RC as a venue)
                                       -    Alerts Relaunch
2012            Phase       3:         -    Review of Processes
                Consolidation          -    Space Review
                                       -    Content & System Review & Enhancement to Existing
2013            Phase       4:         -    An iterative model, the cycle now reverts to Phase 1 of
                Regeneration                the model
                                       -    New ideas will be determined based on the Ministry‟s
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

The following sections elaborate in detail on the deliverables for FY 2010.

4.1. Corporate governance

   Corporate Governance refers to the rules and practices that the MCYS RC implements
to ensure accountability, fairness, and transparency in the MCYS RC‟s relationship with its
   The MCYS RC‟s focus for the first “Housekeeping” phase was on getting its house in
order. Thus, operating procedures, policies and guidelines were reviewed and updated to
ensure relevance, robustness and transparency.
   Among the first steps was a review of its Circulation Policy. To ensure an effective
policy, the RC addressed areas that it had not actively enforced, such as overdue items that
were not returned to the library in a timely manner.
   The RC is now firmly enforcing the new policy, and has implemented additional
measures including warning recalcitrants that the organization‟s Senior Management and
Human Resource Department would be informed. This has led to a sharp fall in the number
of overdue items.
   In July, the RC conducted a stocktake to have a better assessment of the quality and
accessibility of its collections. The stocktake also ensures that the Library catalogue is an
accurate record of the holdings of materials. This will be followed by a collection audit, to
assess the depth of the Resource Centre‟s collections, and a weeding exercise to cull out
unwanted, obsolete material.
   With a clearer picture of the Resource Centre‟s collection size and content, future
projects will look into the collection development and collection groupings, and how to
better make use of the RC‟s limited space.

                               Figure 2. Progression of projects

   The projects have been undertaken in a logical, sequential manner. Together, they send a
strong signal of the RC‟s putting in place proper accountable and transparent practices in
how it carries out its work. Moreover, the projects reinforce each other in ensuring optimal
use of space even as they develop the depth and scope of the library‟s collections.
   In Phase 3, the “Consolidation Phase”, the RC will look into conducting these projects
and assessments on a regular basis. The idea is to embed the robust practices into the
library‟s ongoing practices so that they are used with regularity. In so doing, it assures the
organization that corporate governance is firmly in place where the library‟s operating
procedures and operations are concerned.
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

  To date, we have noted how the review of processes has led to more effective
operations. The review of workflows and policies, for instance, has led to more streamlined
workflows in areas such as the receipt and processing of new titles.

4.2. Delivering Value to the Customer

   Developing and putting in place services would be of limited impact if awareness of
their existence were poor.
   For this first year of the cycle, the RC revamped and relaunched its social and
management alerts, which it emails on a weekly basis to all MCYS staff. It also introduced
a number of new alerts (table 2). For example, new alerts were introduced to keep our busy
management regularly updated on latest management issues.(figure 3)
   The alerts sent out by the MCYS Resource Centre:

                          Table 2: Alerts sent out by the MCYS RC
Social Alerts
-       Social Snippets: An ad hoc alert on new government initiatives from across the
        globe, on social issues relevant to the Ministry‟s work

Management Alerts
-     Monthly management alert on topical issues
-     Summaries of new business/ leadership/ management book titles

Collection Alerts
-       Current Awareness Service
-       New Arrival Highlights
-       Accession List

                                  Figure 3. Example of alerts

   The Resource Centre also aims to market itself as a vibrant sharing and learning space
for all in the Ministry. In April 2010, the Resource Centre launched its inaugural “RC
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

Learning Journeys” – small group sharing sessions that use the Resource Centre as the
venue. These RC Learning Journeys, targeted at 4 per year, aim to be a platform which
allows issues, ideas and initiatives to be shared, discussed and explored. For the sessions,
the RC works with divisions to bring in speakers, and such sessions help MCYS staff keep
updated on the latest trends and happenings in Singapore and stimulate thinking on social
issues and how they impact us. The sessions also bring users physically to the Resource
Centre, and encourage them to think of it as a venue for sharing, discussion and discovery.
   Feedback thus far on the sessions have been very encouraging. Participants have rated
the sessions highly, and said they found them useful and looked forward to more such
   In the next phase, we plan to conduct “roadshows”. RC staff will visit the different
branches of the Ministry, including those based off-site, and conduct training sessions on
the new Library Management System and Research Portal.

4.3. New initiatives & capability building

   Information plays a very important role in the Ministry, as it seeks to come up with
policies and programmes that best serve the community. Access to information facilitates
in planning and conceptualization, and officers‟ easy access to key information is crucial.
   As the Ministry‟s information partner, the MCYS RC plays a pivotal role in meeting the
varied information needs of its users. As such, the MCYS RC‟s projects for the “Initiative
Phase” have involved upgrading its library management system and portal to enhance the
ease of access to content rich, authoritative sources.
   The Resource Centre launched its new Library Management System in April 2010, and
is in the midst of revamping the MCYS Research Portal. By integrating the 2 systems,
users will be able to link easily to a variety of resources of a related nature. Moreover, with
resources grouped by topics identified as relevant to the Ministry eg “Children”,
“International Migration”, “Elderly”, users need only to tap on these topics to pull out a
host of relevant titles, internal research, recommended websites etc. To enhance staffs‟
knowledge base, the Resource Centre will also be developing information pages on the
Portal to provide topical resources on subjects such as “Economics”, “Scenario Planning”,
“Strategy” and selected social issues. The overall intention is to build up a content-rich,
authoritative database that Ministry staff will turn to for information.
   The success of the Resource Centre's many initiatives is dependent on the capabilities of
its people. The MCYS RC has evolved from simply a space for traditional library
operations (e.g. loans and research) to a more vibrant learning hub that encompasses a
networked environment. Capability Building extends to developing MCYS RC staff
competencies, as information professionals are needed to suss out information, and develop
the content and services to meet users‟ needs. The RC staff thus have to be equipped with
new kinds of expertise such as social networking skills, marketing skills, and have a good
grasp of new advances in technology. We are thus exploring options such as sending staff
for library certificate courses, study trips and sharing sessions so as to open our minds to
new ideas and innovations in other libraries.

5. Recommendations & key learning points
   This past year has been a hectic and busy one for the MCYS RC as we work towards
fulfilling our key projects for the year – and reaching towards meeting our vision of
becoming a key library resource in Singapore. Accompanying this process of change has
been many challenges. We share from our experience some of our key learning points
    Support from Management: Having management support is crucial as this
        encourages staff and also provides the resources and impetus for new developments
        and initiatives.
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

      The Need for a Structured Approach: There is a need to have a structured approach
       to the implementation of the model. Each phase should build on the previous one.
    Services are on top of steady state library services: Even as the new initiatives are
       introduced, there is still the steady state library work that needs to be done –
       cataloguing, collection development, assisting with enquiries, etc.
       Constant communication and sharing among library colleagues helps raise morale
       and keep spirits up. Knowing too that such a strategic plan affirms the library‟s key
       role within the organization, and that a clear goal exists, also provides direction and
       helps motivate staff.
    Be Positive and Forward-looking: Results for new services may not be immediate
       or up to expectations. It may take some time – and effort by the library – to promote
       the new service so that there is greater awareness and use of it.
    Manage Expectations: Reception to a number of initiatives may be negative. It is
       necessary to understand the rationale behind the initiative and to understand the
       longer term implications. In the case of the Resource Centre‟s Silent Overdue Loan
       Recall, several borrowers with overdue items expressed their displeasure with
       having to return the overdue items on their records. However, the initiative to recall
       the books represented the MCYS RC‟s commitment to uphold professional
       standards in librarianship.
    Measures and Outcomes. A real challenge for the strategic plan is that it should be
       accompanied by appropriate measures and outcomes that will show where the
       strategy has created an impact, and where the outcomes achieved so far leave
       something to be desired.
   To date, the MCYS RC has put in place a number of such measures, for example,
participants to the RC Learning Journeys are asked to complete a feedback form on the
session, and users of the RC‟s research services are also asked to rate the service on a 5
point scale and offer their feedback on the quality of answers provided. Research Portal hit
rates are also tracked, and the RC also conducts regular Customer Satisfaction Surveys.
   Moving forward, we intend to look more closely at the measures adopted and see how
they can help us to better gauge the success of our services. This will enhance our
understanding of how our users have benefited from their contact with our library services,
especially over the long term.
   Transformations are only significant if they improve both the short term performance
and long term standing of the library. There is thus a need to be firm in the understanding
that such one-off exercises will be good for the library in the long-run, and to adopt a long-
term approach to the changes set in motion.

6. Conclusion
   The MCYS RC‟s planning cycle offers a clear sequence of steps to develop the library
and direct it towards its goal of becoming the premier government library in Singapore for
social and community related resources.
   We have put the plan in place since April 2010, and are now moving towards the other
phases. While the early phases of the planning cycle looked to putting the house in order
and launching a number of new initiatives, our focus now turns to actively reaching out to
the community to promote greater awareness of the new services, products and activities
offered. Components of Phase 4 have not been confirmed as any plans developed will have
to be in line with the Ministry‟s goals which in turn will be affected by current national and
international events. Hence, it is more prudent to consider the deliverables when we are in
   A well-conceptualized planning cycle together with support from management and
proper follow-through, has the potential to bring the library's purpose into focus and
underscore its contribution to the organization's mission. Such strategic planning over a
stretch of time provides consistency and depth to the Special Library‟s operations.
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

  The MCYS RC is fortunate to have supportive management that understands the
importance of the library and the centrality of the library to the MCYS community.
  The authors would like to thank their supervisor, Mr Devadas Krishnadas, Senior
Assistant Director, Strategic Planning, Research and Development Division (MCYS), for
sharing his ideas on strategic planning.

Appendix 1

    Table 3: 3-Year planning cycle for the MCYS Resource Centre, FY2010 – FY2012

FY2010: Housekeeping & FY2011: Consolidation Phase                           FY2012:
Initiative Phases                                                            Regeneration
Corporate Governance
Putting in Place New Review of Policies & Procedures    New Ideas: To Be
Procedures                                              Determined
    RC Silent Overdue       RC Collection Audit
       Loan Recall           RC Space Review
    Updates to RC           RC Review of Processes
       Circulation Policy     - Policy Review Cycle
    RC Stocktake             - Stocktake/Weeding
    Updates to Current           Cycle
       Awareness Service      - Alert Services eg to
       (CAS) Policy               share with the Whole-
    Alert         Services       of-Government (WOG)
       Guidelines            Client survey
    Updates on RC
       Acquisition        &
       Renewal Policy
    Updates             on
       Weeding Policy
    RC           Weeding

Capability Building
Building      Up       New Exploiting the Capability Built      New Ideas: To Be
Resources                      Content         &       System Determined
    New            Library        Refinement of the existing
       Management                  RC systems
       System                  Further integration between
    Research         Portal       the      RC systems eg
       (Intranet)                  Federated Search
    RC         Information    RC Professional Profile eg
       Pages                       participation in Library
    RC                Staff       Professional         Bodies,
       Professional                submissions               to
       Development                 journals/conferences
       - Certificate
ICoASL 2011: Services Meeting Strategic Directions of Parent Organizations

         -  Study Trip
         -  Sharing
        Development of RC
         Niche Collections

Services, Products & Activities
Value Added Services & Bringing the RC to Clients                            New Ideas: To Be
Products                                                                     Determined

Outreach                      New Outreach Activities
    RC              Learning     RC Roadshows
       Journeys                     - Outreach to divisions
    MCYS             Futures       - Outreach to divisions
       Project Exhibition               based offsite
    Updated Welcome
       Package to new Ongoing
       Inductees to MCYS          Social Alerts
       - Follow            up     Management Alerts
            email on RC           RC Learning Journeys
            services      and     Induction training
            facilities (work
            with HR to
            obtain emails of
            new inductees)
    Survey on specific
       initiatives eg RC
       Learning Journeys

     RC Alerts Relaunch
     New Management
     Sharing of Alerts
       with       MCYS

7. References
    1. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS). “About
       MCYS.” Govern me
       nt.aspx. Accessed 25 Oct 2010.

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