mission statements: mission impossible?

I’ve been thinking today about Joseph Matthews’ discussion on public library mission statements (Measuring for Results, chapter 3). His chapter orients public library planners to the basics of mission, value, purpose, and strategic planning documentation and includes a number of examples of public library mission on value statements.

In short, Matthews says that the mission of your library should simply identify the library’s purpose and explain why it exists. The language should be clear and speak to your whole community. The mission should be focused on the present, and clearly invoke actions for both library staff and patrons. Here’s an example: The mission of the Richland County Free Library is meeting our citizen’s needs for reading, learning and information.

Matthews maintains that mission statements written by committee are often filled with library-jargon, and can ramble on (without much benefit) for paragraphs and even whole pages. On the other hand, many libraries don’t have a missions statement, or at least don’t communicate them externally (as indicated by the lack of public library mission statements published on their web sites, which may not be a complete indicator, but it is one).

My questions to you:

-Does your library have a mission statement? What is it?

-Does your library publish your mission statement? Where?

-What resources (published or otherwise) did your library use to develop your mission statement?

-What are the elements of a successful mission statement?

As part of the work I’m currently doing on evaluation and community building, I’d love to publish some or your more stellar statements, and tap some other resources that you guys think offer some good guidelines for developing effective mission statements. More later … or perhaps I’ll be moving on to “vision statements” in my next post. 🙂 Thanks in advance for your help!