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!


  1. Kathleen de la Pena McCook, 6. August 2006, 8:33

    COMMUNITY BUILDING COMES OF AGE. The Clinton-Gore administration did a great deal of work on community building. Most of what was on gov’t websites has been taken down, but it is vital that the work of the 1990s– which is foundational to the book you are writing–be included.

    I think it essential that public library mission statements tie into community mission statements. Too often local institutions develop mission statements without incorporating community vision statements. If one’s community has such a statement the library mission must be connected.
    Good background by G.Thomas Kinglsey, COMMUNITY BUILDING COMES OF AGE (Urban Institute, 1997).

    At the macro-level The Wisconsin Division for Libraries,Technology and Community Learning demonstrates the nested connection of unit mission to governing bodies. Mission statements don’t get much betther than this:
    Our mission is to work with communities to ensure learner success and stronger communities through family-school-community partnerships. The mission is directly related to Department Goals of Lifelong Learning and Partnerships. The DPI will promote lifelong learning so that individuals value learning, learn how to learn, demonstrate effective communication, thinking and problem solving, enjoy the quality of life, are fulfilled, experience the joy of learning, and contribute to and benefit from the intergenerational transmission of culture.

    The DPI will support the educational role and function of local education agencies (and organizations), families, and communities to increase local capacity to improve and ensure learning opportunities for the children and citizens of the community.

  2. Chrystie, 7. August 2006, 10:42

    That’s a very good point! I have the Kingsley piece in my stack of reading to finish this week ~ thanks for the recommendation. Would love to hear from others w/ such statements (as well as the stories of how you came to them!)

    Here’s another resource I came across this weekend, in case others are interested in the topic:
    LK Wallace, Libraries, Missions, and Marketing: writing mission statements that work, 2003.