Mission Statements: The Promises We Make

Posted by Joshua Johnson on Wednesday, May 01, 2013 with 1 comment
Most libraries have mission statements, but have you thought about the promises your organization makes to it's constituents in it's statement?

Take, for example, the mission statement of the American Library Association - or at least the part quoted below:
[T]he American Library Association was created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

There are several promises made here, in just one sentence (and mission statements for libraries may be up to a full page in length). Let me highlight just a few of the promises I see the ALA making, based solely on the quote above:

  • ALA members will be better at Promotion.

  • ALA members will be better at improving patron services.

  • ALA members will be better librarians.

  • Library patrons served by ALA members will receive an enhanced experience over those served by non-ALA members.

  • Library patrons served by ALA members will receive better access to information than those served by non-ALA members.

There are, perhaps, other promises implied by the wording, but these are the most easily derived. It is also true that active participation would be an important factor in the realization of these promises. I think that the ALA realizes this as well, and though the mission statement makes no mention of it, common sense dictates that members must attempt to apply what the ALA espouses and teaches in order to reap any benefits.

I think the trick, and a necessary one for libraries in our times, is to evaluate how well we deliver on these promises. If we don't have the resources to provide the services and collections we promise in our missions statements, then it is time we pare down our promises to what we can fulfill, or find different ways to make good on them.