library mission statements

After an exhaustive (or more properly, exhausting) study of 33 library mission statements, and intense case study of the creation, implementation, and understanding of one library’s mission, as well as a lengthy critical discourse analysis of 8 types of library mission statements, I can, with some degree of authoritativeness, say most library mission statements blow.

Including the two I wrote myself. *hanging head in shame*

In the off-off-chance that someone finds this post whilst seeking ideas for a new statement, I have two to put forward. I think they dodge some of the worst faux pas of elitism, overstatement, power-hoarding, self-centeredness, neoliberalism, and lack of responsibility that many statements seem to fall prey to (as well as–and this is my bias–an over-reliance on books as the way we do our jobs).

A 23-word mission statement for libraries for when succinctness is good (i.e. always):

The library facilitates equitable, happy, and resilient communities through the open access to ideas discovered through shared space, materials, tools, and social interactions.

A 60-word “promise” mission statement for when thoroughness is preferred (though kind of ponderous):

We meet you at your point of need, and promise to support your informational, recreational and educational needs with the tools you choose. We bridge the digital divide with open access to programs, services and materials, so everyone can prosper.  We craft community, and facilitate social, economic, and ecological resilience as a forum actively engaged with issues of the day.

Please: Critique here. I’d love to see what others think. I realize these aren’t “snazzy” in a marketing sense, but I think that’s ok–marketing with a mission statement is a bit of a mistake I think. Go ahead and have a “tag line” or some other marketing statement, but back it up with a real commitment talking about why you exist and what you offer.

Also, for goodness sakes, don’t cut and paste your mission statement. Each library is unique and serves a unique community. Adapt any statement you like (whether the ones above are or are not what you like) to your actual library. Libraries should not be represented as cookie cutter, replaceable, anonymous institutions, but as the living beings they are.

p.s. If you want to know my shame, here is the first statement I wrote: “Our Mission: To enrich the lives of all our community members with free access to programs, materials and services that empower, educate and inspire.” I used the word ’empower.’ I feel awful. What a horrible, sneaky word that is, and enrich isn’t much better.


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