Library SMARTs

Megan Hartline —  February 4, 2014 — 2 Comments

January is prime time for setting personal and organizational work goals. This year, we’re trying to get SMART about goals in our library.

I’m way excited about goals, but those caps aren’t for shouting. SMART signifies the classic framework for making productive goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

SMART goals are common in the business world, and implementing them in the library addresses a particularly library-ish pattern of behavior. Since libraries are  service-oriented knowledge centers, our approach to goals is sometimes reactive and the solution is almost always instinctively based on sharing information.

For example: student patrons want class materials available sooner. Library employees want to meet the patrons’ needs, so they make post a page on the library website asking professors to put in reserves requests earlier.

The library reacts by communicating with stakeholders. While a good step to take, this action is instinctive and reactive rather than deliberate, and it isn’t SMART.

If the goal was SMART, it would look something like this:


Ensure that course reserves materials are processed and on the shelf before the semester starts.


All requests received one week prior to the start of the semester will be processed by the first day of classes.


Yes! Outlining the measurable factors recognizes that some requests will come in after the semester starts, and addresses that situation in the goal.


This goal directly addresses the student concerns.


On the first day of classes, the library staff can assess whether they met their goal.

Now that a way to measure success is in place, the library can start taking actions, including the great idea they had of communicating with faculty. They can make a supporting goal that is also SMART, including measurable outcomes of the communication plan.

SMART goals are also a manager’s best friend when performance evaluation time rolls around. The measurable component gives concrete examples of employee success, and makes both praise and constructive criticism more specific and helpful.

Our library department held a workshop last week to kick off 2014 with SMART goals.

We warmed up with a hands-on activity to identify activities we already do that support the library mission.

Then we coached employees through setting two goals: one for work activities, and one for personal professional development. The SMART concept was old hat to some and completely new to others. Some goals created at the event included:

  • Oiling squeaky book cart wheels within the next two months to reduce noise.
  • Develop and propose a system for emailing patrons right before holds expire.

The SMART framework helped staff brainstorming generate not just broad ideas, but actionable plans. This was our first time doing goal setting in a large group, and the SMART goal structure got great responses from our team.

How does your library do goal-setting? 

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. The Most Beautiful Libraries with new ideas - February 4, 2014

    […] Library SMARTs […]

  2. Library Mentoring from the Ground Up « Library Lost & Found - July 16, 2015

    […] be aware of their responsibilities.  In our program, we asked all of the mentees to come up with a SMART goal at the beginning of the program to give the program a direction.  We laid out some guidelines, […]

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