|International Reader in the Management of Library, Information and Archive Services (UNESCO, 1987, 684 p.)|
|3. Planning the service|
Management in socialist society is inconceivable without planning. The principle of the planned development of the new society and of its economy, science, technology and culture was emphasized even in the works of the classical authors of Marxism-Leninism, and in their resolutions the party and government pay much attention to improving the planning system. Librarianship in Czechoslovakia forms an integral part of - and is an active factor in - the political, economic and cultural development of the advanced socialist society on the basis of planning, i.e. pursuing a given course and a long-term objective.
The work of libraries must be so organized that it is geared as closely as possible to the implementation of the party programmes and influences effectively, by means of its specific forms and methods, further development of our society. With a view to improving the quality Of Planning in the library sector, both the Ministry of Culture and lower administrative echelons issue directives, methodological guidelines and principles as to what should be planned, when and how.
Let us take a look at how we are coping with these essentially simple questions in practice.
First, a little theory. Planning is a systematic balancing of the aims and resources of the object of planning in accordance with the directives and decisions of the agent of management. The result of planning, or rather of the planning process, is a plan in the shape of a system of binding organizational measures, procedures and stipulations which lead to the achievement of the set aim. Thus the plan is a binding directive, a specifically approved norm which applies at all levels of management entrusted with the plan's implementation, which organizes the object of planning and its activity and which prompts it to achieve a socially desirable aim. The object of planning is in our case the entire library sector, a library network or an individual library, while the agent of management might be the Ministry of Culture as the central management authority, or a national committee, etc. By activity we mean the services offered by libraries and by socially desirable aim the fullest possible satisfaction of library users' information requirements. This is a rather simplified way of looking at things, but it is quite adequate for our purpose here.
Librarianship in Czechoslovakia draws on long-term and short-term plans. Long-term plans (outline plans) are mostly compiled for a term of five years and are based on studies and forecasts that look 10-20 years ahead. The source of information about the object of planning is the forecast, which takes a broad view of the object's possible future and establishes basic development trends and the emergence, growth or decline of environmental influences affecting the object of the forecast, such as education, publishing and so forth. On the basis of the forecast development concepts are elaborated which then find their concrete expression in the plan. The forecast sets out a number of alternatives for the future and different ways of reaching them, while the concept, which stems from the forecast, sets out the optimal alternative for the future; and the plan, which stems from the concept, specifies the most effective way of implementing the optimal alternative. The characteristic feature of the plan, as distinct from the forecast, it is feasibility, which, however, depends on the realism with which it was drafted, on an objective assessment of the material, manpower and other potential of the object of planning. Long-range studies and forecasts ensure the continuity of the planning process, while the five-year plan provides more precise data for the given five-year period and in turn provides the point of departure for executive plans. While long-term studies are concerned with general formulations, the five-year plan specifies concrete tasks and quantified indicators to be achieved by the object of planning during the set period, and it indicates the resources by which this is to be done.
The prerequisite for systematic and planned management is the short-term plan (executive plan), which specifies the aims and resources of the object's activity for the set period and helps to tap unused potential to provide opportunities for further development. The most important plan in library management is the annual plan, which, through its highly concrete specification of aims, resources and forms of work, provides every opportunity for subsequent strict verification of its implementation. The annual plan as a rule specifies a library's main tasks for the set period as well as other concrete tasks, depending on its size and organizational structure. The plan's basic structure is as follows: the plan of main tasks; the executive plan, including special tasks; and the organizational and material backup plan. (For further information see bibliography.)
After our excursion into the realm of theory, let us return to our initial questions, which, having learned our lesson, we shall be able to answer with no difficulty. When do we plan? We plan at the end of the year for the next year and at the end of the five-year plan for the next five-year plan. How do we plan? Responsibly, of course, compiling long- or short-term plans depending on our position and seniority. What do we plan? We plan the work of a library, a network, or the entire sector. Essentially very simple answers to very simple questions, but ... that is exactly where the problem lies. Plans are indeed drawn up by libraries within the set deadlines and, what is more, dispatched to superior organs or institutions on time; and they comply with the directives of the higher authority in respect of set indicators and percentages. However, let us ask again: when is it done? At the last minute so as not to miss the deadline! How? At fast as possible so as to have done with it! What is planned? What is asked and required of us and no more! Does this not call to mind a paraphrase of Hamlet: To plan or not to plan, that is the question! Of course, we must plan. If our thoughts and actions are to be meaningful, we must have a certain long-term objective against which we can measure our results and assess the success or failure of our work. Why, then, do librarians view the plan as a necessary evil, why do they not exploit its indisputable managerial advantages and why do they frequently attent to the plan only when verification is due? Verification that the plan has been compiled, I hasten to add, not verification of its execution. Probably because we do not plan the right indicators, or do not plan them correctly.
In addition to general formulations on the lines of 'we will fully satisfy users' information needs during the target period', or 'we will actively contribute to the development and enhancement of the population's cultural and educational standards', indicators whose implementation is very difficult for a higher authority to verify (polling users, perhaps), the plans contain indicators that refer to library statistics - library stock in quantitative terms and its content structure, the number of readers, loans, visits, exhibitions, discussions, staffing and financial provision and so forth. These indicators are quantifiable: hence they are easy to plan and, naturally, their implementation is subsequently not difficult to verify either. At the end of the year we can compare the results achieved with the plan, tick off the relevant sections and consider the job done and finished. Finished? Yes, of course, done and finished, what else? Sometimes we manage to forget that verification is part and parcel of management and that due attention must therefore be paid to it.
However, let us digress a little and pay an imaginary visit to XY - a small town with a small library. There is not much industry, it is more of a recreational area where people have their weekend houses and cottages. A nice library with a devoted librarian, good premises and a good structure and range of library stock, very good working conditions - yet the number of readers has again declined. Loans have been 'bumped up', it is true, by lending magazines, but where are we to find people? There are none. The library organizes talks and exhibitions, it invites citizens to visit the library, yet the growth indicator is completely out of reach. People come here to relax and do not give much thought to the library, either in summer or in winter. You may say that the librarian should have considered external circumstances when compiling the plan. Yes, she should have done, but this is not only a purely fictitious example but also a greatly simplified one. The library's efforts to attract readers may be frustrated not only by a natural decrease in population or a change in the locality's functions, but also by a change in potential readers' interests. The decline in cinema audiences can be cited as an example. No, I am not trying to claim that our people are giving up reading, but they are less prepared to make an effort, they are spoilt by their own libraries or even by other forms of entertainment. To attract a reader today, a library must expend considerably more energy than, say, 10 or 20 years ago, and these efforts, this energy are not revealed by a mere figure, which gives the numerical information and nothing else. It is not my intention to militate against planning and statistics as to the number of readers, loans, library visits, or exhibitions, but it is my humble opinion that they give virtually no indication of the value and quality of librarians' work.
The Package of Measures to Improve the System of Planned Management of the National Economy after 1980, approved by the Czechoslovak Government in its Resolution No. 42 of 31 January 1980, considerably changed the situation in our economy, science and technology. Its purpose is, on the basis of an improved planning system, to make maximum use of all intensive factors for economic growth and to enhance the effectiveness and quality of all work. Throughout our society utmost emphasis is placed on the intensive development both of the economy and of science and technology, yet in the library sector the trend towards extensive development has still not been halted. The constant pursuit of the biggest possible number of loans and readers is, alas, characteristic of us. True, according to Unesco statistics our country holds the world record for per capita number of loans. However, the question is: are our readers really satisfied with the service we offer. The statistically-proven quantitative indicators specified in the plan currently tell us virtually nothing about the quality of library services, thus depriving our plans of their incentive function. Our library sector must react promptly to the new situation. We face the difficult task of establishing new indicators or of retaining the old ones but enhancing their ability to reflect quality. This would result, of course, in greater demands being made not just on the librarians themselves but also, and above all, on library management. Without the appropriate management we cannot expect high-quality results.
Let us imagine that the indicator specifying the number of readers for a given year was further broken down into fully satisfied readers, partially satisfied readers and those dissatisfied with the library's services: and the indicator for exhibitions and discussions organized by the library not only indicated the number of events held and the number of people they attracted but also reflected the extent to which they were satisfied with these events. It would, of course, be a very demanding task to ascertain the level of reader and library user satisfaction, but it would undoubtedly furnish valuable information about libraries' performance which could subsequently be used during the verification and assessment of the institution's fulfilment of its tasks, besides producing an overall improvement in the quality of the services offered, which is our main aim. The relevant scientific and methodological institutions should engage in a quest for qualitative indicators and methods of ascertaining and interpreting them.
By improving our planning system, giving it a new content, enhancing its ability to reflect more information and thus ensuring more effective management, we shall promote a more intensive development of our library sector and a greater contribution on its part to the development of the advanced socialist society. We must not forget that the plan is the basic instrument of management, but also no more than that. There still are 'executives' among us who invoke Pythia's counsel when drawing up plans, 'executives' who during the verification of plan fulfilment pull out of their sleeve a trump card in the shape of objective difficulties. If we fail to objectively assess our potential and decide our priorities, then, naturally, we must bear the consequences.
When do we plan? At the end of the year for the next year and at the end of the five-year plan for the next five year- plan.
How do we plan? Responsibility, of course.
When do we plan? The work of a library, a network of libraries, or the entire library sector.
And so we are back where we started. Or are we?
(1) RIHA, L. Dlouhodobrogna pl (Long-term forecasts and plans). Prague, Prace Publishers, 1974, 347 pp.
(2) PROCHAZKA, B. Plvanie - zadny nastroj riadenia (Planning - the basic instrument of management). CITATEL, Vol. 28, 1979, No. 9, pp. 310-311.
(3) Zdy pro sestaveni petiletemn pl rozvoje jednotnoustavy knihoven v CSR na leta 1976-1980. (Basic guidelines for the compilation of five-year territorial plans for the development of the integrated library system in the Czech Socialist Republic in 1976-1980). Prague, Czech Ministry of Culture, 1974, 19 pp.
(4) JAKUBICEK, M. Pl a plv v knihovn (Plans and planning in libraries). Brno, SVK, 1978, 19 pp.
(5) MICOVSJ J. 0. plv a knizniciach (About planning and libraries). Martin, Matica slovensk1962, 88 pp.
(6) KUSHTANINA, L.I. Bibliotecnoe delo kak zveno narodnohozjajstvennogo planirovanija (Librarianship as a component of economic planning). Sovetskoe Bibliotekovedenie, 1979, No. I pp. 35-47.
(7) KUSHTANINA, L.I. Perspektivnoje planirovanije - vaznaja zadaca bibliotekovedenija (Long-term planning - an important task in library management). Sovetskoja Bibliotekovenije, 1981, No. 2 pp. 63-74.
(8) HEMOLA, H. Komplexni prognosticky model knihovnick syst (Integrated forecasting model for the library system). (Thesis). Prague, 1980, 103pp. typescript. Charles University, Philosophical Faculty, Department of scientific information and librarianship.
(9) Soubor opatreni ke zdokonaleni soustavy plviteho rizenarodniho hospodaistvi po roce 1980 (Package of measures to improve the system of planned management of the national economy after 1980). Plzen, CSVTS regional council, 1980, 59 pp.