About the Strategic Planning Initiative


A Strategic Plan is a document used to set priorities, ensure that staff and community stakeholders are working toward common goals and assess and adjust an organization's direction in response to a changing environment.

Effective strategic planning articulates not only where an organization is going and the actions needed to make progress, but also means for ensuring its efforts are successful.

A strategic plan is generally made up of the following components:

  • The Current State & Opportunity: Through extensive community and staff outreach we learn what the current state is. These insights uncover where an organization is starting from and potentially where we could go in the future.
  • Strategic Initiatives: Identifying the core areas of focus and how do to support them.
  • Values: What we believe. Not just how we treat our community, but how we treat each other.
  • Mission: The purpose of the organization to contribute to the vision based on our role, strengths, and objectives.
  • Vision: The outcome of our work in the community. It articulates the desired future for our community because of our efforts.


Diagram showing the components of a strategic plan as stacked pieces. Those pieces from bottom to top are “The Current State and Opportunity”, “strategic initiatives”, “values”, “mission” and “vision”.



In early 2023, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) kicked off the groundwork on its Strategic Planning Initiative (SPI) to inform service-driven, equity-minded programming and capital investments for the next generation. Aspiring to deliver the highest possible level of service with a commitment to racial equity, SFPL has been working closely with staff and the broader community to co-author a strategic plan that will propel our libraries to meet the needs of tomorrow.

Today, more than repositories for free, accessible physical and digital materials including books and other multimedia, libraries are expected to serve as community centers for education, digital access and civic engagement and meet the diverse learning needs of the overlapping communities in which they operate. Libraries have become a communal “third place” for all generations and an access point for technology and information. They are also expected to serve as climate resilience hubs to provide respite from the rising hazards of heat and poor air quality. Across the country, library facilities are being transformed inside and out to be accessible, resilient and flexible while serving diverse needs through innovative collections, programs, services and partnerships. As technology evolves, the Library must adapt and ensure that San Francisco residents have ample opportunities to grow their own technological literacy by having access to programs and devices that match recent technological developments and trends.

San Francisco experienced unprecedented volatility as a result of the COVID-19 health emergency and associated economic disruption. Still the needs of San Francisco’s neighborhoods continue to evolve in the face of rapid cultural and technological change. The library needs to respond to these changes, acknowledging the needs of current and future residents, anticipating growth and providing state-of-the-art services that are inclusive, inviting and responsive to patrons’ needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a technological disruption in the library industry with greater adoption of digital collections, which presents a unique opportunity to reconsider the optimal use of social infrastructure to support recovery and resiliency.

Collage of various staff and community engagement events like workshops, focus groups, and virtual meetings.

Night of Ideas Strategic Plan community art workshops using colorful shapes to arrange library spaces and programs such as reading rooms, craft areas, bookstore, or study rooms in a plan diagram.


Night of Ideas Strategic Plan community art workshops using colorful shapes to arrange library spaces and programs such as reading rooms, craft areas, bookstore, or study rooms in a plan diagram.


In January 2023, SFPL contracted with Gensler as the lead consultant for this Strategic Plan. Gensler is a global strategy, design and architecture firm founded in San Francisco, California, in 1965. In addition to Gensler, the team is made up of a team of national and local experts to tap into industry trends and local community vision. The team members and their roles are listed below:

Gensler: Lead Consultant, Project Management, Strategic Plan Development 

Margaret Sullivan Studio (MSS): National Library Expert, Staff Engagement Workshops, Strategic Plan Development

Harmonic Design: Staff Engagement Workshops

Contigo Communications (Micro Local Business Enterprise (LBE)): Community Engagement Focus Groups & Facilitation

Corey, Canapary & Galanis (Micro Local Business Enterprise (LBE)): Quantitative Research & External Surveys

Throughout the duration of the project, an internal SFPL SPI project team is working together with this team of consultants. Each week, the consultant team meets with the SFPL SPI Working Group to manage process and deliverables. On a monthly basis, the consultant team also meets with the SFPL SPI Steering Committee to provide guidance on the overall strategic direction of the plan. Periodically throughout the year-long project, the consultant team also presents to the SFPL Commission.   Notes and agendas from Commission meetings are publicly available on SFPL’s website.