Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Achieve Every Goal Always Forever in Three Easy Steps

If your library calendar is like mine, it’s performance evaluation time.  Which means it’s also the dreaded goal setting time of year.  Will you aspire to increase program participation by 25%?  Bring fiction circulation up by 10%?  Do a classroom visit each month?  Secure five new sponsors for the summer reading club?

Or will you take the opposite tack and create non-goal goals, like maintaining your current staffing level, continuing to be responsive to teen suggestions, or running a summer reading club [like you do every year and have since the beginning of time]?

Please spare yourself the agony and embarrassment and forego both of these types goals.

“BUT!” You’re saying, “What’s wrong with wanting to increase circulation???  Why shouldn’t listening to my beloved teens be a goal?????”

No, I’m not crazy and I haven’t thrown in the towel.

Goal setting is really important in helping us move forward with our teen services – if it’s done right.  And neither of the above extremes quite gets it.  Here are three steps to take that will make your goal setting more realistic, more useful to all of the stakeholders, and more likely to be achieved.  And the best part is, it’s actually going to be easier and make you feel better than setting lofty or wimpy goals would.

1.  Think about what your teens, your library, and your community really need, but don’t discount what you really need.

 We often look to the Library’s mission statement and past patron requests when it’s goal setting time.  Have teens been begging you to get a gaming center at the Library?   Are you all tasked with enriching the cultural experiences of your community?  Has your library been on an environmentalism kick lately?

Maybe what you really need in order to do your job well to focus on is none of the above, but instead build up your PLN.  Maybe it’s been five years since you’ve attended a conference out of state and been exposed to new ideas from other regions of the country.  Maybe you’ve been throwing yourself into new technologies and it’s time to get back to the books for a season.

Don’t lose touch with what makes you great or your motivations for doing the job.

These are YOUR goals, not DEPARTMENT goals.  How will these goals help YOU be a better librarian, a better resource to your teen patrons, and a better colleague to your peers?  If you are personally motivated to achieve the goals, instead of motivated simply by the idea that it’s what you should do, you will be more focused on working toward meeting the goals.

2.  Only set goals that you have control over.

This is why setting goals that hinge on increasing X by Y, or those that rely on someone else to make a final decision are wrongheaded.  You could do everything right, and never increase a collection’s circulation by a single checkout if external factors limit the community’s access to or interest in the material or format.  You could do everything right, but wind up in a situation where the Powers That Be have decided that public librarians shouldn’t be doing booktalks in the local school.  You could plan the best program session ever and have it fall flat if your core group of attendees decides that they’d rather play intramural basketball or work on the school play instead.

These things are out of your control.  But it doesn’t mean you can’t work toward them.

Reframe your goals into manageable chunks that you can accomplish:

  • Increase circulation by 10% becomes 
    • Weed the collection, 
    • create focused thematic displays each month, 
    • create five new lists of readalikes for popular titles.
  • Boost program attendance by 5% becomes
    • Increase marketing efforts by including program announcements on social media and in popular off-site hangouts.  
    • Do a survey of local teens to figure out what types of programs are of the most interest
  • Visit at least 4 classrooms each month becomes
    • Make contact with a teacher, librarians, or other liaison at every school in my service area.
    • Create a handout describing the full range of support I can provide. 
    • Follow up with school relationships that have been successful in the past.
  • Create a makerspace becomes
    • Research potential setups and requirements for a makerspace 
    • Get feedback on makerspaces from other libraries 
    • Host a teen focus group.  
    • Create a budget and proposal for the Board to review next January.

3.  Change course when needed.

This is NOT cheating.  Let’s say one of your personally relevant, achievable goals is to attend more of your local region’s youth librarian meetups in the next county over.  Then let’s say that the weather all winter long is just horrible and you hate driving on snowy roads and your car is making that weird noise again.  Change course.  Adjust your goal so that you’re gaining similar skills and benefits in an online environment.

Or perhaps you detailed the ways you would do outreach in small ways across a variety of locations in your community, and then you are invited to be involved in the monthly teen night at a community center and need to devote more time and energy to that project.  It’s not a failure if this becomes a new goal and the initial goal gets set on the back burner for a while.  It’s actually a success, because clearly some of that early outreach must have worked really well!

And that’s it.

If your goals are personally important to you, achievable by you, and changeable by you when you need to change them, the likelihood of you actually wanting to work toward making them happen is going to increase significantly.  And if you actually want to focus on those things in your work life, you probably will find the time to do so, despite the many directions we are pulled in every day.

Plus, if you’ve written these things down as goals, and your supervisor knows they’re goals (because they’re in your performance evaluation) if you need more time away from a different project to work on these things (remember! things that YOU WANT to do!) you are more likely to get more time at work to do them! Because the truth about your manager is that if you do well at achieving your goals, she will look better to her manager too.  This is how we all succeed together.



  1. Realistic goals are good. They make them more achievable and also more worthwhile and productive for the library anyway. You can want world peace, but instead you could create conversation between two warring groups and it makes it more of a difference than big goals you can't achieve.


  1. […] supplement and subdue the shock of entering a profession very in debt and very unprepared (like Achieve Every Goal Always Forever in Three Easy Steps and Letters to a Young Librarian). However, I am not yet at the point where I can provide such […]

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