They Made Me Set Goals…And I Liked It

I don’t like affirmations, setting intentions, mindfulness, meditation. I’m that person sneaking out of the yoga class before savasana. I understand the benefits of these things and if they work for you  — great  — but I think I’m just not built that way. So when our school designed a new performance evaluation plan that used goal setting as a piece of the process, I groaned. I’m sure it’s no surprise at this point that I’ve always struggled with setting goals  — both personally and professionally…goal-setting might not be meditation, but it feels a bit meditation-adjacent. How was I going to not only set goals for myself, but for my department that acquiesced with the library staff and their goals?

I began with our mission statement which we had recently revamped to more accurately reflect our current purpose within the school. Goals, right? So, where were we most lacking when I looked at the aspirations of the mission? I chose three places that I thought we needed the most work: our collection, our place within the academic program, and our building. I spent some time discussing these ideas with the two other full-time employees at the library — one librarian and one administrative staff. Were these the biggest issues? Did they reflect properly on the mission? Did they coordinate with our personal goals?  We all agreed that focusing on these three areas felt correct.

We quickly realized that within each area — collection, program, and building — objectives fell along a continuum that ranged from smaller things that were in our control up to larger items that depended on money, other people, or administrative decisions. I decided to number our goals from most easily achieved to those really out of our control listing three to five goals within each area. This earmarks the document as both a realistic list of tasks, but also an aspirational look to the future with no barriers. Listing the achievable items first helps with morale as we look back throughout the year, but I also envision being able to highlight the items that fester on future documents as an important record for the future. We all hear stories about what previous directors and staff tried to do, but seeing unreached goals in black and white (potentially year after year!) is much more persuasive than an anecdote.

I also chose to include the full-time library employees’ personal goals as part of the same document. It is important to me that our goals stay front and center within the library goals, and that the two lists make sense together. The goals don’t have to coincide perfectly, but they should certainly work towards a similar outcome. For example, my personal goal of continuing my DEI education doesn’t specifically appear anywhere in the library goals this year, but it obviously helps improve our collection and programming. I made sure my full-time colleagues agreed to have their personal goals listed on the document before including them. 

So, I typed this all up and sent it off to the powers that be and after initial positive responses…I have heard nothing else. But I really don’t care. Even without any input or feedback from higher-ups, this was still a very productive exercise for me — one I plan to continue. I try to look through the document at least once a month, and every time I do, I am reminded of that fresh, September can-do attitude, and I see where we stand against this list of goals. What have we accomplished? What can we still get done? It is a black and white road map of what we thought we could accomplish at the beginning of the year, and what we have managed to achieve. For reference, I am attaching a copy of our 2021-22 Library Goals without the personal goals and with some comments and other school-specific items removed. As a newly converted goal-setter, I am happy to answer any questions or discuss our process further. 

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