Boston Public Library Trustees Unanimously Approve Strategic Plan
Two-year engagement process culminates in approval of the “BPL Compass”
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For Immediate Release
November 22, 2011
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BPL Communications Office

BOSTON – November 22, 2011 – After a robust, two-year public engagement process, the Boston Public Library (BPL) Board of Trustees last week unanimously approved a strategic plan to guide the future of the institution. The strategic plan and the process that led to its development is called the “BPL Compass.”

At the heart of the BPL Compass is a three-phase, community-based process that consisted of more than 80 meetings, 1,500 participants, and 15,500 survey responses.

Boston Public Library work plans, service plans, fundraising initiatives, and other decision-making will flow from the strategic plan, which was shaped by direct public input that shed light on how the Boston Public Library can best serve its communities. Library users from across the area were active participants in discussing the principles and outcomes, offering opinions and ideas during interactive, feedback-gathering exercises.

The most recent phase of work was led by BPL Trustee and State Representative Byron Rushing, BPL Director of Library Services Michael Colford, and BPL Chief Communications Officer Gina Perille. Work during this third phase built on a set of eight guiding Compass principles that the Trustees approved in December 2010. Boston Public Library staff, committees, and community members discussed outcomes and strategies that would bring the principles to life. Through in-person and online roundtable meetings, a community blog, and suggestions received via email, a set of outcomes and strategies emerged and were presented in the strategic plan unanimously approved by the BPL Board of Trustees on November 15.

“The BPL Compass is a living, breathing plan, and the credit for the strength of its contents goes to the people of Boston,” said Amy E. Ryan, President of the Boston Public Library. “Because of our users’ steady, faithful interest in the future of this organization, the Compass is a greater document.”

The text of the strategic planning document approved by the Trustees is available for download from the Boston Public Library’s Compass page at

The BPL Compass: Principles for Excellence are as follows:

I) User-Centered Institution

The BPL is a user-centered institution with services that anticipate and respond to neighborhood interests and the changing demographics of the City and Commonwealth.

II) Community Gathering

The BPL exists to serve and sustain communities that foster discovery, reading, thinking, conversing, teaching, and learning, in accessible, sustainable, and welcoming facilities throughout the City, as well as with an engaging online presence.

III) Special Collections

The BPL is committed to the ongoing development and preservation of its distinctive special collections, which provide citizens from all walks of life with access to their common cultural heritage.

IV) Center of Knowledge

The BPL is a center of knowledge that serves researchers, lifelong learners, and the intellectually curious through its incomparable collections, digital resources, and access to other scholarly networks.

V) Children and Teens

The BPL fosters the love of reading and skills in critical and creative thinking among children and teens – from early literacy through mature readership – by offering a slate of services that provide academic support and intellectual growth.

VI) Access and Innovation

The BPL provides access to and training in innovative technology, electronic resources, and digital information through its own holdings and its strategic position within the wider world of knowledge.

VII) Sustainable Organization

The BPL depends on sustainability of resources through a judicious stewardship of finances; active employee participation and professional development in an environment of dignity and respect; and partnerships that enrich services, expand outreach, and leverage public investment through private support.


The BPL leads the way for people of all ages with recreational reading and media, invigorating programs, user-created content, and opportunities for discovery in settings that are stimulating and engaging.

The Public Library of the City of Boston built by the people and dedicated to the advancement of learning. The Commonwealth requires the education of the people as the safeguard of order and liberty. Free to all. MDCCCLXXXVII (1887). Carved in stone on the McKim Building of the Central Library in Copley Square

EARLIER PHASES in the development of the BPL COMPASS
Phase two of the BPL Compass, led by BPL Director of Library Services Michael Colford, was launched in October 2010 and involved sharing draft Compass principles with BPL staff and the greater library-using community in order to collect feedback and comments. In the second phase of the strategic planning process, the Boston Public Library made use of an online survey, blog, focus groups, a postcard campaign, and strategic planning sessions convened both in-person and online.

Phase one of the BPL Compass, which was led by Boston Public Library Director of Branch Libraries Christine Schonhart, began in the fall of 2009. A Trustee Compass Committee was formed under the leadership of BPL Trustee James Carroll and BPL President Amy E. Ryan. The committee offered ideas about the future of information and learning as well as on the multi-dimensional role of libraries. The work of the Trustee Compass Committee was combined with the work of a BPL Staff Compass Committee, which included research into demographic trends of the City of Boston. Input came via public sessions, a staff blog, a community blog, meetings with BPL affiliates and friends, and more. The result of the committees’ work, staff comments, and public comments yielded the first set of draft Compass principles.

For more than 160 years, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room. Today, the Boston Public Library has twenty-seven neighborhood locations, including the Central Library in Copley Square. Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts nearly 12,000 programs, answers more than one million reference questions, and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibits are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit

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