ABSTRACT

Public libraries nation-wide endeavor to offer a wide range of creative services to meet the current and future needs of their customers. Prior to investing the time and resources into these services, we should also invest the time in doing the background research and planning necessary to ensure success and customer satisfaction. We often fall short in this respect-libraries often provide new services to our customers without first setting standards for performance measurement and continued success. Libraries generally expend greater effort in securing the funding for their services than in their planning. This article will take a look at one aspect of the process of budget planning for a countywide, public library system in which the mandated steps for evaluating performance and measuring success are part of the process to receive funding. We will examine budget and service development, specifically the creation of a “decision unit” within the library’s overall budget for the participation in a statewide, collaborative virtual reference (chat and e-mail) service. The decision unit sets the level of required inputs and sets the measures for success for this new service, showing its effectiveness and potential for expansion or removal based on funding and stated outcomes.