In 1988, using focus groups, the library produced a mission statement and defined three niches for the library: information gateway, point of outreach to those with the greatest need, and center for multicultural lifelong learning. In 1990, a task force began to look at Seattle in the year 2000 and produced two strategic documents: the Master Facilities Plan and the Vision 2000 Document, which describes services. As part of the planning process, the library created a citizen’s advisory board, held more than a dozen public hearings, and conducted more than two dozen focus groups. These efforts earned the library an award for “department of the year” from a Seattle neighborhood group in 1993.
To aid this strategic planning process, library staff used 1990 census and GIS data, which was especially helpful in locating populations of senior citizens and children under 18. The planning process enabled the library to change its emphasis. Previously, the central library had served as an in-depth reference service and the branches had served as providers of popular literature. Now, it has adopted a single emphasis on lifelong learning through out the library system. During the planning process, the library became aware of the growing number of small businesses in the city. In response, it has bolstered services to business through the establishment of a small business collection and a Pacific Rim business information service.