First Steps

Planning and managing a resource centre with limited prior knowledge or training in information management is a challenging task. Therefore, we have put together this simple guideline, listing a variety of issues to be considered when setting-up a resource centre. Each section includes links to further information. This is not a fixed process to be followed, but rather a pool of steps that can be used to create your own plan.  


When setting-up a basic resource centre, it is crucial to plan well from the beginning. Planning is an ongoing process that needs to be continuously worked on throughout the years.

1.1 Assessing the Need for a Resource Centre

In a first step, it has to be determined whether there is a need for a new resource centre at all. There are various tools to be used for this assessment, e.g. community mapping, focus group discussions, public meetings, etc. If there is a need to establish a centre, the following questions could be considered:

  • Who are my users? (Age, sex, education, literacy level, occupation, etc.)
  • What kind of information do they need? (Subjects, local/national/regional/international, formats, etc.)
  • What do they need the information for, e.g. work or leisure?
  • What kind of information is already available? How is this information being shared? Are people satisfied with this?
  • What would be the best way to disseminate information?

1.2 Form a Library / Advisory Committee

  • How will a library / advisory committee be formed?
  • Who will be on the committee? How many members will be there? How will the members be selected?
  • How will decisions be made? (Consensus, voting, quorum, etc.)
  • What will be the rules for the committee? What will be the rules for meeting attendance? How will changes be made to the rules?

1.3 Sustainable and Strategic Planning

  • Vision: Your vision communicates what your organization believes to be the ideal condition for your community – how things would look if the issues important to you were perfectly addressed. This utopian dream is generally described by one or more phrases or vision statements, which are brief proclamations that convey the community's dreams for the future.
  • Mission: An organization's mission statement describes what the group is going to do, and why it is going to do that. Mission statements are similar to vision statements, but they're more concrete, and they are definitely more "action-oriented" than vision statements.
  • External Environment: Who are the key information providers? What links with other organisations might be important? What impact might other organisations have on your resource centre? What impact might technology developments have?
  • Creating Objectives: Objectives are the specific measurable results of the initiative. An organization's objectives offer specifics of how much of what will be accomplished by when.
  • Developing Strategies
  • Developing an Action Plan: It should include what actions or changes will occur, who will carry out these changes, by when they will take place, and for how long, what resources are needed to carry out these changes and how communication will take place. It is useful to have separate action plans for each area of the resource centre’s work.
  • Communication: What are the different audiences to be communicated with? What messages need to be communicated to them? How can these messages be communicated?
  • Policies and Procedures: Have written polices been produced? What kind of policies and rules are needed?
  • Resources: Are resources available to implement the planned activities? If not, can they be acquired? Are estimated resources realistic?
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: How will the strategic plan be monitored and evaluated? Who will be responsible for this?
  • Sustainability: How can we ensure sustainability over time? This includes environmental support, funding stability, maintaining partnerships, organizational capacity, program evaluation and program adaption.


Information for this section is compiled from:

For further information:

2.1 Staffing

  • Who will manage the library? Is this position going to be paid? What skills does this person need to have?
  • What other staff members do I need? What skills do they need to have?
  • If the centre is run by volunteers, consider whether there are any other ways to “pay” them, e.g. meals during work time.

2.2 Financial Planning

  • Will the library have a budget? If so, what will be the source of funding?
  • How can the community be involved?
  • Develop (annual) budgets

2.3 Fundraising and Income Generation

  • How can you raise funds? From the community? From donors?
  • Is there a way to generate income, e.g. membership fees, payment for services?
  • Are there any grants I can apply for?

2.4 Accountability

  • How can you keep the community involved?
  • How often should the community be reported to?

2.5 Training

  • What are the training needs of the staff?
  • What ongoing professional development opportunities are offered/needed?

2.6 Opening Hours

  • Should be adapted to the needs of the users as well as the staff
  • Be aware of the different information seeking patterns of various groups in societies and how they differ, e.g. mothers might only be able to come to the library while their children are at school.
  • Consider who needs to be available at what point of time

2.7 Rules and Regulations

  • What rules and regulations do we need?
  • Will there be user guidelines?

2.8 Monitoring and Evaluation

  • What will be monitored? Number of personal and online requests, visitors, acquisition of materials, services used, etc.
  • How will it be monitored and by whom?
  • How will the data be evaluated? By whom? And how often?


For further information:

Healthlink Worldwide: Resource Center Manual: How to set up and manage a Resource Center. London: Healthlink Worldwide, 2003.

Mchombu, Kingo J.: Sharing Knowledge for Community Development and Transformation. 2nd ed. Ottawa: Oxfam Canada, 2004. 104 p.

3.1 Location

  • Where will the library be located? How will the best location for the library be selected?
  • Will you build a resource centre? Use an exisiting space? Use a space within a school, shop, or community building? Use a virtual space? A bookmobile?
  • Will internet be possible? Reliable electricity?
  • Are there security issues? How will the location be secured? Who will be responsible?
  • Who will physically set up the resource centre?
  • How much space is needed? What size does it have to be?

3.2 Planning the Layout

  • Ensure that maximum use is made of the space available for shelving, shelves are easily accessible to users and away from direct sunlight as much as possible
  • Consider other activities that should take place at the centre, e.g. meetings.
  • Drawing an initial plan of the centre can ensure more effective use of space

3.3 Choosing Furniture and Equipment (for a list, please have a look at the manual)


Information for this section is compiled from:

“It is important to collect only materials that will be useful. Materials that are not relevant to users, or that are badly written or translated, are a waste of time and space. The  collection needs to be balanced in terms of subject areas and formats, to meet the needs of all users, not just some” (Healthlink Worldwide, 2003).

4.1 Developing a Collection Policy

  • What are relevant subject areas?
  • What formats are required?
  • What are the different reading levels that need to be addressed?
  • How long should materials be kept for? And when should some be removed?
  • In which language(s) will materials be collected?

4.2 Selection of Materials

  • Who is selecting the materials?
  • What is the content?
  • Who is the material for?
  • Is the information accurate and up to date?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Does the resource centre lack materials on this subject?

4.3 Obtaining Materials

  • Are there locally published materials?
  • Are there donor or charitable organisations in-country that could assist?
  • Where will the materials come from? See list of book international book donation agencies.
  • Set clear procedures for ordering and receiving new materials

4.4 Updating the Collection

  • How often should the collection be reviewed?
  • Who is in charge of updating the collection?
  • Remove materials according to the collection policy
  • Remember to amend records of materials that have been removed


For further information on indigenous and local knowledge:

Try not to make the organisation of information and materials too difficult. Keep it simple.

5.1 Classification

  • How will the collection be organised? Dewey Decimal Classification? General subject order? ALADIN classification?
  • Is there a need to extend the chosen classification?

5.2 Keywords

  • Which keywords will be used? ALADIN keywords? Other specific keywords or a general list of keywords?
  • To assign keywords, look at the material carefully to identify the main subjects covered. Do not rely on the title.

5.3 Cataloguing

  • Is there a need to catalogue the materials?
  • How should the materials be catalogued? Manually? On a computer? Consider IT equipment, electricity and internet access.
  • A catalogue may contain information about author, title and sub-title, edition, series, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, number of pages and format, illustrations, subject (keywords), accession number and classification number. Choose which sections are really needed in your own resource centre.

5.4 Shelving and Displaying

  • Good shelving makes it easy for users to find what they need, for staff to do a stock check and enables staff to support users more efficiently.
  • How will the materials be labelled?
  • How will the materials be displayed?


 Information for this section is compiled from:

  • Healthlink Worldwide: Resource Center Manual: How to set up and manage a Resource Center. London: Healthlink Worldwide, 2003.

6.1 IT Equipment

  • Are there going to be computers available for the users?
  • Explore possibilities to access internet databases

6.2 Cataloguing Software

  • Currently, the only open source cataloguing software is KOHA

6.3 Electronic Databases

  • Bibliographic database: is there a need to create an electronic database of the materials for the users? If so, who will do it?
  • Membership database (including information about name, date of birth, address, e-mail, and payment of membership fees)
  • Mailing database for newsletters or including other contacts such as donors

6.4 Digital Recordkeeping

  • The number of electronic resources is expanding rapidly. Have a look at manuals on digital recordkeeping and consider extra training for staff.

6.5 Website and E-mail

  • Is there a need for a website? Alternatively, a Facebook page?
  • Who will be in charge of maintaining the online presence?
  • (Professional) e-mail accounts for staff


Information for this section is compiled from:

  • Healthlink Worldwide: Resource Center Manual: How to set up and manage a Resource Center. London: Healthlink Worldwide, 2003.

For further information:

“One of the most important tasks of a resource centre is to make information available and encourage people to use it, by offering a range of information services. Information services should improve access to information, not only for people who can come and visit the resource centre, but also for those who are based far away, or who cannot come in for other reasons.” (Healthlink Worldwide, 2003) Always consider the results of the needs assessment when developing such services or carry out a new assessment if needed.

7.1 Workshops and Trainings

  • Will there be a space to conduct workshops and trainings? Will the centre facilitate these? Or will there be a possibility for others to rent the space?

7.2 Newsletters

7.3 Internet / Computer Services

7.4 Introductory Sessions for Users

7.5 Information Campaigns

7.6 Lending Service

  • Will it be possible to lend and borrow books?
  • Who will be allowed to borrow materials? Will there be restrictions?
  • How many materials can be borrowed at a time? And for how long?
  • Will there be fees for late returns or damage of materials?
  • Will there be a membership programme? Will it be free of charge? If not, will there be discounts for certain groups, e.g. students?

7.7 Advocacy and Promotion

  • How can the centre be promoted within the target community?
  • How can users be involved, e.g. through suggestion boxes?

7.8 Networks

  • If there is a clear focus on adult learning and literacy or lifelong learning, consider becoming a member of ALADIN
  • Networks can be useful for sharing information about new resources, providing document supply services, sharing experiences, and collaborations
  • Whom can the centre collaborate with to provide trainings or workshop? Or to expand the collection?


Information for this section is compiled from:

For further information: