Planning for the Unplannable: An Exploration of Peter Morville’s Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals

Figure 8-4. Planning for Everything (Morville, 2018).

I’m a fatalist, and a planner—a fatalistic planner. Perhaps that makes me an oxymoron, but I’m more than content with my unorthodox position, especially after reading and reflecting on Peter Morville’s (2018) Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals. Now, I’m even more certain than ever that my unconventional approach to, well, everything, will aid me in developing a well-rounded philosophy of librarianship that values kindness and compassion over productivity and measurability. We, as soon-to-be Library and Information Science professionals, must approach planning by thoughtfully considering how to manage all known factors, yet we must also plan and prepare for what’s out of our control. By recognizing the inherent uncertainty involved with planning, we’re better able to respond to situations that don’t go accordingly and may recover from our mistakes without feeling entirely defeated. Participatory library services might sound daunting for those who focus on older notions of media spectatorship, but proper planning proves otherwise (Stephens, n.d.).

Morville (2018) introduces his own real-life applications of planning by beginning the first chapter, “Realising the Future,” with an anecdote about exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal, a subterranean cave in Belize, on an adventurous holiday with his family (p. 2). Even after disclosing how he built flexibility into the itinerary and carefully considered the needs of his family, Morville concludes his surprise-related sentiments by asserting that: “[s]urprise is inevitable. Both the plan and the change need to happen. To manage disruption with grace and a sense of humor is part of the challenge. That’s why planning is about more than a plan” (2018, p. 2). Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere—even if it’s just a small daytrip—knows that surprises are always part of the journey, but we still choose to travel. Why? Because we don’t want to limit ourselves and experiences.

We shouldn’t limit our plans on holiday, or in the library. And just as travel plans are often more successful when collaborative efforts are made (who wants to vacation with no involvement in what’s to be seen or done?), planning for participatory services are more successful when done so collectively. Morville (2018) emphasizes the importance of collaborative planning by noting that, “[i]n particular, exercises in planning together help people get better at problem solving, decision making, and metacognition. When we share the responsibility for planning, we share strategies, insights, tools, and tactics that improve our ability to design paths and goals” (p. 10). Furthermore, Morville encourages his audience to push the boundaries when planning and states that, “[w]e should not limit ourselves to efficiency metrics when it comes to organizing the future” and that we must “embrace a more expansive definition” of planning (2018, p. 11). While library statistics are essential for assessment and gaining awareness of trends within the library to better serve patrons, we can’t base our decisions on or limit ourselves—and our library services—to such rigid figures. Instead, we should opt for experimenting with diverse methods of planning. I wholeheartedly agree with Morville’s (2018) sentiment that, “[p]lanning is enhanced by diversity,” and consider it to be an essential component of creating participatory services that will truly engage a diverse community of library patrons (p. 13).

Since change and surprises are inevitable, we must consider—and work to evolve from—K.G. Schneider’s “The User Is Not Broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto,” where she, much like Morville, chooses to emphasize of focusing on what we do have control over, rather than what we don’t, as she states that: “[y]ou cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user” (2016). In the early stages of developing participatory services, we must begin by investigating what’s most engaging to patrons and then adjust accordingly. Morville (2018) would, likely, suggest that we remind ourselves that, “the path to ‘helpful help’ begins with ‘humble inquiry,’” something which humbly reminds us that even though we are information professionals, our expertise isn’t enough and that we must open the lines of communication to better serve our patrons (p. 54). Without explicitly asking our library users what will help them become more engaged, we won’t be equipped to create effective services. Morville puts it simply: “[w]e won’t fix what we don’t see” (p. 100). On a similar note, in Michael Stephens’s (2016) The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change, he proclaims that, “[i]t’s not out of the question to imagine these service models based on community enrichment and building connections,” which offers a promising glimpse into how LIS professionals can—and should—plan to become more involved with the surrounding community to create new participatory library services (p. 56).

Above all, Morville’s(2018) Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals has influenced my ever-evolving philosophy of librarianship by affirming that no matter how disrupting of an era we are in, or how many obstacles may interfere with our original plans, “[w]e will answer with truth and hope” (p. 113). And although surprises are inevitable and planning has its limitations, Morville reminds us that, “[k]indness and compassion are everything on the well-trodden path to joyful, meaningful life,” and any librarians who chooses to embody such life-changing qualities when crafting services for their patrons will, hopefully, be remembered as the pioneers in developing participatory library services (2018, p. 105). Kindness and compassion are the gateway to planning library services for lifelong engagement.


Morville, P. (2018). Planning for everything: The design of paths and goals. Ann Arbor, MI : Semantic Studios.

Morville, P. (2018). 8-4. Planning for everything. Retrieved from

Schneider, K. G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a menifesto. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Chicago : ALA Editions

Stephens, M. (n.d.). The hyperlinked library: Participatory service and transparency. Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *