SWOT analysis: the example of the Indian Library Association

Case study


Module 2: Building your library association


Topic 5: Planning for the association


A review of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses and consideration of the opportunities it may have and the threats that may impact on it represent the key aspects of a SWOT analysis.  This case study presents the SWOT analysis of the Indian Library Association (ILA) undertaken by Professor Maitrayee Ghosh in 2006.

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The role of library associations
  2. The challenges faced by library associations
  3. The role and purpose of a SWOT analysis
  4. The value of strategic planning


Dr S.R Ranganathan is widely regarded as the father of Indian library science. He realised the important role to be played by library associations not only to unite and educate library professionals but also to popularise libraries and library services. Dr Ranganathan founded the Madras Library Association (MALA) in 1928 and subsequently, with his initiative, the Indian Library association (ILA) was established in 1933. The ILA constitution states that the main objectives include “Promotion of [the] library movement and improvement of library services in all its aspects including library science education, improvement of status and service condition[s] as well as library legislation”. The ILA membership elects the National Council, with a President, six Vice-Presidents, General-Secretary and up to 20 Council Members. There are 11 Sectional Committees. The current number of personal members is around 3,500. The main mandate of the ILA is professional development and growth.


Ghosh (2006) has reported that a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis allows for the identification of needs, potential problems and issues, and plays an important part in strategic planning. The strengths and weaknesses are viewed as internal, ie they sit within the services provided to members, while the opportunities and threats are external, ie they exist outside of the association. Table 1 presents the SWOT analysis of ILA.

Table 1: SWOT analysis – Indian Library Association (Ghosh, 2006)


Strengths Weaknesses


  1. ILA is the only national level representative of all types of libraries in the country.
  2. Roles and functions are clearly and formally recorded in the constitution available on website.
  3. Nomination power vis-à-vis the Library Council.
  4. It has a well regarded website.
  5. Its regular publications and annual conference are well regarded.
  6. Further strengths identified are membership based:
  7. Senior level involvement, vocational commitment and membership expertise
  8. The Permanent Building and number of access points which meant that members of the associations do not have to travel to get the service of the association
  9. The online registration system
  • One of the major weaknesses of the ILA is that it hasn’t sufficiently responded to members changing needs and assumed that its services remain wholly relevant.
  • Lack of advocacy and lack of strategic networking with other groups.
  • Non-representation of huge percentage of professionals as members.
  • ILA’s lack of local presence and local visibility - many non-members have never been approached to join up and are largely unaware of the organization. There are no active networks of members.
  • No online newsletter is available.
  • Emphasis is mostly on formal activities /events (mainly journals, conferences etc).
  • In many cases information published in ILA newsletter is out dated and not rated highly by members.
  • Among 29 states and six union territories only 11 have enacted library legislation. Major states in India like Punjab, Rajasthan MP, Bihar, UP have no library legislation. ILA is unable to motivate the state governments in this direction.
  • ILA literary contribution to the library profession is considered poor. Publications are sadly lacking. Publication delays of quarterly bulletin.
Opportunities Threats
  • ILA should organize virtual conferences and workshops & must go for international cooperation and participate in international professional events.
  • Opportunities open to ILA to assert the potentially central role of the profession in a changed environment variously referred to as the information age or the information society.
  • Developing interactive website & collaboration on integrated service delivery to include web form, email, phone and chat. The Web site should provide innovative ways of delivering such as virtual tours or subject-specific tutorials that present information for a particular class of professionals.
  • There is a need for the ILA journal to publish more reflective articles.
  • The cooperation and understanding of members is not very high.
  • Financial constraints: shortage of funds
  • No permanent staff
  • Non-representation of huge percentage of
  • professionals as members.
  • Limited networking capacity, particularly in key areas such as on-going professional development and this, in turn, limits what we refer to as its professional currency.

The ILA is the country’s largest library association, with a number of weaknesses yet strong levels of opportunity. This SWOT analysis has enabled Ghosh to present a number of recommendations for the future of ILA:

  • The ILA should be a member-led institution, which encourages members to contribute to its development
  • The ILA needs to encourage more interactions between members and for members to become more involved in the association’s activities
  • The ILA needs to present itself as an open, proactive, participative organisation representing a progressive profession and should work to secure greater levels of cooperation within the library profession
  • The ILA needs to build internal and external connections, ie between sectors, other professional bodies and educational providers. The ILA should also look to adding more international components

The danger of over-reliance on membership fees as the primary income stream is recognised, so alternative revenue-generating strategies should be considered. The importance of informal knowledge sharing is stressed, so that communication between members occurs more frequently than at annual conferences. The opportunities offered by digital media should be exploited.


This SWOT analysis encompasses a wide range of issues impacting on the ILA: governance, membership, services, activities, publications and communication. These issues can form the basis of discussions that will inform the strategic planning process in order to position the association to respond flexibly to emerging challenges and to create the infrastructure that will accommodate the changes to service delivery that the association will need to introduce.


  1. Can you place the issues presented in the SWOT analysis of the ILA in different categories, eg governance, membership, services, activities, publications or communication? What picture can you build about this association?
  2. Try to review your own association from the perspectives presented in the case study. How does your association compare with the ILA?
  3. What do you feel the benefits of this SWOT analysis were for the ILA?
  4. If you had undertaken this SWOT analysis, what might you have liked to do differently?
  5. Do you think that it would be valuable for your library association to conduct a SWOT analysis? If so, who should be involved in the process? What steps would you need to take to make it happen? What would you do with the results?

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: India
Region: Asia
Agency: Indian Library Association (ILA)
Topic: SWOT analysis
Keywords: SWOT, strategic planning, Indian Library Association


Ghosh, M. (2006). The emerging role of national and regional associations in library development: an Indian perspective. Library Review, 55(1), 45-58.

Associations, India, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012