February 2015

Strategic Planning

I’d like to take this opportunity to write a bit about our strategic planning process, in part because of the unusual approach we’re taking, which is designed to maximize inclusion and idea exploration. Few of us have enthusiasm for planning of any sort, and particularly strategic planning. We’d prefer to be “doing” rather than “planning.” I hope that, through this process, we’ll all feel different about our planning and begin to see that our “planning” is a kind of “doing.”

This is a particularly good juncture for us to engage in strategic planning. We’ve come to the end of one strategic plan and we’ve seen a fair amount of change in both the Library and the campus. Through the change, our Library has maintained considerable momentum and is active with a number of important initiatives. The general health and climate of the organization is good. We have a strong desire to chart a course and engage in a conversation about what’s important–to determine where we want to focus our investments. We have a strong sense of purpose that’s aligned with our mission statement and strong momentum. And, finally, efforts like the un-retreat have helped us sustain our momentum. Things are good.

It is probably never realistic to go into a room and come out with a plan. Echoing what we saw in ARL’s recent Strategic Thinking and Design process, we’ve initiated a process where we can exchange ideas, expand the conversation to bring in others on campus, drill down in specific areas, and communicate to ourselves and to others our priorities and goals.

Over 200 of you participated in the retreat. I was impressed by the level of energy and the breadth of engagement. One particular comment shared with me was a strong validation: “I wasn’t familiar with all of the issues presented at our table, but I appreciated the opportunity to be part of the discussion.” We’re a large and complex organization, and while it will never be the case that every one of us is familiar with all of the challenges we face, we face them as a collective organization. Our cohesiveness is one of our strengths. Feedback from the retreat was very positive. “I really liked this retreat. I thought … the distribution of folks at tables was good in terms of diversity.” “The retreat was very well thought out and efficiently run…. I enjoyed talking with people from the library who I had not met before.” “I thought the pace of the retreat was perfect. Everyone at the tables had valuable input on the topics….”

I want to emphasize the point that our effort will be a process rather than a moment in time, and that the retreat was, in this sense, a kick-off event. We are at a stage focused on exploring and generating ideas. Some of those ideas, of course, will come from the retreat. Others will come from the conversations we organize in the coming months. And, importantly, we will engage campus stakeholders, who will also contribute to this process. Stay tuned for opportunities to participate in more events.

In closing, let me say again how grateful I am for your personal investments in this process. I’m thrilled with the work of the Strategic Planning Steering Team and Lisa Hinchliffe, who is coordinating the process. I’m especially pleased by all of the contributions from those of you who attended. The excellence of our Library and of you as individuals is apparent through our work and your ideas. It’s time now to build on that excellence.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian