February 2019

Strategic Planning Next Steps

The campus launched a finalized strategic plan at a “Strategic Plan Launch” event today. With the launch, the campus will have a complete and final version of the strategic plan that will guide us through 2023. The Library is well-positioned to begin its own planning, leveraging the campus plan.

In my December LON note, I discussed our efforts for strategic planning including the formation of a Library Strategic Planning Team. Based on discussions with the Executive Committee (EC) and with the Associate University Librarians (AULs), our plans are to leverage our divisional structure to ensure the kinds of broad perspective we can bring from units with a shared subject or disciplinary focus. Each division has identified a representative for that process. Those individuals are:

  • Area Studies—Mara Thacker
  • Arts & Humanities—Matt Roberts
  • Central Public Services—Merinda Hensley
  • Life Sciences—Erin Kerby
  • Physical Sciences—Bill Mischo
  • Social Sciences—JJ Pionke
  • Special Collections—Joanne Kaczmarek
  • Tech Services—Will Schlaack

EC is working to appoint a chair for the group, and I will send a follow-up note to libnews as soon as that process has concluded.

In the previous LON, I suggested that the planning process should
reflect priorities found in the campus plan (available soon), directions or priorities we established in the Framework for Strategic Action, and any new Library priorities that we identify through our planning process.

I’m personally looking forward to the kind of cross-unit work that can come from our divisional structure, but I should emphasize the point that this should not be the only avenue for identifying priorities. Of course the input from units, from AULs, and from individuals in the Library is important too. Ultimately, our challenge may not be finding a way to hear all voices, but rather to identify the most compelling priorities.

Last week (Friday, January 25th), the Deans held a retreat to discuss the strategic plan, the new budget model, and lessons learned from our “investment for growth” process. It was an intense and activity-packed day with very few lulls in the work. Messages from the provost and chancellor helped shape the day. We talked at some length about the DNA of the institution and the kinds of guiding principles that should shape the investments of our units. Of course themes like “innovation” were a major part of the discussion. However, I made a point forcefully to my colleagues: a defining principle is our commitment to benefiting the public—ordinary people—and particularly in ways that benefit the state and can be extended to shape the world. We are nearly unique in the way that we combine excellence with access. Compared to our elite peer state institutions, we enroll a much higher percentage of in-state students (e.g., more than 75% at Illinois compared to roughly 50% at institutions like Michigan and Purdue), and the size of our first-generation college student enrollment this year (22.1%) is awe-inspiring. Innovation is certainly key to the University’s identity, but even with regard to “innovation” much of our work is focused on practical applications that improve life for those we serve. For me, this represents a sort of focus on “excellence” over “elitism,” and I believe the things we do and the ways that we do them in the Library (e.g., our focus on access, use, and openness) is also a reflection of that Illinois identity.

As I mentioned in the last LON, this next campus strategic plan will echo priorities we saw in the 2013 plan:

  • Foster scholarship, discovery and innovation
  • Provide transformative learning experiences
  • Make a significant and visible societal impact
  • Steward current and generate additional resources for strategic investment

And, as in the last strategic plan, there are many areas where we can propose corresponding University Library work. For example, planning for all aspects of our Library building project will contribute to goals to enhance the University’s infrastructure for research and learning, and the ways that we expand access to and awareness of research at Illinois will be an important part of the University’s societal impact. I also have great hopes for increasing our work to measure and shape Library impact in specific and, where possible, measurable ways. I hope that these things and other aspects of what you recognize as our distinctive culture and contributions can be reflected in the next version of the Library’s strategic plan. I am looking forward to our developing that list of priorities and, even more, to discussing them at a Spring retreat. We’ll continue to share more details of planning as they emerge.

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