February 2020

Library Employee Recognition Event Remarks

For this month’s note, I’d like to share my remarks from our all-staff event on January 15, 2020.

This moment in the year has always been a bit special for me. We’re deep into the academic year and have the momentum of a great deal of work behind us. And, ahead of us, we can see a number of critically important possibilities made possible for all of that groundwork. Let me reflect on a few things to remind you of all that we’ve done together:

Strategic Plan

  • It was only a few months ago that we wrapped up our strategic planning process. That was Library-wide effort, involving most of you. Of course we leveraged the campus’s recently completed plan, but by bringing the campus rubric into the Library, we have great guideposts for our work in the coming years. I appreciate everything you’ve done, but let me point out two ways that our collective preparedness has positioned us well. 
    • In our plan, we called out the importance of finding ways to measure the impact of our work, to communicate it to the rest of campus, but also to improve what we do. We are deep into preparing the annual report and budget request for the provost, and in that assignment we’re asked to identify key performance indicators that measure impact and importance. Because of your sound work, we were well-prepared to respond to that request.
    • Student success is an important part of both the campus strategic plan and the Library’s plan. Led by David Ward, with significant contributions from others, and in collaboration with LAS and Engineering, we recently submitted a very compelling proposal to the campus for a shared Learning Center. I heard from our partners over and over again how important this proposal is and what it contributes to the campus.
  • Suffice it to say, our planning has given us a roadmap for important work, and we’re already executing on it in ways that we should be proud. Moreover, it should serve us well for years to come.

Of course the Library Building Project has been a major focus for all of us, but I would be remiss if I didn’t remark on many of the other things that have been part of our work for the last year. A major part of what we’ve been doing has been attention to things that will make us a more effective and healthier organization.

  • AP Promotion program: Our Academic Professionals are such an important part of our organization and what we do, and so it’s with a great deal of pride that I remark that we have fully implemented the AP promotional program and have our first round of promotions. While the program has a few rough edges, I think we all agree that this year’s effort came to a successful conclusion with hardly a hiccup. This is thanks to work by many across the organization.
  • Improvements in support for faculty development: We’ve had many discussions about shortcomings in our systems for promotion and tenure, and as a result have embarked on several efforts (including Chris Prom’s appointment) that should address those shortcomings. It’s early days for this, but the breadth of the discussions and the general agreement on issues and strategies has been encouraging.
  • Climate and organizational development: There are many things I could highlight here, but let me share a few. We continue to move forward with plans to hire a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Jake’s work as Organization Development & Training Coordinator has had broad impact; and we recently appointed an Archivist for Multicultural Collections & Services.
  • And finally, our recently announced hiring and funding initiatives saw engagement from across the Library and should help propel us forward in key areas.

All of these things are important, in and of themselves, but I also know that all of this work makes us a stronger organization and helps us to ensure that we can build better relationships with each other and with our new colleagues as they join the Library.


  • I know that CARLI’s efforts to migrate the catalog to Alma are on many of your minds, and of course we know how critical and challenging these sorts of transitions can be. I want to let you all–especially Michael Norman–know how much I appreciate the work you’re doing to make that transition successful. It may go without saying that CARLI’s success depends on us, but I can’t let it go without saying: the efforts of our Library in making the migration successful are the foundation of success for the entire state and the i-Share system. Thank you for that.

Repository Development

  • I suspect you all know how important our repository efforts are, personally, to me. What we’ve done with Medusa is tremendous, not simply because it’s successful, but also because of the way it positions us for future successes. A couple of years ago, when we proved that with the Illinois Data Bank, I couldn’t have been more proud. Although it’s not well-known throughout the Library, a similar effort is underway for IDEALS. The impact of that migration will be a more sustainable institutional repository; more than that, though, it should position us to lead state-wide and broader efforts. I think you all know how important large-scale transformations are to me, and this is one of those.

Library Building Project

  • I’ll end with the thing that has dominated our work and discussions the last year and a half: the Library Building Project. Nothing could be more important than our future, and I appreciate all of the effort you have put into getting our planning right. We still have a very hard row to hoe, but through your work–collectively in committees and individually through your many contributions–you have helped refine the vision and to engage our stakeholders. 
  • Doubtless, the building itself will be important and shape our activities over the next century. And yet our Library is so much more than a building: you, the people who work in the Library, have contributed value and helped ensure relevance. Done right, the new buildings should help us do that well into the future. I believe the vision that has emerged has made it possible for us to be the best possible library. Yes, the centrality of the collections is important, and we’re making that possible, but the ways that we work with the campus to make teaching and research successful are what it’s ultimately all about, and so I’d like to conclude on that note: a thank you to everyone for everything they do, for helping bring the building project to the point it’s at now, and for positioning us to be a better and vital part of the university in years to come.

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