July 2019

Strategic Planning

We are coming to the end of our strategic planning process, intended to establish our priorities for the next five years (2019-2023). The work of the Library Strategic Planning Team (LSPT) was superb, and I want to thank everyone for their contributions to that process and for their engagement with the retreat. I especially want to thank our chairs, Clara Chu, Merinda Hensley, and Jen-Chien Yu, for their leadership and their hard work. I will devote this month’s Dean’s Note to recapping where we are in the process, discussing next steps, and reminding everyone where they can find the work that’s been done to-date.

With your hard work and help, we are at the penultimate step of our strategic planning process. Over the course of the late winter and early spring, our LSPT coordinated input and gathered data in order to create a preliminary document to guide our annual retreat. That process was designed to coordinate with the campus strategic plan, in order to ensure that the work of the Library supports the broader directions of the University. We are fortunate to have had this timely opportunity to align our work with that of the University, and this should be helpful to us in establishing priorities, as well as in budgeting and reporting to the campus. As a result of those efforts, we now have a preliminary sense of priorities, have had a successful retreat, and have assembled a thoughtful set of inputs that will guide our elected Executive Committee and Library Administration in finalizing a document.

All of the work done thus far is available to you online. Notably, you can find a number of resources on the LSPT website at https://www.library.illinois.edu/staff/administration/strategicplanning/. You can find the draft document that served as the basis for our retreat discussions at https://www.library.illinois.edu/staff/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2019/03/LibraryStrategicFramework-draft_2019may2.pdf. Very important campus resources are online, as well. The planning website for the campus is https://strategicplan.illinois.edu/, where you can find the final strategic plan as well as a number of critically important working group reports.

We now need to finalize the strategic planning document. Subsequent to the retreat, our LSPT chairs delivered the results of the retreat discussion to my office. Kim Matherly and Lucretia Williams have been hard at work on transcribing notes, including contributions many of you made at the retreat. Over the course of the summer, the elected and administrative leadership of the Library will review the draft document and the resulting notes from the retreat, and will use that information to shape the final strategic planning document. We are hopeful this can be completed by the fall.

As dean, it’s important that I highlight areas of work that I think are especially important. To be clear, I am pleased with where we are, both in terms of progress and in terms of the suite of strategic priorities we have identified. We will invest in all of these areas of work. Some priorities will have particular importance or timeliness, e.g., because of external circumstances. 

  • One such priority in the Library’s strategic planning document is SD4.6, “Apply assessment and evidence-based practices to make strategic investments to advance the mission of the University.” The new budget model for the campus attributes costs to the schools and colleges in much more transparent ways. As a result, a portion of the cost of operating the Library is allocated to each school and college based on a formula that was developed by the Campus Budgeting Reform Steering Committee in consultation with the campus. In simple terms, each school or college will be “taxed” for library services. We are deeply appreciated by the campus, but that appreciation will be bolstered by work to meaningfully communicate the value we contribute to the schools and colleges and to the entire academic enterprise. Finding ways to quantify impact, for example, can help communicate our value and can help us to improve our services by better understanding what works well. I believe that the role of our Library faculty, combining professional practice with a strong research agenda, can benefit by using that research to help better understand and improve our collections and services.
  • The stars are aligning for moving forward on the Main Library construction and the creation of a Special Collections library, and the magnitude of that work will have impact on the work of many of you, as well as many of our strategic priorities. Indeed, every priority in our current draft document is in some ways relevant to those building efforts. However, I will note the key word in SD1, “partners” (“SD1. Pro-active and trusted partners in scholarship, discovery and innovation”) was at the core of the design discussions with the architects and design firm. Those of you who participated in that process, as well as the campus committee, focused on the role of the Library as a partner with the campus, and made that a key defining principle in shaping the newly imagined Main Library. Priorities related to the building project abound, and we should all keep this in mind as we organize our work.

Finally, in closing, I will emphasize the importance of teamwork in the work that we do. Each of us, regardless of our classification or role, can make more meaningful contributions by collaborating with other colleagues. Our work intersects everywhere, and diverse perspectives on common problems inevitably produce better solutions. I hope you will all see the strategic plan as a vehicle for building better partnerships, better solutions, and ultimately a better library.

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