How academic librarians can use university strategic planning to align library services with university goals and improve their visibility
May 9, 2023
By Paula Milewska
Discover how library directors are developing plans to improve their libraries’ visibility on campus.
To support Polish library leaders in making academic libraries and their services more visible, Elsevier organized a special workshop at our Annual Conference, Open Science: Practice and Perspectives, where we gleaned some inspiring, low-cost tactics that librarians can put into practice to widen the reach and improve alignment with their institution.
Establishing the “why”
Library visibility is critical to ensuring its success and growth. In my experience, and in speaking with colleagues (Polish academic library directors) at the workshop, we identified the main areas of concern that are critical if libraries are to align their outreach and goals to the goals of the university’s strategic plan. It’s all about visibility.
Deputy Director of the Adam Mickiewicz University Library and workshop participant, Małgorzata Rychlik identified two main reasons why academic libraries should work harder to increase their visibility: “The first is of a pragmatic nature — a visible library is one that finds it easier to obtain funding for its activities, because the university's leaders see the library as a partner. The second aspect touches on values and revolves around the library's mission. A library that is recognized and therefore visible in its environment can fulfil this service much more effectively.
Libraries are not isolated islands, so it is important to understand the role of the library and consider it in the wider context of campus goals and priorities. Michael Levine-Clark, Dean of University of Denver Libraries, who acted as guest trainer during the workshop, emphasized “demonstrating the library as partner in serving the needs of the institution, and in solving difficult problems, means that the library will always be part of important conversations, and the library will get the resources and support it needs.”
More about this collaborative event
Once a year, Elsevier organizes a conference in Poland titled “Open Science: practise and perspectives”(opens in new tab/window) (OSPP). The event is dedicated to the Polish librarians’ community and includes two days of sessions and workshops attended by, and contributed to, by representatives of the community. During the workshop, we share experiences and knowledge, showcase best practices, and hold open discussions about important challenges surrounding the development of Open Science.
In the 2022 workshop, we focused on supporting research excellence, framing it from different angles, including data management, Open Access publishing, the role of the library in the development of Open Science, challenges around research assessment and evaluation, and the use of CRIS or RIMS systems at universities. The event was organized in partnership with the Gdańsk Tech Library(opens in new tab/window).
Define your university’s strategic plan, goals and priorities
“It’s necessary to learn about your university’s goals. Universities are moving in many directions at once, with dynamically changing needs, so it’s important to keep up with them.” states Dr. Katarzyna Weinper, Director of the Centre of Scientific and Technical Information at Lublin University of Technology, “knowing the ‘real’ goals allows libraries to find areas/niches and even create collections in common within overall goals. This kind of collaboration can dramatically strengthen the relationship between the university and the library.”
Defining and aligning the libraries objectives to the university can be broken down into three actions: locate, analyze and connect.
1. Locate strategic plans
Find the publicly stated and written priorities as well as the non-public statements. Workshop moderator, Michael Levine-Clark makes clear that, “it’s also necessary to find out more about goals that are less public and those that may be hidden in internal memos or discussed in administrative meetings.” Make sure to ask questions at internal meetings focused on goals and priorities to fully understand these ideas.
2. Align the objectives
Now find common ground between the institutional strategic goals and the library’s objectives. Michael Levine-Clark notes, “It’s integral that you ask whether those goals and priorities align with the library mission, with librarian skills and values and then offer to help.”
3. Connect institutional priorities to library objectives
Beyond aligning institutional goals to the library’s goals, aim the connect these objectives to specific projects that will further the work. Answer the big question: how can the library help? “As an example,” Levine-Clark says, “an overall initiative to increase university rankings might have a public relations component that pushes for greater faculty visibility. Better metadata about faculty authored publications would be a key element of such an initiative, and the library is perfectly positioned to help.”
Witold Kozakiewicz, Director of the Information and Library Centre at the Medical University of Lodz, points out that the library can even align itself to provide support to the institution when constructing the strategic plan: “The key to success is good information, and the place where there are specialists in data collection, information management and knowledge is the library. Our information and library systems can enable efficient evaluation of scientific activities, employees and units, and can be used for planning the strategy of scientific development of the university, building personnel policy or employee evaluation.”
Paula Milewska joined Elsevier in 2019, first working as a freelance trainer and then assuming the role of Customer Consultant in 2021, both in support of customers in Central and Eastern Europe. Her expertise is in training—knowing how best to package and present information so it’s relevant and actionable.
A librarian by degree and training, Paula worked as a librarian at the University of Lodz, the University of Humanities and Economics in Lodz and the Medical University of Lodz and served as a board member and project manager for the Phenomenon Foundation.
Paula was awarded an undergraduate degree in Polish Philology and a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Lodz and matriculated from the elite leader education program at the School for Leaders Foundation and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
Witold Kozakiewicz has a Master of Science degree on IT, postgraduate diploma on Scientific Information and Librarianship. He is the Director of the Information and Library Centre of the Medical University of Lodz(opens in new tab/window), Poland, and Head of the Board of the Lodz Academic Library Network. Kozakiewicz is also an Executive Board member of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries and author of several publications and conference presentations. His interests include innovations in librarianship, the role of the libraries in research process and Open Science movement and social media.
Małgorzata Rychlik is the Deputy Director of University Library in Poznań(opens in new tab/window) and head of the Research Information and Knowledge Transfer Department. She graduated from Librarianship and Information Science at the University of Warsaw. She is involved in a number of projects aimed at supporting and promoting Open Science at her university and the co-author of the project of the Adam Mickiewicz University Repository (AMUR) established in 2010. She has been given responsibility over the implementation of the Omega-Psir system at AMU, which is the most frequently implemented CRIS class solution in Poland. Her professional areas of interest include Open Science, bibliometrics, altmetrics and scientific visibility
Michael Levine-Clark is Dean of the University of Denver Libraries(opens in new tab/window), where he has worked in various positions since 1999. He serves in leadership roles in GWLA, WEST, and the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance and is incoming vice-chair of the OCLC Americas Regional Council. As a member of many publisher and vendor library advisory boards, he provides guidance about library and higher education trends. He helped found the open access journal Collaborative Librarianship, served as co-editor, and continues to serve on its editorial board. He co-edited the 4th edition of The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences and co-authored the 4th edition of the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Sciences. For his work on e-books and demand-driven acquisition models, he received the 2015 Harrasowitz Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award. He is widely published and has been invited to speak on six continents about academic library collections and scholarly communication issues.
Dr Katarzyna Weinper has a Ph.D. in Humanities and is the Director of the Centre of Scientific and Technical Information at Lublin University of Technology(opens in new tab/window), Rector's representative for open access at Lublin University of Technology, graduate of the Data Steward School. Active member of the Polish national group DSCC-PL (Data Stewardship Competence Centers PL). He is interested in matters related to academic publishing, research data management and open science. She pursues classes in scientific information, researcher ethics and copyright.
Guidance from the workshop
After our discussion on the importance of aligning the academic library’s goals and objectives with the defined goals, strategies, and plans of the university’s, we compiled a list of tips for guiding other librarians:
University strategies are not always easy to find, and some have less structured approaches to their outreach strategies, hence it may be necessary to peruse both public and internal documents to build objectives
Keep timing top of mind: Respondents from our session gave an example of Poland’s top 2022 goal, which was the evaluation of science and for universities to report their critical research performance — this became the top priority and deprioritized other initiatives
University strategies often have no direct measure of success, but that’s where academic librarians can set goals, provide metrics, show impacts, and set the example for measurement across the institution
Focus on areas where the library can demonstrate impact: University goals are often different than library goals and the library won’t be able to address all strategic goals — instead, put resources to demonstrating impact on the “big picture”
Being open minded about projects can create more opportunity, so cooperation with key university personnel can advance library goals for long-term success
The role of the academic library cannot be overstated as an integral part of not only a university environment, but also the community at large. This workshop covered tactics on how to make this happen, but the overall goal of the exercises covered was to promote the immeasurable value of librarians and the institutions they support.
What's next? How do you begin to build the library's visibility and impact in this wider context? Who to connect with, who to collaborate with and who to work with on next steps? Stay tuned for Part 2: Defining University Stakeholders and Establish Meaningful Relationships.