Year in Review: Library Strategic Planning

It has been 13 years since the William H. Hannon Library first opened its doors to the campus. Having passed our first decennial milestone, we find ourselves asking: what needs to evolve and change in order to meet the future needs of our students and faculty?

The challenges and opportunities we face include: the shift in collection priorities for archival, digital, and general collections to amplify the voices of historically marginalized communities; the changing landscape of publishing and research as it moves toward more open models of scholarship; and our need to support librarians’ engagement with the profession and the academy as practitioners and scholars. Moreover, the status quo in libraries and higher ed is built upon centuries of white supremacy and presents substantial barriers. The library’s new strategic plan outlines concrete actions that we can take to meet these challenges through instruction, spaces, collections, and our internal organizational culture.

In fall 2021, the librarians and staff of the William H. Hannon Library started the unit-level strategic planning process by appointing a sub-group of the library’s Management Council to design and lead an inclusive, consultative process of crafting the 2021–26 plan. After conducting a literature review on strategic planning frameworks and processes for academic libraries, the group adopted a process inspired by a case study at Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge (Dole, Dabbour, & Kott, 2017). The authors outline a “dialogic” method of planning (rather than “diagnostic”) using “appreciative inquiry” that invites stakeholders to imagine a future desired state.

In November and December 2021, the strategic planning leads invited all library staff to undertake a series of collaborative exercises to discover (what are we already doing?) and dream (what could we be doing?). At an all-day workshop in December, the library’s leadership team took the output of the workshop and developed the first draft of the plan. From December 2021 through April 2022, a portion of each weekly leadership meeting was dedicated to continuing to work through the unit-level plan.

In February 2022 we shared the draft for a discussion with the Faculty Library Committee (FLC) — who then solicited feedback from their faculty constituents through our Faculty Library Representative network — and hosted a library all-staff meeting with interdepartmental breakout groups to facilitate small-group discussion about the plan’s direction. We used this feedback to inform the final design of the plan.

In March 2022, we met with student leaders in ASLMU and GSLMU, surveyed library student employees, and hosted a strategic planning discussion at the monthly Library-ITS Management meeting. This feedback, along with what we received from the LMU Planning Advisory Council, offered additional refinements through the design phase of the planning. We have also developed an implementation plan detailing how we will meet these goals and objectives, how we will scaffold and prioritize this work over five years, what resources we will need, and what metrics we will use to measure success as we move through the final phase. Our thoughtful engagement with these stakeholders — ASLMU, GSLMU, FLC, ITS, staff, and our student employees — lays the groundwork for engagement throughout our implementation of the plan and establishes our accountability to all of these groups.

As Associate Dean Jamie Hazlitt notes: “We are in this transitional time when we are still figuring out what ‘normal’ is two years into a global pandemic, one that is changing higher education and our relationship to our work. Additionally, we are reckoning with issues related to diversity and equity. Through investing in our staff and librarians alike, and critically thinking about how we work, we are situating ourselves to have what we need to thrive and succeed, and to enable us to achieve the strategic goals that focus on our students and faculty.”