After an 18-month process that entailed gathering and synthesizing information from the University of Pennsylvania community and beyond, the Penn Libraries has released a strategic plan to guide its work through 2025.
“Our extraordinary Penn Libraries are at the heart of our campus mission,” said Provost Wendell Pritchett. “They inspire learning for every member of our community, while facilitating research and scholarship that change the world. This rigorous strategic plan, developed with extensive input across our campus, will help us redefine library services to meet the evolving needs of the Penn community, especially in response to the many changes of this year and the years ahead.”
Through vision and mission statements, shared organizational values, and four core strategic priorities, the plan aligns the Libraries’ work with the Penn Compact 2022 pillars of inclusion, innovation, and impact and the University’s goal of advancing knowledge for good.
“Our strategic priorities are the compass for navigating our future,” said Constantia Constantinou, H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of the Penn Libraries. “With the plan in place, we will continue and expand the work we do with our campus partners and our wider communities to inspire staff and patrons and provide the tools and resources they need to thrive.”
The Libraries launched its strategic planning efforts in Spring 2019 in collaboration with DeEtta Jones and Associates. As a first step, a Strategic Planning Steering Committee was formed with representatives from across the Libraries’ staff.
"Our Strategic Planning Steering Committee represented a constellation of Penn Libraries history and expertise," said Michael Williams, Head of Global Studies Technical Services and co-facilitator of the planning committee. "We contributed experience in collection building, metadata management, student success, research partnerships, data analytics, storytelling, and above all, stewardship of our Libraries' physical and digital spaces and care for the collections and patrons who occupy them."
Charged with designing an actionable vision for the Libraries, the committee worked together to analyze trends across and beyond the library profession, examine the current state of peer and aspirational peer institutions, and convene structured conversations with Libraries staff to develop collective goals. Throughout the process, Penn faculty, students, and researchers were engaged through focus groups, presentations and conversations on campus.
During spring 2019, the Libraries also engaged Athenaeum21, a user-centered strategy and technology firm, to review the Libraries’ digital programs, systems, and services and offer input to the planning process. As part of the review, Athenaeum21’s principals met with Penn Libraries staff members and stakeholders across the University. They provided recommendations to the Libraries on designing a digital strategy to meet the evolving needs of the Penn community and become a leader in digital strategy, collections, programs, and scholarship.
Of course, “evolving needs” took on new significance over the last seven months, with challenges presented by environmental uncertainty and a global pandemic, and an increased national focus on racial justice.
Along with many institutions, in Spring 2020 the Libraries pivoted to provide services and resources in a largely virtual environment, due to safety measures put in place during the pandemic. The Libraries’ leadership and staff took action to address the very real and urgent need to increase acquisition and delivery of digital content, applying creative solutions and accelerating strategic investments in technology. They also emphasized expert, personalized virtual support from librarians, from live chat services to videoconference consultations.
“Yes, the world has changed since we began writing this plan,” Constantinou said. “But we are committed to providing a personal touch and delivering collections, services and expertise at point of need, anytime, anywhere. We are also committed to creating a living and learning environment that is truly transformative, safe and welcoming for all. As the world turns, we remain agile, responsive, and resilient.”
Next steps? To move from plan to action, ten staff-led teams will launch projects that connect the plan's priorities and strategies to the overall operations of the Penn Libraries.