The University of Pennsylvania Libraries has released a strategy designed to steer its digital services and systems while foregrounding the needs of the Penn community. The Penn Libraries Digital Strategy 2022-2024 presents a broad vision to plan, implement, scale, and sustain digital technologies and practices that enable Penn students, researchers, scholars, and their collaborators to function skillfully and competitively in a digital world.
Aiming to pioneer change rather than merely manage it, the digital strategy supports a proactive approach that assumes full alignment with the priorities and values of the Penn Libraries’ Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and seamlessly connects the Libraries’ digital services and systems with the University’s research, teaching, and learning mission. The goals outlined by the strategy are to achieve resilient systems, increase agility and capacity for growth, manage change and evolutions in services, and thereby foster innovation.
“Our digital strategy will guide user-centric and forward-looking work that ensures the Penn Libraries can address change as opportunity, promote innovation, and support excellence in all forms of scholarship,” Constantia Constantinou, H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Libraries, says. “It is imperative that our digital technologies and practices meet the evolving needs of the Penn community for teaching, research, and learning in an increasingly complex and competitive digital world.”
The digital strategy was developed by members of the Penn Libraries’ senior leadership team in collaboration with the Libraries’ Technology and Digital Initiatives division, with consultation from strategy and technology firm Athenaeum21. Beginning in 2019, Athenaeum21 reviewed the Libraries’ digital programs, systems, and services and offered input to the Libraries’ strategic planning process. As part of the review, the firm’s principals met with Penn Libraries staff members and stakeholders across the University. Ultimately Athenaeum21 worked with the Libraries to create governing principles and processes toward developing a technological infrastructure that is flexible and responsive to the rapidly changing digital landscape. The inclusion of guiding principles in the strategy will provide the Libraries with the framework to make effective decisions and have the trade-off discussions that are essential to building and sustaining a substantial digital infrastructure.
“It’s more important than ever to strategically balance short-term responsiveness and long-range investment,” says Emily Morton-Owens, Associate Vice Provost for Technology and Digital Initiatives. “We anticipate new opportunities to innovate and be nimble, and to scale and sustain our technologies.” Morton-Owens has already introduced internal guidelines to ensure that digital projects are well-planned, rational, and sustainable, while building on the current technological infrastructure and augmenting the Libraries’ broader strategic priorities.
With implementation of the strategy underway, Morton-Owens also hopes to draw attention to the digital infrastructure, expertise, and services that the Penn Libraries delivers to Penn faculty, students, staff and researchers today. These include digital development and systems to support the digital library; educational technology and learning management, including management of Canvas, the University-wide courseware platform; research data and digital scholarship; digitization services; cultural heritage technologies and digital assets management; and technology-infused spaces for teaching, learning, and play.
“The digital strategy anchors itself in the current and future needs of the University’s diverse teaching and research community,” Morton-Owens says. “It primes the Libraries to build upon the current strengths and successes of its varied services and teams to help Penn become a world leader in digital collections, programs, and scholarship.”