AY20-22 Strategic Plan

Table of Contents

(data without personally identifiable information is available separately upon request)

Executive Summary

For at least the past two decades, whether they serve all walks of life in a public municipal setting or a small community of students on a single college campus, libraries have been shifting their service models to become more nimble and adaptable to rapid changes in technology, learning, and culture. Customer service expectations--in libraries and everywhere else--have been reshaped by a handful of corporations with outsized influence on everyday life in the United States, such as Amazon, Starbucks, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies deal in convenience, comfort, variety, and instant gratification.

As a result, it is a truth universally acknowledged that patrons have higher expectations from their libraries. They want more content and they want it faster. Meanwhile, many different types of spaces are in demand, such as quiet study zones, "makerspace" studios, and community meeting areas. It may seem at first glance that our library checks all of those boxes, but needs for physical spaces and the activities that take place in them are not static, nor are the ways people seek and consume information. All libraries need to adapt to changing service expectations with attention to sustainability, flexibility, and resilience. Because this work is so daunting and so unique to each library's service population, library staff must select manageable goals by listening and responding to what their communities want.

With these ideas in mind, this document is meant to serve as a guide for the staff of the Olin College Library through the Spring 2022 semester. It is based on the findings of two surveys, one focus group, and numerous discussions with library staff, faculty, and current and former students. Patterns emerged in this data: interest in cultural pursuits such as leisure reading and skill-sharing workshops, desire for warm inclusive gathering spaces, improved stewardship of physical resources, and easier access to academic journals and other content.

What you are about to read is an effort to create priorities and goals based on those patterns. With the Olin community's needs positioned at the core of our practice, we can focus our work as a department and confidently step into the next chapter as the cultural hub on our campus.

- Callan Bignoli, Director of the Library (March 2020)

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Vision & Mission Statements

Vision Statement

Creating Community, Inspiring Ideas, Enhancing Access

Mission Statement

The Olin College Library advocates for discovery, connection, and inclusion for all members of our community. We aim to enrich the educational experience for our students through free access to information and equipment. As the cultural heart of our campus, we offer space, learning, and leisure opportunities for the continuous development of social consciousness, creativity, and self-awareness. Through our unique resources and programming, we offer a gateway to explorations of engineering and a much wider world.

Core Values

  • Provide free and confidential access to information for all members of our community
  • Serve the needs and interests of students, staff, and faculty through our public spaces, collections, programs, fabrication areas, and research and instruction services
  • Cultivate learning, literacy, and introspection with an emphasis on intellectual and cultural preparation for democratic participation in society
  • Collaborate with other campus departments and faculty to enrich education by hosting guest speakers, opportunities for sharing classwork, and social events with alumni, families, and other visitors to Olin

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Key Themes & Strategic Principles

Theme: Culture & Serendipity

We strive to offer cultural and leisure experiences to broaden the awareness and engage the interests of our community beyond "traditional" engineering resources. We purchase materials written by diverse authors, organize programs with wide-ranging topics and perspectives, and enhance findability through book displays and improved management of our collection. Lastly and most importantly, we want everyone on campus--all students, staff, and faculty--to feel welcome and included at the library.

Priority: Offer a wider variety of library-sponsored programming and events to everyone on campus, including skill-sharing workshops, discussion groups, and opportunities for creativity. Invite speakers from marginalized groups to discuss their experiences in engineering and computer science. Collaborate with Olin community members to plan workshops with individuals working on social justice issues within or relating to technology and engineering.
Priority: Collaborate with Student Affairs and Resources (StAR) staff, particularly the Diversity, Equity, and Title IX Coordinator, to organize programs and develop collections and displays with inclusion and cultural humility in mind. Work with student-run groups to foster intergroup dialogue and community building.
Priority: Continue ongoing collection management projects (weeding, shifting, relabeling and displays) to increase findability and usability of our print books and other materials.
Priority: Market our practice of patron-driven acquisitions (i.e., we will almost always buy what students, faculty, and staff request). Continue using this as a method for replacing outdated, damaged, or irrelevant books with desirable, up-to-date, and appropriate titles.

Theme: Studying & Gathering

We provide study spaces and work areas, and we believe the library should also be a place to recharge and reflect. We strive for it to be accessible, welcoming, and usable by all members of the community; this includes being able to safely use spaces and easily find desired resources. We work to encourage a mentality of good stewardship among our patrons through clearly stated guidelines and regular “resets” of our collaborative spaces.

Priority: Complete rewriting library policies in areas such as event booking, use of space, and collection development to ensure clarity and consistency for smart, safe, and sustainable operations.
Priority: Improve accessibility by shifting books (i.e., clearing excessively high or low shelves), eliminating or moving furniture, and addressing small physical plan issues that lead to unsafe conditions (such as lacking power outlets that are compensated for by long extension cords).
Priority: Explore the possibility of replacing the library’s fixtures and furniture, particularly the carpet, chairs, upper level shelving, and doors that are not currently accessible. Work with Facilities and Administration to get cost estimates and plan for a capital improvement request. Collect community feedback, especially student ideas and preferences, to guide this process from a user-centered perspective. In the meantime, utilize existing library gift funds and support from other departments, such as The Shop, to make incremental improvements.
Priority: Continue to communicate expectations around respect for library spaces and our Library of Things (tools, cables, and camera equipment). Follow the examples and rules of other departments, such as The Shop, for encouraging a culture of sharing and stewardship throughout our campus.
Priority: Repurpose underutilized spaces in the library, particularly on the lower level, to create more flexibility for different kinds of working and learning.

Theme: Research & Access

Providing quality scholarly information and helping students learn to critically evaluate and meaningfully utilize it is at the core of our mission. We care deeply about the development and transfer of new knowledge, and aspire to be a research hub to support learning and scholarly exploration at Olin.

Priority: Replace the library’s current cataloging software with a more reliable product. Join a network of other libraries to easily and cheaply bolster collections of both physical and electronic books.
Priority: Improve usability of electronic resources by using a new hosted solution for managing access on campus and off.
Priority: Begin using a more robust means of analyzing scholarly database utilization and cost per use. This will help in journal package negotiations, as well as with budgeting for the department via data-based decision making for continuing subscriptions.
Priority: Work with student(s) to create an improved alternative solution for the library’s institutional repository (a.k.a., digital and physical archives). Train faculty and students on its use.
Priority: Continue to partner with Babson and Wellesley library staff on increasing access to resources and removing barriers for BOW community members and cross-registered students.
Priority: Advocate for and engage faculty in conversations about the importance of open access publishing and transparent research. Gain more insight about the role of scholarly publications in Olin’s curriculum. Work with faculty to evaluate usage of library subscriptions, both for teaching and individual research. Gauge community interest in emerging types of academic content, such as open educational resources, and explore whether the library can assist with finding and curating them.
Priority: Reframe, de-jargonize, and co-design “traditional" library instruction to create clearer connections to coursework. Apply universal design for learning (UDL) principles to breathe new life and relevance into this practice. Focus on developing the skills needed for democracy: the ability to listen, think critically, gather data, weigh sources, and empathize.

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Spring 2020-Fall 2020 Action Plan

The following aforementioned priorities are goals we are already working towards and hope to complete, or make significant headway on, by the end of the Fall 2020 semester.

Theme: Culture & Serendipity

Priority: Offer a wider variety of library-sponsored programming and events to everyone on campus, including skill-sharing workshops, discussion groups, and opportunities for creativity. Invite speakers from marginalized groups to discuss their experiences in engineering and computer science. Collaborate with Olin community members to plan workshops with individuals working on social justice issues within or relating to technology and engineering.
Priority: Collaborate with Student Affairs and Resources (StAR) staff, particularly the Diversity, Equity, and Title IX Coordinator, to organize programs and develop collections and displays with inclusion and cultural humility in mind. Work with student-run groups to foster intergroup dialogue and community building.
Priority: Continue ongoing collection management projects (weeding, shifting, relabeling and displays) to increase findability and usability of our print books and other materials.
Note: We are eliminating most shelving on the first floor of the library except for 3-4 units to store our fiction, graphic novels, poetry, and DVDs; everything else will be reshelved downstairs. This will vastly simplify setup for community events and improve navigability of our collection.

Theme: Studying & Gathering

Priority: Complete rewriting library policies in areas such as event booking, use of space, and collection development to ensure clarity and consistency for smart, safe, and sustainable operations. Improve accessibility by shifting books (i.e., clearing excessively high or low shelves), eliminating or moving furniture, and addressing small physical plan issues that lead to unsafe conditions (such as lacking power outlets that are compensated for by long extension cords). Priority: Repurpose underutilized spaces in the library, particularly on the lower level, to create more flexibility for different kinds of working and learning.
Note: We will also continue to pursue capital improvement, utilize our own existing funds for small-scale space changes, and collect community feedback on short- and long-term redesigns.

Theme: Research & Access

Priority: Replace the library’s current cataloging software with a more reliable product. Join a network of other libraries to easily and cheaply bolster collections of both physical and electronic books.
Note: The library officially joined the Minuteman Library Network in January 2020 and intends to complete its software migration and user enrollment, with much-appreciated help from Olin IT, by July 1. Priority: Improve usability of electronic resources by using a new hosted solution for managing access on campus and off. Note: This project is now complete and off-campus access to library resources should now be greatly simplified.
Priority: Begin using a more robust means of analyzing scholarly database utilization and cost per use. This will help in journal package negotiations, as well as with budgeting for the department via data-based decision making for continuing subscriptions.
Priority: Work with student(s) to create an improved alternative solution for the library’s institutional repository (a.k.a., digital and physical archives). Train faculty and students on its use.
Priority: Continue to partner with Babson and Wellesley library staff on increasing access to resources and removing barriers for BOW community members and cross-registered students.
Priority: Reframe, de-jargonize, and co-design “traditional" library instruction to create clearer connections to coursework. Apply universal design for learning (UDL) principles to breathe new life and relevance into this practice. Focus on developing the skills needed for democracy: the ability to listen, think critically, gather data, weigh sources, and empathize.

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Methodology, Personnel, & Timeline

The data used to guide this plan were collected over the course of the Fall 2019 semester in the form of surveys and focus groups. Additionally, Callan Bignoli, director of the library, held several informal meetings with faculty members in January 2020 to discuss needs and ideas, and gathered input from staff members (see Appendix F). Bignoli wrote the Fall 2019 surveys with input from fellow library and Student Affairs and Resources (StAR) staff, and by drawing inspiration from the example survey detailed in Strategic Planning for Academic Libraries: A Step-by-Step Guide (Thompson, et. al, 2019). Rebecca Mathews, Director of Institutional Research, with guidance from Jeremy Goodman, Vice President for Administrative Services and Innovation, provided extensive assistance with organizing, sharing, and analyzing the surveys and administered the student focus group.

Timeline

  • August 2019: Director of the library seeks feedback on questions from library and StAR staff
  • September 20, 2019: Community survey is distributed
  • October 31, 2019: Community survey results are reported to the director of the library
  • November 20, 2019: Student focus group held
  • December 13, 2019: Alumni survey results reported
  • December 20, 2019: Student focus group results reported
  • Early January 2020: One-on-one faculty chats conducted
  • Mid-January 2020: Library staff feedback is gathered
  • March 2020: Strategic plan is presented to community

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