University Libraries Strategic Plan 2020-2025


With Google, Amazon, and big publishers continuously chipping away our foundational service model, how do academic libraries create a new vision for the future? My immediate thought is this counter-question: can our faculty and students pick up a phone and call Google, Amazon, or a big publishing conglomerate to discuss their specific, unmet information needs in research and learning? Of course not! But then if they choose to call us, can we roll up the sleeves and solve their problems, instead of courteously pushing them to elsewhere that may or may not help? This underpins my approach in leading the development of VT Libraries' strategic plan 2020-2025: be a problem-solver and do-er, not just a spectator, cheerleader, pointer, connector, consultant, or even merely an infrastructure piece hidden in the background.

Building effective strategy is as much about choosing what to do as intentionally choosing what not to do. But before making that decision, we need to have a clear understanding of ourselves and the environment around us, especially the research and learning ecosystem we live in . 

Five Forces Analysis

For every library programs and initiatives, who are our customers, suppliers, competitors, substitutes, and potential new entrants? Refer to my presentation "Strategy: Literature Review". More than 10 strategic planning subgroups were established and guided to perform this analysis on their service areas.

Strengths & Weaknesses

Who publish the top papers at VT? In what contexts? How does our research compare with peers? What are our competitive advantages and weaknesses? What contributions has the library made (or failed to make) to their success? 

Head or Tail?

How can the library help in the most meaningful way? How do we align our strategy with the university's direction and researchers' inherent needs? Refer to my presentation "Stories Behind Covers: What Do We Know About Publishing High Impact Research & How To Improve Our Research Support?".

The Next Step: Continuous Strategic Planning

A Tree Model

The original plan was crafted before the pandemic and the Nelson Memo. What adjustments need to be made to cope with the new situations?

We are in the process of developing a "tree" model, where the broad span of library services are deeply rooted in our core bundle of expertise, and they nurture each other in a symbiotic way.

Scale Differently

Scaling out means doing more of the same thing by throwing in more resources (including the human resource) and automation. There is a natural limit to scaling out and academic libraries often find it difficult to compete with for-profits in scaling out.

In contrast, scaling up does not aim to do more but do better, e.g., do things at a higher and sometime totally different level. Scaling up needs smarter strategy and more brain power than resources and automation.