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Qualitative Analysis of Academic Program Review Reports: UC Berkeley Library’s Collaborative, Research-driven Approach for Strategic Planning and Continuous Improvement


The UC Berkeley Library has developed an innovative approach for gathering insight from particular academic departments, programs, and campus communities for Library strategic planning and organizational learning without deploying another survey for departmental input.  

The Academic Program Review (APR) exercise guides academic departments at Berkeley through a comprehensive assessment of their opportunities and challenges, helping them assess their future and analyze what is needed for pursuing new paths of inquiry and discovery.  Each academic department is scheduled for this review every eight years. The APR reports amass a wealth of data and provide valuable insight into the needs, experiences, and plans of academic units.  Informed by the aspirations of academic departments, library liaisons will be better able to enhance and adapt library services, programs, and resources with a greater sense of focus and impact. The Vice Provost approved the Library’s request to receive copies of all past and future APR reports prepared by academic departments.  In 2012-2013, the Library developed and piloted the methodology for distributing the APR reports, extracting and documenting key data, coding and summarizing findings, identifying commonalities and potential enhancements, and setting priorities for action. 

This poster session presents the methodology for a qualitative library-centric evaluation of academic departments’ needs and objectives as evidenced in the APR reports.  The Library employed collaborative content analysis and qualitative coding methods to extract departmental strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and priorities (SWOT+P).  This SWOT+P model mapped content from the APR reports to a series of strategic planning and action items for the UC Berkeley Library. 

This analysis was beneficial to our library in several ways.  The reports added an evidence-based and qualitative dimension to our understanding of academic departments’ needs and experiences, and helped the library collect ideas for improving, adding, or evolving services and resources in meaningful ways.  By seeing how the Library was discussed in these APR reports, we developed a deeper awareness of how the Library relates to the University and individual departments in order to spotlight opportunities for aligning with wider organizational initiatives and for cultivating campus awareness of the Library’s academic value.  In addition to helping the library plan strategically, this process engaged library liaisons in organizational learning that allowed them to draw on their unique areas of expertise as well as to engage in dialogue through the shared vocabulary of the project.  By observing affinities and commonalities between different liaison subject areas, we also sparked conversations that may lead to greater mutual support and collaboration. 

With the evaluation frameworks, coding models, data sharing agreements, and communication methods in place, the UC Berkeley Library is now positioned to use our APR reports review exercise for continuous assessment and strategic planning.  This scheduled cycle is an opportunity for libraries to regularly study academic departments’ needs and plans in order to design responsive library enhancements.  This is an important mechanism that helps the Library to respond to changes as they develop.  The analysis utilized a mix of technological, methodological, and analytical activities that, taken together, suggest a useful approach that could be implemented in other academic library settings with any artifact that documents the goals, programming, and priorities of an academic unit.  

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