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Inclusive, Participatory, and Research-Driven Approaches to Strategic Planning in Academic Libraries


Which strategic planning approaches can motivate academic library staff to adopt new organizational structures and adapt to emerging library paradigms? Over the past 10 years, the library at a major research university has undertaken three separate strategic planning initiatives employing significantly different approaches. Each approach has shaped the library and its relationship to the campus community in positive ways. This poster will show that academic libraries have several options for engaging in strategic planning including inclusive, participatory, and research-driven options that can suit different institutional time and resource constraints.

In our first strategic planning initiative, we conducted a lengthy and highly inclusive process to educate library staff about emerging issues and inspire them to generate creative ideas from which library administration prioritized and implemented strategic directions. Our next planning initiative facilitated an expeditious self-study in which two core teams completed environmental scans and developed ideas for new service models and librarian roles. In our most recent planning initiative, liaison librarians conducted research-driven assessments of academic departments’ internal reviews to identify new services that addressed emerging faculty and student needs. Common threads among these approaches were their inclusiveness, the participation of diverse library staff to build internal expertise, and a systematic examination of the data on local contexts in order to promote the successful implementation of new initiatives.

However, these approaches varied dramatically. Our comparison of these three strategic planning initiatives based on factors of participatory and inclusive information gathering techniques, research-driven methods, plan validation and implementation, time and resource constraints, outcomes, and challenges will show how these factors can be adapted in different institutional contexts.

Important principles learned from the three strategic planning initiatives include:

- staff participation, input, and buy-in are essential for successful implementation of new ideas, and there are a range of ways in which these can be achieved;

- success depends on the time and resources committed to socializing and implementing identified priorities;

- communication about strategic plans is a critical success factor - it needs to be early and frequent, coherent and two-way, evidence-based, and widespread through multiple channels

- idea generation can be framed as research exercises to foster an open approach; this may be achieved through brainstorming, literature reviews, surveys, focus groups, or environmental scans;

- strategic planning should be iterative, inclusive, and systematic, building upon priorities identified in one’s past strategic plans as well as those of peer institutions; and

-early and intentional consultation with faculty is crucial for significant changes.

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