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Harvard Library Annual Planning Retreat

Sarah Thomas shares updates from the annual planning retreat for Harvard Library held on June 16, 2016. 


What’s a Big Idea for the Harvard Library? The question led off the June 16th retreat attended by members of the Library Leadership Team, co-chairs of the Standing Committees, and other key staff.  Facilitated by Brightspot Strategy, the organization that has been assisting with the design of services for science and engineering, the retreat included prioritization of the Library’s Objectives in Action drafted in the 2015 retreat and a review of a draft of a Digital Strategy paper authored by Suzanne Wones, director of library digital strategies and innovations. 

Participants evaluated over forty Big Ideas which surfaced in a lightning round in which each person generated four suggestions and then selected two to present to the group. The point was to identify ideas which would significantly advance the Harvard Library in one of three areas: core, adjacent, or transformational. The categories are derived from a Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Managing Your Information Portfolio” by Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff, in which “core” is used to designate developments which optimize existing products for existing customers, “adjacent” describes innovations which expand from existing business to “new to the customer” business, and “transformational”  ideas are those that create breakthroughs and invent things for markets which don’t yet exist.

Attendees mapped out core, adjacent, and transformational ideas. 

The ideas which emerged with the most support were a Library training program, in which we would organize training and staff development modelled on HUIT’s IT Academy; “Collaborative Collections and Services,” in which we work with Ivy Plus partners to optimize resources; and “Discovery,” in which we significantly improve the user experience of finding and gaining access to information.

The retreat was a testimony to how far the Harvard Library has come in the past four years. There was much creativity and laughter as colleagues teamed together to chart the future for the Library. Building on the goals established in strategy discussions in 2013, with which our Standing Committees are aligned, and under which our Objectives in Action are organized, Harvard Library is developing a vision and priorities which will guide us over the next several years. At the retreat, both practical and ambitious goals were drafted, which we will share with you in a number of ways, including the fall All-Staff meetings. Over the next few months we will continue to invite your input as we refine ideas, revise the Digital Strategic Plan, and prepare for implementation of priorities. 

Article by Sarah Thomas,Vice President for the Harvard Library and University Librarian; Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Article published on June 22, 2016