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Summary: FAS Libraries Retreat and Next Steps

FAS libraries directors and senior managers gathered to discuss FY15 goals.


July 29, 2014—Last week, FAS libraries directors and senior managers joined Sarah Thomas to finalize FY15 priorities and to begin work on the FAS Libraries' objectives and plans for the next several years.

To prepare for the session, FAS library directors drafted strategic objectives and related FY15 priorities. These were shared with FAS library staff members for their feedback, which guided the planning session. (A summary of the draft objectives, priorities and staff feedback can be found here.)

The meeting opened with a summary from Sarah Thomas of her FY15 goals for FAS libraries:

  • increasing materials budgets;
  • enhancing RTL outreach and collaboration with faculty members;
  • increasing access to unique collections through digitization and outreach;
  • exploring use of virtual and physical spaces;
  • celebrating the 100th anniversary of Widener Library;
  • aligning the Harvard College Library and Harvard Library administration;
  • eliminating deficits; and
  • participating successfully in the FAS fundraising campaign.

Sarah expressed enthusiasm for providing optimum services that are anticipatory, advance scholars’ productivity and accelerate the creation of knowledge. She noted that efforts like creating data management services, expanding outreach, collaborating within and outside Harvard will help to change the perception of what a library is and maximize the investments Harvard has made in its libraries.

Katie McGrath clarified the goals for the day: 1. determining FY15 goals and the specific actions and resources necessary to achieve those goals and 2. beginning a discussion on multi-year planning for the FAS libraries.

Susan Fliss continued the discussion by sharing research, teaching and learning (RTL) goals for FY15. The FAS libraries are developing an FAS-wide RTL group, for which there is great enthusiasm, as well as exploring how to scale some of the good ideas that occur in various FAS libraries. The FAS RTL group will work closely with the Harvard Library RTL group that has been planning RTL events and activities across Harvard's libraries. 

The RTL team is also examining how to better promote its services, how to ensure it provides students and faculty support at all points of the research cycle and what is necessary organizationally to get this done.

Dan Hazen shared that the FAS Libraries Collections and Content Development Council will hold its inaugural meeting the week of July 28, during which it will finalize its objectives. He also observed that a new bibliographer for social science and quantitative data position will allow the libraries to move more purposefully into this realm, and signifies the library’s ambition to work in the widest possible array of University activities.

The group then turned to a discussion of the draft FY15 strategic objectives and related priorities. Discussion points included:

  • using digital content to meet user needs and collection development goals;
  • putting e-books on reserve, addressing e-book issues for international students;
  • unique materials as the libraries’ competitive edge; how to allocate resources with this in mind;
  • being transformative re: open access;
  • staff development and its role in achieving goals; and
  • harnessing usage data to understand ourselves and show stakeholders how library resources are used.

The afternoon kicked off with a briefing on the University’s multi-year planning efforts—each School shares a multi-year plan, with financials, due annually in the fall. As a starting point on the FAS Libraries’ contribution to the FAS plan, attendees gathered in small groups to discuss where the FAS Libraries should be in 3-5 years. The group discussed potential changes in approach in several areas, including:

  • how faculty are supported;
  • how students are engaged;
  • how professional development is supported;
  • how space is used;
  • how the FAS libraries are presented to patrons and others;
  • how to manage preservation, conservation and digital imaging needs;
  • how to use information and technical services;
  • how to approach scholarly communications; and
  • how to pursue collection development.

The day ended with a conversation about how the group can best communicate its work and decisions to library staff members. The draft FY15 strategic objectives and priorities were shared with staff members, and feedback received from staff members was shared as well. The group agreed that a summary of the day’s discussion would be included in the Library Update e-newsletter on July 29, and that regular progress updates, including the final set of FY15 projects, timetables, project teams, meeting summaries, etc. would also be shared in future Library Updates. It was also agreed that related materials should be posted online.

Sarah closed the day by noting that the FAS Libraries benefit from their extraordinary people, which is an enormous strength, and recent activities—planning efforts of the Harvard Library and the FAS Libraries, the work on a committee governance system, developing project tracking mechanisms, etc.—are all reasons to be optimistic, and this optimism will grow as the libraries meet goals, successfully complete projects and support scholarship that has a lasting influence.