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University Libraries

Creating a strategic plan for the University Libraries

In late September of 2020, Dean Tom McNally commissioned a new strategic plan for UofSC Libraries. We were still working from home due to the COVID pandemic, but we needed a new plan to carry us through the next three fiscal years. Dean McNally asked me to chair the planning team, and choose team members that were known for their scholarship, productivity and professional activities.

By the end of 2020, the team had been assembled and we created a charge, outlining our five strategic pillars. We decided to focus on staffing, DEI, funding, technology and collections. To manage this, we took 11 months total to conduct a local Libraries environmental scan (or climate survey); we crafted a full picture of our unit’s infrastructure and staffing needs; we assembled reports on our collections activities and maintenance; we reached out to peer institutions to open this dialogue; and we met with each and every member of the Libraries system in 25 departmental meetings, and roughly 15 special committee meetings. Most important to our plan was what Libraries faculty and staff knew could improve, and what our campus stakeholders thought of us overall.

The best strategic plans take into consideration the people that operate, care for and engage with an institution. This is why we have centered people in our strategic plan, and created action items that came directly from the Libraries and the Libraries’ patrons. The planning team members listened to members of their campus community via a unit-wide survey, in six open sessions, through countless emails and phone calls, via the ever present Teams meetings, and even masked up, in the halls. In academia, we have been reminded quite a lot in recent years, how much people are the heart of education and we wanted our plan to honor that.

The final strategic plan we will use internally includes specific action items under each of our five pillars. These action items are referenced and can be indexed (because we’re librarians!) with the subsequent reports and recommendations I commissioned, including that environmental scan, an infrastructure review, a collections audit, a peer and peer aspirant analysis, a communications and marketing plan, and a form for reporting out strategic planning progress biannually. The entire internal plan is roughly 120 pages, and is designed to be ingested in small chunks or as a holistic academic operating document. What is available more publicly is a discussion that encapsulates each of our five pillars, so you can see where we are and where we’d like to go. That version of the plan is about four pages.

The completed strategic plan now resides with Libraries administration, for initialization, operation and improvement. The team is united in our hope that real change can be affected, and that our campus community is ever more successful because of our work and our desire to be a better organization inside of the University of South Carolina.

My enormous thanks to the members of the strategic planning team: Valerie Lookingbill, Nelson Rivera, Jade Geary, Timothy Simmons, Anita Mays, Michael Weisenburg, Amy Meaney, and Matt Darby.

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