Themes from the March Cabinet Retreat

For the last two months, I have used the Agenda to provide updates about a framework we are developing to provide us with a common vocabulary and a shared understanding of the relationships and dependencies between local and central services. Last month I focused on the local aspects of the framework, with the intent of talking about the central aspects this month.

However, two weeks ago Cabinet had a retreat to discuss local priorities and to begin developing realistic expectations of what would be possible for the Libraries to accomplish with our shared infrastructure. Before continuing the framework discussion, I think it will be useful to review the outcomes of the retreat, including the overarching themes that emerged from our discussions.

Now that we have filled the Library Director positions, our planning processes are in full swing. The Library Directors came to the retreat prepared to discuss their most pressing needs and how best to use the shared infrastructure. The conversations were good because they were based on the needs of the campuses and communicated with a strong sense of collaboration and common purpose.

By the end of the day, several themes emerged that describe opportunities and constraints that are common to all units.

  • Access to Collections: It is clear that the Alma/Primo implementation will be a catalyst for organizational change. The new systems will provide a platform to strengthen foundation services and will help us to better assess our effectiveness. They will also drive changes in workflows in every unit of the Libraries. It is easy to see how this implementation will result in changes for people working directly with the system (e.g., cataloging, acquisition, circulation), but what may be less obvious are the effects for those with less direct daily interaction with the system. Discovery will change, driving changes in the broader website. Links to our resources will change, meaning that every research guide and instructional object that directs users to a specific resource will need to be updated. Needless to say, the Alma/Primo implementation will be a big part of all of our lives in the coming year.
  • Library Instruction: There is a need for us to build course-related infrastructure to support student success and to improve access to open and affordable resources within courses. We have begun this process with the implementation of PressBooks, but it appears that changes on the horizon may also include Leganto, an advanced Alma module related to course reserves, and Credo Education, customizable information literacy modules. We will have to determine the balance between central coordination and local autonomy in the coming year. Student success is such an important part of the library mission that we have to take the time to invest in shared infrastructure.
  • Discovery and Website modifications: There were many requests for new features related to discovery and the website. In the coming year, most of the attention of the Discovery Working Group and Web Improvement Team will be focused on integrating new features related to the Alma/Primo implementation and to integrating the emerging course-related infrastructure. It will be necessary to focus our attention on foundation services this year; however, the strong platform that we are establishing will allow us to continue to develop boutique services in the coming years.

I started this article with a mention of the effective discussions we had at this year’s retreat which is in and of itself a strong indicator of the final theme that emerged. The Libraries have succeeded for many years in an environment of grassroots endeavors that eventually coalesced into larger themes. The environment in which we find ourselves is moving far too quickly for this approach. In the coming year, it will be necessary to acknowledge and support the roles of managers in prioritizing and effectively advancing the missions of the Libraries. Over the past few years, we have focused on the importance of Library Directors in setting priorities for their libraries that meet the needs of and support the unique priorities of the campus environments in which they operate. For an example of how that is happening, take a look at the Framework for Change established for Dana Library and the Institute of Jazz Studies in response to Rutgers-Newark priorities. In order to support robust local plans and Librarieswide priorities, we need to focus on infrastructure and strengthen the role of the manager in understanding the priorities of the Libraries and prioritizing work accordingly. The Alma/Primo implementation is the perfect catalyst for this change.

This is an exciting time for the Libraries. We are recognized as a unit that provides leadership at Rutgers and is focused on the mission(s) of the University. I can see the progress we are making. Although we have a lot to do, this will be a productive year and will result in a stronger and more flexible organizational structure. Next month, we are back to frameworks!

Krisellen Maloney