Put a strategic plan on it!

People who know me will know I love strategic planning. Or, more accurately, I love good strategic planning and how a strategic plan can assist you in many other activities.

Given that our library’s strategic plan is a few years old and our dean is retiring in the spring, the functional areas of SCUA didn’t want to wait for the whole library process to move forward. Luckily, there’s no rule that says you can’t have a strategic document for levels below the top or division/department.

While we didn’t go through a full blown strategic planning process, we had run many brainstorming, visioning, and planning activities over the last year and a half. Many of the projects in our document were already approved (officially or unofficially) and represented in individual and unit work plans.

Why did we need a plan then? When planning projects or allocating resources we seemed to encounter a few challenges. The biggest (to me) were a lack of understanding about:

  • The difference between work that is strategic to move a program forward v. the prioritization of regular ongoing work/projects
    • ex: processing the so and so papers may be a high priority on the list of collections to process, but this does not necessarily make that specific processing project a strategic priority
  • How the work of different functional areas within SCUA directly relate to one another, supports the work of the entire department, and how each unit/function can participate in meeting shared goals.

We determined three strategic directions across our work:

  1. Optimize the user experience
  2. Increase access to collections
  3. Expand knowledge of our collections to new audiences

Check out the full Strategic Directions for SCUA Functional Areas 2014-2017.

Here’s how I’m hoping to use our strategic directions document:

  • Raising awareness about what we do, why we do it, and its value within SCUA and the Libraries
  • Assist in developing annual work plans, how we spend our time, and evaluating our progress
  • Prioritization of pop up/new projects. Is it really a project that will move us forward? Does it have to happen right now? Can we approach it differently than before? What do we STOP doing from our strategic directions or regular/ongoing work to accommodate it?
  • Use as a tool for updating specific policies, procedures, and workflows highlighting how these changes support the activities and goals outlined in the strategic directions.
  • Advocating for resources at various levels within the library. Our AUL has already said this document will be extremely helpful as the libraries start to discuss priorities for fiscal and human resources for FY16.

Also, a hat tip to UCLA’s Library Special Collections strategic plan! We liked their presentation/formatting, so borrowed that for ours. Don’t reinvent the wheel!


Hello from Maryland

Similar to many we are dealing with a ton of legacy data in various forms at the University of Maryland. I am nowhere near as advanced as Maureen is with OpenRefine, regular expressions, or XSLT, but I will be sharing my experiences as I learn new tools for managing our data more efficiently.

I am really excited as we have some major infrastructure projects to work on this year including implementing ArchivesSpace (coming from a homegrown system), redesigning ArchivesUM, our current finding aid interface, and implementing Aeon. As you can imagine these are some hefty projects that will completely change the way we operate.

A new archives content management system has many moving components, stakeholders, policy decisions, and legacy data quandaries. This will give us an opportunity to update our policies, practices, and workflows and bring descriptions more in line with standards and best practices. A redesign of ArchivesUM is long overdue (we can talk about why in a future post) and we’ll be rebuilding both the user interface as well as the back end administrative side.

I was part of a team that implemented Archivists’ Toolkit (AT) several years ago at the University of Oregon, so I have experience changing over to a new system. Looking back, I know we did a lot of cleanup work by hand that could have been automated. I also really wish we shared more publicly about our work including our detailed local AT documentation. You can view what we did share publicly:

  • Elizabeth Nielsen and Cassandra A. Schmitt, “A Joint Instance of the Archivists’ Toolkit as a Tool for Collaboration,” presentation at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists’, Chicago, IL, August 22-27, 2011. http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/25253
  • Nathan Georgitis and Cassie Schmitt, “University of Oregon Archivists’ Toolkit Implementation,” A Webinar for Northwest Digital Archives Archivists’ Toolkit Interest Group, September 30, 2010. http://vimeo.com/15469318 [Confession: I have not watched this in years.]

While I will be posting on our legacy data cleanup, I will also be sharing our implementation plans, strategies, successes, and pitfalls as we venture into ArchivesSpace. I hope others will be able to benefit from this work. I know the AT@Yale blog was extremely helpful to me back in the day.

Looking forward to diving in!