(NOTE June 9, 2016: This post has been republished at PhantomLibrarian.net)

The Library Systems group spent the last year upgrading every damn system we have, save one. As we wrap up the last of them, we stop to take a breath and assess where we are and where we are going. We stare down the months and years ahead and feel a bit directionless. How do the things we want to do fit with the overall LTS plan, and most importantly how do they fit with the direction of higher-ed librarianship?

So we scanned the higher-ed library landscape, technology and industry trends, gleaned what explicit LTS objectives we could, and we wrote a draft five-year plan for the library systems group. We’ve been careful to make it business-like, logical and sober. As un-manifesto-like as possible so we won’t be perceived as parvenu upstarts. Careful not to the ruffle feathers of any who may believe that helping to design the library’s future is outside our purview. Which raises the question – Ain’t I a Librarian? Why do we feel we need to be so cautious? Can we systems librarians not put forth ideas, contribute legitimately to strategic planning, and help lead the charge into the technology-saturated future?

So here goes. We’re making our goals public, though the draft five-year-plan is not ready for prime time yet.  The full plan identifies concrete steps and resources for achieving the goals described below.  At the end of the five year plan period, it is the overall goal of the Library Systems group to be in a position to fulfill the following principles and obligations:

  • Be agile, responsive, innovative
  • Position ourselves to respond to a rapidly changing environment
  • Help Brandeis University Libraries shape the information landscape instead of just being a consumer of it
  • Act as a bridge between traditional library activities and the technology-focused future
  • Establish and maintain systems, technology and integration between systems to support the mission and daily activities of Brandeis University Libraries


Library Systems Five Year Plan Goals:

1. Provide always-on, highly available, device-agnostic access to scholarly information resources

LTS needs to provide always-on, seamless access to owned and licensed materials that “just works,” for our users to get full benefit from our extensive investment in information resources.

The discovery environment has evolved dramatically over the past five to ten years, with the rise of next-generation catalogs, Google, social media and Web 2.0. The technological sophistication of the Brandeis user community is increasing and their expectations are increasing accordingly. Users expect a Google- and Amazon-like discovery experience, and expect participatory engagement via Web 2.0 functionality. They expect that information resources will be available to them round-the-clock, and that they will be able to access them using a variety of devices. As of early 2011, more than 25% of Brandeis community members use smartphones and the use of tablet computers is increasing. Our community expects that the library will come to them.

2. Facilitate and support collection sharing, new models of collection development, and data-driven collection management

Budget reductions, user preferences for electronic access to materials, limited physical space, and the inability to financially sustain comprehensive collections have led many academic libraries to shift from a “just-in-case” to a “just-in-time” philosophy.*

Due to these factors, the Brandeis libraries can no longer build and maintain a collection that is all things to all users. Collaboration with other institutions to coordinate collection development, patron-driven acquisition of materials, and partnerships with other libraries to share resources quickly and smoothly through services like RapidILL, BLC Resource Sharing and traditional ILL are all critical areas of growth. LTS needs to strengthen and expand the systems that support current and future services in this area.

3. Support initiatives to make available to the global academic community those materials that make Brandeis unique

The LTS FY11 E-Scholarship plan proposed “preserv[ing] and disseminat[ing] Brandeis’s unique digital assets related to academic and cultural programs and documenting our intellectual history” as an important strategic priority.

Digitization of little-used and hidden collections, collection and preservation of the scholarly output of the university in an institutional repository, providing a platform for open access publishing – all these activities serve to reveal the richness of Brandeis’ unique assets to the global academic community.

4. Identify and foster the development of core technical competencies needed by library staff in today’s information environment

In the face of a rapidly evolving information environment and the accelerating pace of change it can be challenging to build and maintain critical technical skills. First we must identify what the core technical competencies of today’s library staff should be – what skillset should be expected of all library staff: general staff, specialists, technology managers, and systems staff alike. Then we must find ways to foster and focus on these skills, while continually re-evaluating current compentencies and antcipating what future competencies will be needed and how we should staff to meet those needs.

The members of the Library Systems group are in a unique position to help bridge the gap between traditional library activities and the technology-focused future. Library Systems staff cumulatively have 36 years as professional librarians, and a total of 65 years working in libraries. We have worked professionally in all areas of the library, from circulation to systems, and have a broad understanding of the mission and goals of libraries, and their place in the overall information landscape. We are also ideally situated to facilitate knowldege sharing between the two halves of LTS. Our daily activities and interactions with colleagues span all LTS units, from InterLibrary Loan to Information Security.

* ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee, “2010 top ten trends in academic libraries. A review of the current literature.” College & Research Libraries News 71:6 (June 2010): 286-92. http://crln.acrl.org/content/71/6/286.short (accessed April 5, 2011)