Monday, March 18, 2013

Strategic Planning at the Library Company

You might wonder what is left to plan for a 282-year-old organization already recognized as being among a handful of the world’s very best research institutions. But, of course, as ways of doing research change and evolve—and as technology makes possible things that would have made Ben Franklin’s head spin (but just for a moment before he promptly saw its full potential and embraced it!)—an institution such as ours must adapt in order to continue to be in the forefront.

Over the recent decades we have grown in a number of directions—acquiring large and important private collections such as those of Michael Zinman and Robert L. McNeil, Jr.; adding a range of fellowships and creating a residential research center in the Cassatt House; undertaking the digitization of our collections; and increasing programs and collaborative partnerships. When we acquired the Carriage House on Irving Street behind the main library building, we knew we needed space to expand into, but we soon realized that we would have to do some strategic thinking in order to prioritize the needs properly.

Our shelves are overfull, but how much additional stack space do we need? What would happen to those storage needs if our collecting scope shifted by a couple of years? How much of our rare material do we want to digitize? Do we want to do this in partnership with other organizations, or on our own? Will we build new web interfaces for our digital files to allow them to be searched and displayed in a variety of ways? And, perhaps most urgently, Where is our next generation of members? What is most appealing to them about what we do?

Formulating answers to these questions and more has involved the entire staff and Board of the Library Company over the last six months, as well as some outside experts in digital humanities, organizational leadership, and public outreach, and we are very much looking forward to sharing the results with our constituents. Look for the public announcement of our final plan later this year!

1 comment:

  1. Literature suggests that the majority of library/archive research institutions throughtout the world are now digitizing large parts of their collections, primarilly for perservation and secondly for increasing the scope of sharing that information. Certainly a digitzed document saves its fragile paper after a period of time and a number of uses. That being said, the actual item has great value in itself - there is nothing like feeling and smelling the rare item.

    Carol Hoffman, PhD


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