Dean’s Update: Making Tough Decisions

Dean’s Update: Making Tough Decisions
Jenny James Lee
August 6, 2014

Over the past several weeks the Libraries leadership, as with many other campus departments, has had to make difficult decisions about financial allocations that affect the services we offer, our relation to people expecting library support and our employees that hope for security in their workplace.

You can read more about some of the decisions we were faced with and the choices that were made in the August issue of In Circulation. These changes include the times of scheduled staff assistance at Queen Lane Library, options for gathering evidence to reflect the value of an academic library, choosing among tools licensed to help manage citations, or selecting levels of processing of archival records to make documents discoverable. As we craft communications to various audiences about our decisions, we reflect upon the values that distinguish our choices, and principles guiding the processes used to reach some of the tough ones. Insights into a handful of these might offer you a perspective on the Drexel Libraries organization.

We acknowledge we cannot provide it all. Our sense of customer service ranks very high. However, we do not have the resources to meet everyone’s expectations. We make choices that aim to benefit the majority and are for the common good -- access to information sources, spaces for study and reflection and guidance of experts. We are currently reviewing our “collection development” policies for example and hope soon to offer articulation of how we aim to balance access venues with convenience.

We aim to make evidence-based decisions. We are not alone at Drexel to consider how to apply data about the use of spaces, or the number of downloads of e-resources we license to make good judgments. Recent discussions with other librarians will help to improve the processes we use to make decisions.

Gathering data is not always easy. We seek input from students and faculty through our online surveys and in person conversations, we observe utilization of the Libraries space and service and we count transactions, but we don’t always fully understand the context of our community. Our library liaisons are a valued resource to gather the insights about the different college cultures—their research challenges, styles of teaching and need for assistance. These add to the judgments we make.

Perhaps the toughest decision our managerial leaders must make relates to our employees. One of the values the Libraries has championed is that current staff are an important asset. Although we unfortunately did not renew contracts for some of our temporary staff, we have not laid off individuals to recover salary expenses. We chose instead to remove budgeted but unfilled positions. Our other strong driving value is to guard the Libraries capacity to ensure access to authoritative information resources by not cutting the budget allocated to license electronic journals or to purchase books and other formats, and the related staffing to process acquisitions workflows and circulation/ILL services.

We may not always be successful in choices we make, but as an organization, the Libraries takes its responsibilities to support teaching, learning, and research and to advance the University very seriously. Your feedback – through our staff, submissions to the comment boxes and online surveys, and communications to me and other administrators—are welcome and are critical to our continued improvement efforts.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries