Deans Update: Reflections on 2013

Deans Update: Reflections on 2013
Jenny James Lee
December 4, 2013

[The Dean's Update is a column introducing each issue of the Libraries' monthly e-newsletter In Circulation.]

Libraries have a mission to preserve history and they extend that to the organization itself in preparing the iconic annual report. However, unlike the many standardized rules applied to preserving, cataloging and ensuring access to the artifacts of cultural, scholarly, and organizational activities, there is no common playbook for creating a library annual report. Some are lavish books themselves, commemorating collections with gorgeous images and descriptions of unique acquisitions while others are used to thank people who reaffirm the library’s value with fiscal or advocacy support. And yet others simply provide the record of important activities, with reported statistics of use, summaries of expenditures and highlights of personnel changes.

Among these options, we have taken a hybrid approach at Drexel, exploring what to include, when to take the annual snapshot, and how to present it in ways that both document the presence of the Libraries and invite readers to join staff in reflection of what a library means for those who benefit from it. We wish to balance these lofty objectives with a sense of fun. We celebrate how we faced challenges and embraced opportunities to not just be responsive to our clients as is expected of us, but also to return the excitement of discovery of the ideas of others, the delight in learning with diverse forms of data and information, and the pride of making and sharing new knowledge.

Gathering content for our annual report begins with confirming the period to cover—we are traditional in using the fiscal year covering July 1 through June 30. This year we have packaged our annual report in a few different formats. We printed a modest booklet with details of what was accomplished and what we are challenged to pursue. This is sent as a token of thanks to over 130 individuals who contributed through generous donations of time or gifts to the Libraries. This year our theme “inspiring change” opened questions around how to illustrate whether and how the Libraries does inspire change. To focus on this assessment interest we also prepared a summary flier with key highlights of our inputs and outputs. The flier will be used throughout the year to help orient people to what the Libraries does. The content of both is available online through posted PDFs for broad distribution and for anyone to read.

It takes hard work to pull together an effective report. I especially wish to thank Jenny Lee for applying her systematic management of gathering content, encouragement of contributors to write, and creative eye to present mundane data as interesting insights into our work. As we delight in seeing final copies arrive from the printer, we also realize that even more has happened since mid-year and are disappointed that the “annual” framework fails to share the most current activities. I invite you to turn to this monthly newsletter as serial inserts that capture news of what did not make the deadline for the past year’s summary.

For example, in this issue, learn about the Libraries attempts to connect students and faculty in exploring how 3-D data are used to think and communicate in new ways; how we are looking to make signage in library buildings more effective and less haphazard; and how librarians are engaging with faculty to better understand and apply such techniques as evidence-based learning to guide students to master information literacy skills.

Whenever one stops to prepare a report, whether annual or monthly, the opportunity is posed to thank those who create its content. As the Thanksgiving week launches the festive season to mark the end of a calendar year, I raise a toast to both the magnificent staff and terrific clients with whom we have the privilege to daily engage. Thank you for inspiring us to enjoy working together to connect people and information in the service of advancing creativity and scholarship.

Happy Holidays,

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries