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Dean’s Update: Purposeful focus on scholarly connections

March 5, 2020

Libraries have been challenged in clarifying what they are, especially amidst the disruptions that digital resources and network technologies have made on the essential components of traditional definitions of a library. For years, key elements have included such phrases as “collection organized by information professionals,” “access,” “mission of educating,” and “stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.[i]” 

As we have been working on transforming the Drexel Libraries, we try to find a stronger, more purposeful focus that simplifies defining 21st century libraries. A decade ago, the question we asked took a service perspective: “What is the central thread that unites our activities to serve customers?” We saw that all the Libraries’ processes and client interactions related to the provision of access to authoritative information and organized our activities and aligned staff across traditional technical and public services groupings accordingly.  

With the refresh of our strategic directions three years ago, we found that a common purpose for serving our community, independent of specific transactions, was missing from our evolving narrative about what the Libraries is. We asked which strategic challenges facing higher education present unique opportunities at our institution that the Libraries' unique resources and expertise can most effectively address. Throughout higher education, there is little discretionary resource to duplicate efforts among departments when trying to effectively contribute to a university’s success. Hence, the Drexel Libraries regrouped around an emerging purpose of strengthening the University’s connections to scholarship.  

This past month we have taken a few steps to expand the focus of the Libraries and its programs to evolve this new concept. We welcomed a new director of scholarly connections none too soon to join challenging discussions raised about priorities for renewing licensed subscriptions and guiding clients to adjust teaching and research habits that are dependent on reliable and convenient access to scholarly publications.

This issue of In Circulation looks at three other key projects started recently. Our two managers of communications and scholarly communications have worked together to launch a new column that periodically will share insights about the processes and changes in how scholarship is shared. We also are proud to provide readers an exclusive interview with a distinguished Drexel faculty member who actively served on a task force to revise the APA Style Guide and generously shared his insights on how the revision reflects changes in recording and sharing documentation of scholarly research. Finally, the University Archivist brings attention to the impact on future research of preserving and deaccessioning historic records. 

With March winds and sunshine more frequently experienced in Philadelphia, we wish all good health to welcome spring. 

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries

[i] George Eberhart offers a definition of a library, citing Heartsill Young, ed., The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science (ALA, 1983), in The Librarian’s Book of Lists (Chicago: ALA, 2010), p. 1. Retrieved online March 1, 2020: