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Dean's Update: Purposeful presentation of one academic library’s Annual Report

April 12, 2021

An annual report typically is a source of information about an organization’s performance. The earliest recognized “modern annual report” is U.S. Steel's 1903 document, with its Price, Waterhouse & Company's certified financial accuracy[i]. In corporate settings, an annual report often is a required document providing accountability and transparency to shareholders, potential investors and analysts. Non-profit organizations also prepare yearly reports to connect with customers and supporters and to provide information about past performance and future goals. 

As part of an operation of a larger business organization, separate academic library reports are often not required and vary in purpose, such as providing a historic summary of annual activities, posting standard data elements included in institutional reports to IPEDs or other agencies, and acknowledging support from donors. Due to its diverse scope of responsibilities and multiple campus relationships, an academic library perspective may contribute to identifying external changes facing a university.

The Drexel University Libraries’ 2020 Annual Report exists in context of the close of a year of deeply consequential disruptions within society, including challenges within higher education. We release it as Drexel University is undertaking planning and implementation of changes to its structures and operations.

The challenges the Libraries identified as most impactful will not be resolved in a year—the impact of a worldwide pandemic, a particularly U.S. outrage over racism and social injustices, a local turnover of Drexel academic leadership, and continued budgetary restrictions and projected economic uncertainty. Expecting many more months to adjust effectively to these and likely newer factors, we anticipate the start of “the age of disruptions.”  

This year, the Drexel Libraries’ report covers roughly the 18-month period from July 1, 2019 to December 31, 2020. It includes similar elements as former reports, such as a letter from the dean, descriptions of activities and progress on achieving the Libraries’ major strategic directions, as aligned with addressing three of Drexel’s key higher education challenges. In addition, a new purpose for the report is to raise better understanding among influential stakeholders of what the Drexel Libraries does and to prepare them to engage in planning the Libraries’ future.

The production of this year’s report also introduced a few innovative ways for the Libraries to present its performance and reflections on its contributions to the University. The Libraries’ Communications Manager, Stacy Stanislaw, combed reports of activities posted throughout the past year, invited administrative and program leaders to identify messages and illustrative evidence, and then designed ways to engage stakeholders to read the report from their own level of interest, from an easily scanned organization, through links to detailed articles and short recorded videos.  

I very much appreciate all the staff contributions to deliver the Libraries’ services, programs, and innovations and I am proud to share this report of their hard work with our In Circulation list of nearly 10,000 VIP readers. 

Don’t miss other articles within this issue of In Circulation to stay abreast of recent Libraries activities. For the first time, Libraries managers hired a cohort of seven students from across diverse majors as co-ops to gain early professional experiences working in our Libraries for six months. A recap of the winter term’s ScholarSip highlights the timely and important work conducted by a Drexel University public health faculty researcher that has important applications to communicating during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Drexel staff also began working half-day Fridays during the spring term, with University encouragement to take care of their wellness. We hope others among our readers will also make time for relaxation and attending to life-work balance, all to care for our collective well-being.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries