The way the world seeks, finds, and consumes information is rapidly changing … and the role of the college or university library with it. Rather than make libraries obsolete, these changes make libraries more important to higher education than ever—as resources for finding and evaluating information, as places to gather and learn with peers, as stewards of important values like intellectual freedom and privacy rights.
Library planning establishes how the library (or libraries) will support a higher education institution’s strategies and operations. In particular, it looks at how the library can advance a college’s or university’s learning, research, and/or service programs and initiatives.
The Standards for Libraries in Higher Education by the Association of College & Research Libraries lays out the aims of library planning:
Library planning helps institutions address broader changes in the way information is sought, found, and consumed so the institution can prepare students for success in an increasingly data- and knowledge-dependent society.
Library planning also helps higher education institutions find efficiencies, contain rising student costs, and comply with accreditation standards.
Library planning will differ depending on the type of institution. For example, although all academic libraries address expectations to support learning and teaching, emphasis on research activities varies across academic library missions.
There is no single, common approach to library planning. Plans might focus on:
Library planning can involve decisions about library-administered membership in external organizations. These memberships extend access to collections beyond campus through reciprocal agreements and negotiate reduced vendor license fees for information access and systems support. Memberships can also integrate individual library planning with that of an association or consortium that supports academic libraries, especially to ensure student success, reduce the costs of education, and steward research output.
Library planning is directed by library directors, institutional administrators, or appointed faculty members.
Committees offer stakeholder feedback, propose directions, align institution priorities, and shape resource allocations (e.g., for space, technologies, staffing, or budget). Sometimes advisory groups or other academic planners (including faculty, students, technology experts, institutional research data analysts, and alumni or “friends” for fundraising) can be involved.
Typically the provost, in consultation with the library director, approves the library plan, though commitment to the plan may include vice provosts for academic and student affairs, deans, faculty, students, and external stakeholders (including members of the board of trustees).
In order for the library plan to align with the college or university strategic plan and other institutional planning efforts, comprehensive library planning follows other planning cycles within the institution—usually every five or more years. Internal library planning typically occurs annually, linked to either performance assessments and reports or budget requests.
Integrating planning for library planning ensures that decisions made during other institutional planning efforts leverage the library’s services to support student success, faculty recruitment and retention, external fundraising and research revenue, and the generation of intellectual property and dissemination of scholarship.
Library planning can have explicit links to other planning, including those conducted for: