This fall, Ithaka S+R will be fielding the sixth iteration of our Library Director Survey. While we ran a special cycle of the survey in 2020 to track pandemic-related decision-making among academic libraries, as well as changing perspectives on diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and anti-racism, this upcoming survey marks the return to our triennial cycle, established in 2010. 

The Library Director Survey 2022 examines the strategic and leadership perspectives of library deans and directors and seeks to understand the evolution of opportunities and challenges they face in their work.

In order to capture issues that are top of mind in the field, we have leaned on the expertise of a terrific group of advisors to help focus our thematic priorities for this project as we update the survey instrument. We are grateful to the following advisors for their time and insights:

  • Kristin Antelman – University Librarian, UC Santa Barbara
  • Rhea Ballard-Thrower – University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, University of Illinois-Chicago
  • Vanessa Beasley – President, Trinity University
  • Faye Chadwell – Dean of University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University
  • Emily Chan – Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship, San José State University
  • Emily Guhde – Director of Organizational Effectiveness and Planning, Georgetown University
  • Martha Sedgwick – VP for Product Innovation, Sage Publishing
  • John Sherer – Spangler Family Director, University Of North Carolina Press
  • Courtney Young – University Librarian and Professor in the University Libraries, Colgate University

Based on their feedback, as well as reflections on the previous cycles’ findings, we are exploring the following thematic areas to explore in the upcoming questionnaire:

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (EDIA)

What is the library’s role in the new social justice paradigm? Are there cultural differences between institutions? What is the role of libraries in decision-making on EDIA initiatives? What does the diversity of talent pools for library positions look like, as well as the diversity of library staff?

The Role of the Library and the Role of the Director

How do library directors perceive the identity of their libraries, and what constraints do they face in shaping that identity? How well do libraries articulate their value proposition to senior administrators? What skills do library directors need to be able to do their job effectively? How are libraries futureproofing themselves?

Staffing and Talent Management

To what extent are libraries affected by staffing issues, and are they struggling to retrain/attract talent with any specific skill sets? How are libraries navigating remote/hybrid workplace arrangements? To what extent do library directors prioritize reskilling staff? How are libraries approaching succession-planning?

Behaviors around Scholarly Communication

What do library directors think of transformational agreements and business consolidation on the publisher side? Do they perceive these as opportunities or threats? Do libraries see themselves and publishers as allies on Open Access? Are libraries thinking about sustainable scholarship? 

Research Data Management

How are libraries responding to the recent changes in NSF/NIH funding requirements related to data-management? What role do libraries see for themselves in furthering data literacy and making scientific communication accessible in the context of dis/misinformation? How do libraries see their role in the research process?

Physical Space

How do libraries conceptualize their physical footprint in the age of COVID? Do they see it as a resource or as an asset? How are they rethinking services in order to meet remote/hybrid student needs? Do library directors center the user in their online experience and prioritize user experience in the shift to online learning?

Our goal is to place this project at the heart of current issues in the broader academic community, and to have the findings speak to emerging trends affecting higher education institutions, as well as cultural institutions at large. To this end, we are looking to research that provides the current context for thinking about the perspectives of library leaders, including some of the work of colleagues here at Ithaka S+R. For example, two projects from our museum portfolio—a survey on museum staff demographics and the Art Museum Director Survey—offer insights into how cultural institutions at large grapple with EDIA issues, as well as their changing strategies in service to their missions.

In thinking about how libraries navigate technological changes, we’re guided by a report examining how researchers navigate changes to journal access. Streaming media has also become a prominent component of libraries’ collections strategy, something we began tracking through this survey in 2020. With new changes in federal funding related to data privacy, as well as the complexity of Big Data research, we are interested in how libraries see their role in research data management. And, as libraries make changes to their “Big Deals” with journal publishers, how can they help faculty navigate the changing scholarly communication ecosystem? As for student success, are academic libraries playing an active role in supporting student basic needs? We are also interested in exploring how libraries balance all these roles, all while also providing an informal learning space for students. Finally, how are libraries setting strategic priorities to better align with the institutional goals of their colleges and universities?

Over the next couple of months, we will work on developing and testing the questionnaire. We look forward to fielding the survey this fall and publishing the results next spring.