Last week at the Library Assessment Conference in Seattle, I gave a talk on “Vision, Alignment, Impediments, Assessment.”  As academic libraries face a variety of strategic issues, I argued, they need to consider how to implement evidence-based decision making processes more broadly in their institutions.  There’s a significant role for the assessment community in building such processes, and as libraries continue to invest in assessment, they have the opportunity to use data to address their challenges.

I reviewed some of the key strategic issues that face many academic libraries today, things like

  • finding the right balance between collecting and community engagement,
  • future format choices for books,
  • the role of the library in support of discovery,
  • the role and purpose of the library’s spaces, and
  • what sustainable roles there may be for supporting teaching and learning as pedagogies change rapidly.

Whether these are exactly the right issues for any specific library, my essential message was that library leaders can build decision-making processes for strategic dilemmas such as these, and not just for operational matters. Deanna Marcum and I covered some of the ways in which such decision-making processes can be structured in our recent issue brief Driving with Data. I believe there are real opportunities for library leaders to draw on the capacities of their assessment and user experience teams to bring evidence to bear in support of strategic issues.

I am grateful to Anne Cooper Moore (Southern Illinois University) and Scott Walter (DePaul University) for serving as panelists and sharing the library director’s perspective. They offered valuable reactions to my remarks, helping to focus our attention on the importance of identifying university priorities, and especially student success, in developing strategy for the academic library.