The Essential Library, the USC Libraries' Strategic Plan 2011-2013

FOREWORD: A Message from the Dean


What is the essence of a great research library at the University of Southern California?

The USC Libraries proposed an answer—a set of answers, in fact—when we published our previous strategic plan, The Essential Library 2008–2009.

In that plan, we defined our essence in terms of our core functions: developing deep, relevant collections; providing efficient and comprehensive access tools; and delivering services that connect USC students, faculty, and staff with credible resources. We described what is vital to our success as that which is essential to support the academic achievements of our users. We used the university's strategic directions as guiding principles in expressing our essential contributions to teaching, learning, and research at USC. With consideration for longevity and lasting relevance, we articulated our essence in foundational statements of vision, mission, and values.

We have delivered many substantial improvements to our users over the past three years. Our collections have become more accessible, owing to our correction of 46,000 records and the resulting 99.75% accuracy of our catalog. We processed 47,000 linear feet of archival materials in East Library, where we also identified 167 new collections. Our users connect more easily with research resources through our redesigned website and a new Quick Search that spans information silos and types of media. By undertaking an architectural feasibility study, we have taken a significant step toward realizing an archival-quality, automated storage and retrieval facility that will accommodate USC's growing collections for years to come and benefit our entire campus community.

When I introduced The Essential Library 2008–2009, I wrote that we would identify and address the practical impediments hindering our ability to meet our potential, that foundational improvements in collections, access, and service would make possible future innovations. The accomplishments I have just described—and our many other achievements since 2008—have addressed some of the most significant obstacles to our development. I am proud to say that the USC Libraries are now prepared to participate more strategically in USC's continuing success.

This plan describes our activities for the next three years and the steps we will take to build upon recent improvements. It carries forward our vision, mission, and values as we pursue a new set of more aspirational goals. The Essential Library 2011–2013 is a dynamic statement of purpose and direction that extends beyond a printed document through embedded QR codes and other links to digital materials that provide context and updates on our activities.

I invited the entire USC Libraries' faculty and staff to participate as a committee-of-the-whole in the development of this plan. Through a series of sessions over 10 months, we identified our ambitions and priorities. We engaged our community of users and supporters. USC faculty—whose research and practice illuminate the information-seeking mindset of our users—joined us to share their thoughts on what constitutes the ideal library for USC.

Three overarching themes emerged as we pursued this broadly participatory process: discoverability of library resources, integration with our community, and the physical and intellectual environment of the libraries. Out of these themes, we have developed strategic goals and identified the initial set of proposed activities that will help us achieve them.

Although it is commonplace to note that rapid change is a persistent aspect of our environment, it is no less urgent a consideration. Our strategy must allow us to assimilate change and be agile in our implementation. I believe that The Essential Library 2011–2013 strikes the necessary balance between thoughtful focus and the freedom to seize unexpected opportunities. As we complete current activities and embrace opportunities to innovate, I hope you will follow our progress online and through our annual reports.

Our goals are ambitious, and achieving them will effect significant, tangible advancements in our libraries that will support and encourage excellent research, teaching, and learning across the university. I invite the students, faculty, and staff of USC, as well as our community of partners and researchers from around the world, to read, think about, and participate in the activities of The Essential Library 2011–2013.

I welcome your comments, your suggestions, and your support, as we work to realize this vision of the essential library at and for USC.

Catherine Quinlan
Dean of the USC Libraries