"Our aspirations for transformation extend beyond digitising content or optimising processes and systems through the use of technology. Personalised, human-centred experiences are at the core of our ambition." Margie Jantti, Director Library Services
Introduction - FRLS
An ambitious vision has been executed over the span of the Future-Ready Library Strategy 2018-2021 (FRLS). At the time of its launch, a strong foundation of culture, values and a commitment to continuous professional growth was illustrative of our readiness to embrace the known and unknown future.
What was foreshadowed in the strategy was the imperative to transform or be disrupted. What no-one foresaw was a global pandemic and the ensuing national and global impact. The swift transition to online delivery of the curriculum, new modalities for learning and research and campus life provided a pressure-test environment for our vision, strategy, planning and preparedness.
Due to the FRLS and targeted investment in people, digital service design and infrastructure, the Library didn’t pause or pivot in response to the not insignificant challenges of COVID-19, but instead accelerated the Future-Ready digital transformation roadmap. This fostered an environment where UOW staff and students reaped the benefit of highly personalised services with enhanced flexibility and choice and no diminution of quality. The services models were geared for high volume and extended hours of operation; features that were highly valued as the lives of UOW students and staff were disrupted.
Importantly, major projects (e.g. Library Management System) were sustained in spite of a changed operating environment. The projects were delivered on time and on budget.
Enhanced flexibility of Library services and amenity was clearly valued by staff and students. The Library as a place, a destination for study and research was sustained through user-driven design and COVIDSafe access to the building and associated infrastructure. Experiences were underpinned by highly integrated information and research services delivered through digital channels.
The emphasis on staff digital dexterity, the capacity to embrace an ecosystem of digital applications, and a culture based on trust, transparency and accountability ensured that the work of the Library and critical projects were delivered at exceptionally high standards.
The UOW Library was recognised as an exemplar for its numerous innovations that promoted COVIDSafety and excellence in service, notably: the Virtual Service Point, real-time occupancy counter (and integrated web presence), contact tracing initiatives and proactive chat services.
The Library team is rightfully proud of their commitment to excellence, innovation, growth and agility. The execution of the FRLS was only possible because of the people. They sustained the Library’s reputation as a trusted partner in learning, teaching and research in a climate of extreme flux while enabling the transformation showcased in this report. Their professionalism, resilience and drive has been recognised with a Vice Chancellor’s Outstanding Service Award in 2021 – a wonderful capstone and accolade of the FRLS.
Margie Jantti, Director Library Services
What does it mean to be future-ready? Adopting or upgrading technologies? Focusing on skills and capabilities? A mindset? What are the necessary conditions to be ready for whatever the future might hold? These were questions we asked ourselves when thinking about our purpose, aspirations, and the value we deliver to our user communities.
The Future-Ready Library Strategy (FRLS) launched in 2018 as a road map “designed to position the UOW Library to lead and drive deep change and to showcase its unique contribution of skills and professional expertise in the attainment of the UOW vision and strategy”. Aligning with the 2016-2020 UOW Strategic Plan, the FRLS introduced four clear goals:
- Make it easy to find, use and create content.
- Optimise digitally enabled learning and service environments.
- Design and deliver a choice of inspiring learning spaces.
- Maximise research visibility.
This report looks back at our strategy execution to see what we have achieved, the depth and speed of our digital transformation, our progress beyond milestone achievements, and our readiness for the future.
Being future-ready was grounded in transforming both our business and culture, and was measured by how:
- the Library aligns to the strategic direction of UOW
- we execute strategy, projects and operations with excellence
- we build and sustain organisational health
- the Library renews itself in an ever-changing environment.
We approached digital transformation as a leadership challenge, not a technical one, and this ensured that digital transformation was seen as an enduring business capability not a temporary project.
As a Library team we are rightfully proud of our commitment to excellence, innovation, growth and agility and the benefit we have delivered to the students, staff, and affiliates of the University.
These achievements and successes are counter-balanced by the many challenges and impacts of the pandemic. We must acknowledge the people we farewelled, changing the shape of the Library team. We extend our deep, sincere appreciation and respect to current and former staff for their immense contributions to enabling the vision and for their service to the University.
We are also indebted to our many partners who collaborated with us as experts, advisors and sounding boards to bring the FRLS to life. In particular, we acknowledge: Prof Joe Chicharo, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor; colleagues from Information Management and Technology Services; Pro Vice-Chancellor – Students; Facilities Management Division; Learning Teaching and Curriculum; Research and Innovation Division; Jindaola; Professional and Organisational Development Services; and the Council of Australian University Librarians.
Online-first to digital-first – our guiding principle
Our initial guiding principle and mindset was ‘online first’ to:
- ensure that all services, resources, and experiences were designed for the online environment from the outset
- acknowledge the highly networked environment of UOW campuses across Australia and the globe
- respond to the growing expectation of 24/7 access to services and resources.
The ‘online-first’ mindset matured into ‘digital-first principles’, further guiding and shaping a holistic approach to transformation in all that we do as a digital-first library.
Our digital-first guiding principles are:
- design with the user
- empower users of digital
- ensure ease of use
- be collaborative
- use agility and flexibility
- understand the ecosystem
- have a University perspective.
These digital-first principles led us to achieve high levels of user satisfaction as students and staff engaged with our digital library.