Planning to Succeed

Janis Dickens, Director of Media Services

University of California, Santa Cruz

DET/CHE Past-President

Taken from presentations at DET/CHE Annual Conference

Friday, December l, l995


[A major program at the l995 annual DET/CHE conference focused on strategic planning; within a university system; within a university and its region; within a department. Several distinguished media directors spoke of their experience with one of these levels of planning. Each approached the topic in a different way and each gave specific examples and compelling reasons for medium and long term planning. As some veteran directors pointed out, this is not a new concept - it is the l990's version. Following are a brief background and introduction to the topic and summaries of the presentations that were given.]

Why are we talking about this topic?

Because it is a matter of survival.

The world is changing for our institutions; our institutions are changing to respond. We need to change to be useful ("value added"). So the question always has been "How is there value added to our university because our department exists? There has been tremendous value historically, as we know and have seen at the CSU campuses, some of the UC campus, and many of the community college and private campuses. As our equipment has gone from tubes to chips, blackboard to computer, centralized to remote, what is our role in bringing 'added value' to the university?

And is it worth it? Today's college/university needs to educate the same number of students (or more students) with less dollars. How is it going to do that? What can be merged, eliminated, changed and done for less? Our institutions are asking these questions and media managers need to ask these questions and take action or somebody else will. What can we do to help our institutions run more efficiently at less cost?

You've undoubtedly heard of various systems for strategic planning for change: TQM (Total Quality Management), BPR (Business Process Re-engineering, and others.

Following are short articles from a few media directors of California and the western region who have distinguished themselves as participants and leaders in their campus's effort. We will read examples of system-wide master planning and institutional projects, then move to the divisional level where media services is part of a division, and finally move to the unit level - how can you do some master planning within your unit even if nobody else on campus is involved? Our goal is to give you an idea of the reasons for the urgency some institutions feel to deal with this, examples of different processes various institutions have gone through to giving you some practical tools to carry back to your workplace.

Are we making too big a deal of this? Is this a fire alarm where there isn't a fire? In October I attended a meeting of California academic librarians (CARL) who sponsored a conference entitled "Re-tooling Academic Libraries for the Digital Age: Missions, Collections, Staffing." EDUCOM was held in October and their theme of Track l was "Technological Innovation: Revolution, Evolution or Business as Usual?" Science Magazine of October l3, l995 featured an article "Electronics and the Dim Future of the University" (p. 247+).

"Most branches of science show an exponential growth of about 4 to 8% annually, with a doubling period of l0 to l5 years. As an illustration of this trend, Chemical Abstracts took 31 years (l907-l937) to publish its first l million abstracts; the second million took l8 years; the most recent million took only l.75 years. Thus, more articles on chemistry have been published in the past 2 years than throughout history before l900.

While new communications technologies are likely to strengthen research, they will also weaken the traditional major institutions of learning, the universities. Instead of prospering with the new tools, many of the traditional functions of universities will be superseded, their financial base eroded, their technology replaced, and their role in intellectual inquiry reduced. This is not a cheerful scenario for higher education...."

Information literacy is extremely important. It is about empowering people by giving them the tools they need to participate in this information age. The knowledge that has been required to 'do the job' is changing:

for librarians (from the Carnegie library to the digital library) for media specialists for engineers/technicians for managers for administrators for all of us.

We need new skill sets today. The old Ptolemaic view of information held the library in the center and the world around it. Today the model has become more of the Copernican view with information in the center and several agencies around the outside (libraries, media specialists, information brokers, computer agencies, faculty, etc., etc.). Today the new skills sets mean that library and media staff should be developing expertise in telecommunications, electronics (from tubes), the digital library, multimedia products, cyberspace, and administrative applications that make work as efficient as it can be. These forces are causing profound changes in the service models.

As our friend 'Pogo' has said, "Are we blessed with insurmountable opportunity? Things come along. We need to grab at those opportunities when they spontaneously present themselves. At USC this last year a LIBRARIAN was asked to chair the committee writing the faculty handbook. It was a thankless job with lots of work that she didn't want but it came along and it was a very visible way for her unit to be involved in a much larger campus activity-so she took it. At UC Irvine last year they had 3,000 Internet users. This fall they have l7,000. Is this a problem or an opportunity? One might particularly see this as a problem because there was no campus plan for training - just for the technology. Sounds familiar. The library chose to view it as an opportunity and very quickly tooled up to offer an intense schedule of classes of Internet training classes when nobody else on campus was doing so. Leadership is answering a need immediately or anticipating a need. The leader becomes the enabler. The leader's role is providing the organizational structure for your unit to be positioned for this to happen, to be able to take advantage of 'insurmountable opportunities' such as this.

In libraries, for instance, librarians used to provide a pile of books to the patron and leave the patron to get to the exact information needed. Now, librarians are delivering the end result, the bit of information needed, often electronically, often because of the classifications and indexing. On our campus the patron/customer can send us an email message and we'll MAIL them the book! (with the page marked?!) As the Dean of the Library School at SJSU said recently, "we are shifting from the 'information container business' to the 'information business'." Information is power. In times of diminishing resources people reach for the power even more aggressively than usual. Our institutions are shifting the focus - from a focus on the institution to a focus on the output product. Media and Learning Resources directors and staff need to be a part of the solution. Volunteer to participate in the discussion and planning. Attend every open meeting on campus and guest speakers that are brought in who will give you a better and better picture of how the world is changing. Read, read, read and share articles between yourselves. Get educated on what is happening and participate, or be left behind.

Strategic planning is a process (under one name or another) that has been undertaken by many companies, educational institutions, organizations and others. It is simply a process of defining mission, vision, restraining forces, driving forces and arriving at goals and objectives that are real, usable and attainable to those participating. It has worked for some of us and we invite you to learn from us, adapt the process, and come back and teach us how to improve upon planning, by any name. This is a management tool that may assist you.