Entering an Age of Disruptions Drexel University Libraries 2019/2020 Annual Report

Message from the Dean

2020 was a year of disruptions, characterized by turnover in Drexel’s academic leadership, challenges of budget and fiscal management, the COVID-19 pandemic, and global responses to systemic racism and civil injustices. Preparing this 2020 Drexel University Libraries Annual Report in March 2021, we have the benefit of hindsight in viewing last year in a broader context.

After one year of emergency, rapid operational responses to these disruptions, the University is now in the midst of engaging in systematic and intentional strategic planning efforts to envision and shape a Drexel University for 2030.

Together, these disruptions set in motion last year, along with forthcoming campus planning, have become accelerants that increase our pace of considering the future of a library. The year marks entry into an anticipated "Age of Disruptions."

Over the past decade, the Libraries has articulated its future at Drexel through an evolved vision of what a modern academic research library is, selecting innovative initiatives to progress within five-year time frames toward transforming the Drexel University Libraries as one best suited for this University.

The reporting year 2019 through 2020 is a milestone for a normal annual review of one year’s journey along the paths set for our current 2017 - 2022 strategic plan. However, in doing so as we enter an "Age of Disruptions,” we must assess how well the current roadmap will work to help us reach our vision of the Drexel Libraries in 2022—and to think how sustainable it is going forward.

An underlying element of this vision is its impact on positioning the Libraries within the University as critical to strengthening Drexel’s mission and achieving its envisioned ambitious future. This year’s disruptions have accelerated questioning what is essential about the Libraries not just for its future as a library, but also for its contribution to Drexel in the University’s position within the future of higher education.

The Drexel Libraries’ 2020 annual report is written in context of a year of deeply consequential disruptions and thus aims to serve as a briefing for accelerating our planning of the Libraries’ future as part of the University’s organization, assets, expertise and values that are critical to shaping higher education during the 2020s decade. It serves not only its traditional purpose of capturing evidence of what we have done during a snapshot period, but also as inventory for archival reference and as reported content for various required institutional records.

As a result, the scope and timing of this year’s annual report has changed. This year, we cover our experiences of roughly 18 months. We acknowledge preparing and writing this report with hindsight of a required 12-month reporting year (FY20) of data and activities, along with initial analysis of the outcomes and reflections on projected impact they may have on the next phases of the University’s future planning.

This year, the report has three parts. We start with descriptions of the major disruptions that the University faced during this period and what we learned about their impact on the Libraries’ delivery of its core obligations. We follow with summaries of progress made to advance the Libraries’ current strategic directions. The report ends with links to data summarizing our activities, to a proud list of our staff professional contributions, and to public appreciation of our supporters.

We are slowly beginning to imagine a recovery from the disruptions of the recent past. Looking to the future, we anticipate an active shelf life for this 2020 Drexel University Libraries’ Annual Report as we prepare for debriefing the Libraries’ mission and strategic directions to contribute to the University’s success in higher education. I invite each reader of the report to share perspectives and insights into what the Libraries’ best contributions may be and to suggest effective paths to pursue toward making them.

Table of Contents

  • Message from the Dean
  • New Disruptions Accelerate Drexel University's Future
  • 2019/2020 Initiatives Advance the Drexel Libraries' Strategic Directions
  • Insights from 2019/2020
  • Libraries by the Numbers
  • Libraries Staff Awards, Presentations & Publications
  • Libraries Supporters

New Disruptions Accelerate Drexel University's Future

The four major 2020 disruptions selected as backdrop for this report are those that most affected the Libraries’ delivery of its continued obligations to the University. Addressing any individual disruption during a single year is challenging. Faced together—the turnover in Drexel’s academic leadership, the challenges of budget and fiscal management, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global responses to systemic racism and civil injustices—is a formidable and overwhelming task.

In 2019, as part of the University’s challenge to close budget gaps resulting from shifts in enrollment, the closure of a hospital critical to its medical and health science programs, and suspension of a partnership with a health provider, the Libraries faced its own substantial budget cut. We absorbed these cuts with the reduction of salary from three vacant positions and through reductions in renewed licenses of nearly 2,000 e-journal titles.

By the end of the two years of 2019 and 2020, leadership turnover resulted in six new academic appointments, including the Provost and deans of colleges representing the arts and sciences, business, education, medicine, and media arts and design.

The new Provost’s administrative approach evolved three important strategic changes for the Drexel Libraries: questioning what is essential in what the Libraries provides academics; exploring the Responsibility Center Management (RCM) limitations for extending the Libraries’ funding; and anticipating the deans’ shared prioritization of the Libraries’ operations and services to fund. We worked to redefine how we would continue our obligations to ensure access to authoritative information resources, strengthen connections to research given this new approach, and build environments to inspire self-directed learners.

On March 16, 2020, Drexel University—at the direction of the City of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Governor—announced faculty would teach the entire spring term remotely using web, video, and teleconferencing tools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restricting access to on-campus facilities for essential research and operations personnel for the near future.

The Drexel Libraries quickly faced the disruptions caused by COVID-19, and innovative solutions emerged. With just a few days’ notice of pandemic precautions to shut down on-site operations, the Drexel Libraries closed its four physical locations, and staff shifted operations to provide virtual access to resources, services and activities to support the Drexel community.

Over the next year, we redesigned our facilities and services to offer safe places for informal learning, added contactless access to physical information resources, and extended previous uses of Zoom and online chat applications to provide remote information assistance, customized consultations and group instruction—all while pivoting twice between periods of open and closed campus activities.

Unfortunately, the global pandemic was not the only major headline of 2020. Healthcare delivery, civil unrest, and police brutality brought issues of racism and civic injustices to the forefront. In response, the Drexel Libraries, along with the University and institutions across the country, made it a priority to reexamine its programs and services, focusing on both new and established efforts to combat racism and create welcoming, inclusive learning environments.

We also continued to respond to the significant impact of these disruptions on the Libraries organization. Mid-year, we adjusted our budget allocations to meet a temporary suspension of expenditures in our operating budget, including salary reductions and dropping some professional memberships, travel and event funding, while retaining some staff development support.

Most challenging, we strategically adjusted our personnel capacity and expertise to meet new University requirements to obtain exceptions to recruit “essential” staff. Over the past two years, we lost subject expertise in business, media and design, health sciences, medicine, technology, and technical expertise in system design, information analytics, publishing and vendor relations. Nonetheless, through successful recruitment and internal staff development, we have maintained or strengthened the Libraries’ human capacity for curriculum support, in-depth guidance in medicine and health fields, research output management, data analysis, systems management, digital archiving, metadata, e-resource management, vendor negotiations, scholarly communications, and open access.

To maintain staff morale and connections, we replaced quarterly on campus All Staff meetings with more frequent Zoom sessions. We utilized informal surveys to gauge staff concerns, identify accommodations to work remotely, and uncover questions not addressed in other campus and Libraries communications and meetings. Greater engagement with Microsoft Teams also connected staff to each other, to information, and to individual contributions to the Drexel Libraries and the University.

There is no question that the disruptions have affected all staff, though in different ways, and that it takes extra proactive efforts among everyone to maintain trust in the organization to value and support employees both for their amazing performance and their well-being. Despite the many challenges and disruptions of the last 18 months, Libraries staff demonstrated their incredible resilience, deep service dedication, tireless hard work, and collaborative nature to provide uninterrupted support of teaching, learning and research at Drexel.

In preparing this report, we review how meeting our obligations, explicitly articulated throughout this past decade, continues to shape our current strategic focus to support the University in addressing three key higher education challenges, faced at Drexel:

  1. Contain the affordability of higher education
  2. Shape future scholarship
  3. Inspire a life-long quest for learning

However, the current disruptions may evolve a far different future than we anticipated when setting our strategic directions for the period 2017 to 2022. Client responses to our accommodations to the year of disruptions and our own adjusted activities may suggest a future with greater remote teaching, learning, and supportive library operations and service; more grassroots and self-directed problem solving; slow recovery from projected financial shortfalls; and changing purposes for higher education.

Some of our responses to the year’s disruptions might be irrelevant for whatever the next “new normal” may be. Assessment of 2020 initiatives acknowledges our capacity for change and innovation. As a modern library organization, the Drexel Libraries’ challenge will be to nurture and likely redirect that capacity to consider different and possibly yet unknown opportunities to contribute to meeting Drexel’s ambitions in coming years.

2019/2020 Initiatives Advance the Drexel Libraries' Strategic Directions

The Libraries' strategic directions reinforce Drexel University's mission and ambitions to contain the affordability of higher education, shape future scholarship and inspire a life-long quest for learning. Through these strategic directions, we engage students, faculty and staff to become well-prepared to make life-long contributions to a global, knowledge-dependent society.

Contain the Affordability of Higher Education

The Libraries’ decisions about how to facilitate access to information are driven by costs, usage, and alignment with the University’s educational and research priorities. The Libraries continued its work on three initiatives in this area:

Transform the Libraries to move from “building collections” to managing cost effective access to resources through a combination of licensing, prudent purchasing, and resource sharing.

Drexel Libraries Joins OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator Early Adopter Program

Drexel Libraries Staff Continue to Calculate Annual Cost Benefits Ratios that Show the Libraries’ Cost-Effective Access to Resources [PDF]

Library Advisory Group helps Define and Vet DUL’s Selection Priorities for Making Informed Decisions Related to Cost-Effective Licensed, Purchased, & Consortia Membership Access to Published Information Resources [PDF]

Facilitate the collaborative introduction of Open Access resources in the curriculum to lower both textbook expenditures for students and the retrieval and dissemination of publications expenditures for researchers.

Panel of Library Faculty Fellows Address the Importance of Adopting Open Educational Resources

Drexel Libraries Continues Membership in Open Educational Network, Formerly the Open Textbook Network

New Video Tutorial Created for the School of Education Outlines Options for Faculty to Reduce the Cost of Textbooks for Students

Educate the campus community in the economics of the availability of information.

Libraries Inaugural Faculty Seminar Series Raises Awareness of Connecting to Scholarly Publications

Drexel Libraries Engages Faculty, Student and Staff Stakeholders to Identify how the Libraries Is Essential to the Success of the University [PDF]

The Libraries and the Office of Research & Innovation Survey PIs to Identify Drexel’s Dependencies on Access to E-Resources for Research [PDF]

Dean of Libraries Presents “The Libraries’ Ambitions for the University are at Risk” to Drexel’s Executive Council in January 2020 [PDF]

DUL Open Access Week Webinars Draw an Online Crowd of more than 30, with over 65 Recording Views within the First Two Weeks of the Broadcasts

Libraries Staff Create Open Educational Resource FAQs for Faculty and Staff Interested in Incorporating OERs into their Syllabi

Professor Park shared his reflections on "Why is Open Access important?" during the Drexel Libraries' 2020 Open Access Week festivities.

Shape Future Research

The Libraries applies its knowledge and expertise to strengthen the University’s contributions to scholarship by enabling access to and exposure of Drexel-generated research outputs to global researchers. The Libraries continued its work on three initiatives in this area:

Transform the Libraries’ systems to expand discovery, improve interoperability and enhance the exchange of information resources and data sets for researchers.

Introducing DragonSearch: the Drexel Libraries’ New, More Powerful Discovery System

Drexel Libraries Upgrades Digital Infrastructure with New Online Digital Exhibit Platform

Libraries Continues Participation in Ex Libris Esploro Early Adopter Program

Create support programs that enhance faculty and student awareness and the appropriate use of information and data sources.

ScholarSip Continues to Spark Greater Awareness of Interdisciplinary Research Nine Years Later

New Curricula Support Program Incorporates Library Research Support into Faculty Teaching

2020 Celebrating Drexel Authors Event Raises Awareness of Publishing and Disseminating Scholarship and Creative Works

Libraries Staff create Remote Teaching & Learning Resource Guide to Support Drexel Faculty and Staff During COVID-19

Evolve the Libraries’ online presence through responsive design and development strategies.

COVID-19 Triggers Move to Remote Delivery of Services

New Enhancements to ILLIAD Improve the Client Experience

Libraries Staff Continue Ongoing Work to Update Tutorials and Library Resource Guides to Meet WCAG Standards to Ensure a Quality Experience for All Clients

The Drexel Libraries redesigned its physical locations in September 2020 to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure the health and safety of all clients and Libraries staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspire a Life-long Quest for Learning

The Libraries guides the Drexel community to utilize any information responsibly and builds learning environments that promote self-directed learning. The Libraries continued its work on three initiatives in this area:

Transform the Libraries into a Learning Exploratorium that inspires and enables active learning.

Queen Lane Library Gets a Facelift in Support of Upcoming Accreditation Review

Drexel Libraries Partners with Drexel Undergraduate Student Association to Refurbish First Floor of W. W. Hagerty Library

Drexel Libraries Redesigns & Reopens its Physical Locations During COVID-19 with Proper Social Distancing & Safety Measures

Renovations to the Queen Lane Library were completed in August 2019.
The Drexel Libraries refreshed the first floor of the W. W. Hagerty Library in September 2019.

Insights from 2019/2020

Libraries staff have done a tremendous amount of work to continue ensuring access to ideas and authoritative information, to build informal learning environments in cyber and physical spaces, to deepen Drexel’s connections with scholarship, and to model a collaborative, client-focused, data-driven and entrepreneurial library that effectively leverages all its resources.

Reflecting on the impact of the major disruptions experienced during this report’s coverage period uncovers stresses between the Libraries’ role as a service provider and its potential to be a critical leader to shape the University’s future.

This report records recent Libraries achievements to serve the University in its established support primarily of teaching and learning, and secondarily of research, external partnerships, and civic engagement—service expectations that were set during times of more stable revenues, of organizational relations that reflect understanding of a library’s historic service contributions.

During the year of disruptions, we have continued core operations to meet previous client service expectations through such adjustments as shipping physical materials to off-campus addresses, managing availability of safe environments to focus on individual learning, and creating additional online research guides and webinars for use in remote classes and self-directed learning.

For the past decade at least, in response to a charge to redefine the Drexel Libraries as a library for a comprehensive research university, we have followed strategies of identifying challenges facing higher education (especially those classified as R1 institutions) and ways a modern academic library can contribute to addressing them. We have actively projected dynamic changes in pedagogies, research, scholarly communications, community membership, and higher education physical campuses. We propose ways to leverage library expertise, resources, and professional values, to help address the impact of such changes on the University’s dependencies on accessing, managing and disseminating scholarship, and on assisting learners and educators in developing skills and knowledge of how to find, evaluate and utilize information and data resources in the complex information landscape.

The importance the University will place in the next year on addressing its dependencies on efficiently and effectively managing its connections to recorded knowledge will be an accelerant for planning the Libraries’ future as a critical campus partner to shape the University as a competitive institution of higher education. We hope this report offers evidence and ideas to stimulate discussions at Drexel.

Drexel Libraries by the Numbers

Each year, the Drexel Libraries submits data to IPEDS (Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System) Academic Libraries Survey. The purpose of the Academic Libraries Survey (ALS) is to collect information on library resources, services, and expenditures from academic libraries serving degree-granting, Title IV post-secondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the outlying areas.

Download a comparison of Libraries from FY19 vs FY20 [PDF].

The Libraries' annual staff awards ceremony was held remotely via Zoom on May 4, 2020 due to the pandemic.

Libraries Staff Awards, Presentations & Publications

From July 2019 to December 2020, Drexel Libraries staff published four academic journal articles and presented 14 informational sessions at national and international conferences.

On May 20, 2020, the Libraries hosted the 11th annual Library Celebration Awards online via Zoom. During the event, the Libraries recognized seven staff members for their exceptional contributions to the Drexel Libraries over the last year.

Download the complete list of Drexel Libraries staff publications, presentations and awards [PDF].


Special thanks to all individuals and organizations for their generous support of the Drexel University Libraries in FY20.

Download the complete list of donors.

On Sept. 21, 2020, the Drexel Libraries reopened the W. W. Hagerty Library and the Hahnemann Library for modified on-campus services, six months after the Drexel campus closed due to COVID-19 (L to R: Tonie Williams, Oreste Jimenez, Stacy Stanislaw, John Wiggins)

This 2019/2020 annual report published by the Drexel University Libraries covers the period of July 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020. The data provided and list of supporters included in this report reflects the 2020 Fiscal Year (July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020).