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Forward plan 2022-2025


This forward plan sets the framework for the libraries to deliver the University of Leeds Libraries vision for 2030: Knowledge for all. There are downloadable versions of this forward plan available.

In developing this forward plan, we take into account the changing nature of the institutional, internal, and sectoral landscape along with a post-pandemic view for the libraries. We also consider the current cultural challenges and change capacity, and thus provide a focus not just on what we will achieve (our goals) but also how we will achieve them (our culture). Our aims and approach, collectively, will shape and define our overall success.

About this document

If you have not yet familiarised yourself with our vision, Knowledge for all, please take a moment to do so as it would significantly improve the experience of reading this forward plan.

This document defines Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for the next four years (2022–2025), under two categories: Functional shift and Cultural shift. Functional shift defines the OKRs for strategic programmes, whereas the Cultural shift defines the activities we will undertake in achieving the culture that is necessary for us.

During discussion, to refer to any objective, use the objective reference eg O2. To refer to any key result, use the objective reference followed by key result reference eg O2–KR1 or O19–KR3.

This document is written for both internal and external (to the libraries) audiences. This means there is a broad level of detail in here for internal teams to know what is expected of them. It is expected that programme sponsors will work with individuals from several teams to define implementation plans against objectives.

The implementation plans will be developed under a framework called Projects, Initiatives, and People (PIP), which will streamline the way we operate in libraries and build collaboration by design. This is likely to feel unnatural at the beginning and that’s ok. We will evaluate our progress and our approach every year during June and July, and revise and readjust our ways of working accordingly.

Situational analysis

The University strategy Global values, Global change and the background of a global pandemic, have acted as trigger points for us to rethink our services, and to shape our future differently. We have encapsulated this transformation in the libraries vision, which was developed in a highly consultative fashion with key stakeholders within and beyond the University. This vision was soft launched in July 2021 with the Vice-Chancellor in an all-staff meeting for the libraries, and after further design iterations and minor adjustments, officially launched in November 2021.

The vision was designed to be supplemented by two forward plans. This document is the first of these two forward plans and captures our thinking and approach for years 2022–2025.

The environment in which libraries operate has been changing rapidly. Digital has fundamentally altered the requirements and expectations of our users. We are currently living in an information economy. Information management is our business, it comes naturally to libraries. However, the information economy, fuelled by digital change, has also changed the way we work with a new generation of connected customers. We need to respond to the needs of a connected customer in a holistic way.

At a sector level, the Research Libraries UK (RLUK) new strategy, The Library Transforming, is also highlighting the transforming nature of the libraries. Its strategic strands are: Role of research library; Digital shift; Open scholarship; Culture and Heritage; and Collective Collections. Its cross-cutting themes include: Infrastructure; Rights, Copyright and Licensing; and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

The Association of European Research Libraries (Ligue des Bibliothèques Européennes de Recherche – LIBER) current strategy highlights three strategic directions. These directions are: Innovative Scholarly Communication; Digital Skills & Services; and Research Infrastructure.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in North America has four strategic priorities. These are: Advocacy & Public Policy; Data & Analytics; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Scholars & Scholarship.

The Council of Australian University Librarians strategic themes (PDF) include: Advancing Open Scholarship; Building Sustainable Leadership; Enabling a Modern Curriculum; and Respecting Indigenous Knowledge.

The Arts Council England (ACE) strategy (PDF) for 2030 highlights three strategic outcomes. These are: Creative People; Cultural Communities; and A Creative and Cultural Country.

The National Archives strategy, Archives for Everyone, highlights a renewed focus on Potential, Inclusivity, Entrepreneurship, Disruption, Action, and Creativity.

The University of Leeds Libraries vision is strongly aligned with these sectoral strategies, ensuring we remain a strong voice in shaping our collective future.

At a local level, there are three broad areas of focus for the libraries. These are to tackle Legacy issues, to provide Stability to services introduced during the pandemic, and to position us for planned Growth to accelerate and support the implementation of the University strategy. This can be achieved through a step change for the libraries, through a functional and cultural shift, and this forward plan provides the framework for this shift.

The challenges ahead of us are also great opportunities. Exploiting these opportunities will allow us to reposition ourselves as a globally significant library.

Governance and working approach

The forward plan will require participation from staff at all levels and across all teams. It is designed to empower teams in the libraries to take ownership and responsibility for our overall success. By teams, we do not necessarily mean existing teams, but colleagues who come together in an adaptive way to respond to the objectives set in the plan.

Our staff have immense expertise which will be recognised and celebrated in the implementation of our Projects, Initiatives and People (PIP) framework. There will be action plan(s) supporting this forward plan, which will allow for prioritisation and progression of projects and initiatives and will support horizontal and vertical collaboration (across teams and across all levels).

Leadership for projects and initiatives will also cut across teams and grades, with the most appropriate person providing relevant leadership. The accountability for each implementation plan is with the sponsor of the strategic programme. The accountability of the Cultural Shift is with the University Librarian.

We want to ensure that leadership for this forward plan comes from across the libraries, at all levels. For this purpose, we have adopted six leadership principles that will guide us in how we approach this forward plan. These principles are:

  • Trust and Empowerment
  • Inclusivity and Psychological Safety
  • Being Bold and Taking risks
  • High Challenge; High Support
  • Developing and Enabling Potential
  • Collaborating Across Silos.

It is important that we embrace these principles in our approach. The monitoring of progress will be formalised through quarterly libraries leadership team meetings, and the resetting of objectives/priorities will be done on a yearly basis through an away day. One of these away days will be aligned with the biennial libraries summer conference.

Functional Shift

A post-pandemic, step-change, view of the libraries must come with a functional shift for libraries. We have captured this functional shift in the four strategic programmes of our vision. These are: Digital Futures; Open Higher Education; Sustainable Environments; and Enriched Experiences.

We are taking an Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) approach for these strategic areas, enabling a delegated and empowered response to achieving these objectives.