Assessment and Preliminary Plan
Prepared by Ray
Uzwyshyn, Web Services, Richter Library
and with approval by the Richter Library Web Committee
April 2, 2003
Analysis (What is the Current Situation?)
This strategic assessment and plan surveys the current state of the
Otto Richter Library website and makes recommendations for future design,
development, administration and resource needs. It is written in light of
comparison with Richter’s ARL peer institutions and presents a strategic
plan which identifies mandates, assesses internal/external factors
surrounding the present website’s development and focuses on strategies
for discussion regarding possible directions for the University of Miami
Otto Richter Website’s future.
The focus of an assessment on the state of Richter’s web design
and development cuts to the heart of three concepts at the essence of
strategic planning: pro-activity, the ability to assess external
influences impinging on the website’s development and the recognition of
the need for collaborative and progressive change. This document marks out
parameters to bring the Otto Richter Library Website to the next stage of
web development while taking into account factors modulating this process.
It is written as an organic working document, oriented from a consultative
perspective and finding focus from the website’s mandate and “Web
The Richter Web site is a significant
point-of-contact for users accessing library resources and services. The
Web site’s functionality can contribute to (or hinder) a user’s
capability to utilize the library successfully. Enhancing and improving
the library’s Web site requires the focused efforts of a team of library
faculty and staff.
The charge for the Web Team is to serve as the
editorial board for the library’s Web site. The Web Team has approval
over the content and design of the top-level pages of the site. The Web
Team is responsible for coordinating the overall organization and
presentation of networked information resources and services via the Web
(Web Team Charge)
Background and Environmental Scanning
Essentially, the current Richter Library Website is an amalgam of
several larger and smaller university library and departmental sites
linked through Richter Library’s unique and central status.
Historically, the library’s web presence began in the early
nineties and was managed, maintained and designed by a single person.
Since then, the size of the library’s presence has grown
exponentially. Web administrative responsibilities and departments
requesting developmental assistance have expanded. Unfortunately, the
human resources component, planning and policy infrastructure allocated to
maintain this larger presence has not accompanied the Website’s
expansion. It is also generous
to say that in a comparison with Richter’s ARL peer institutions done
for this assessment (Appendix A), the human resources and infrastructure
to accompany Richter’s website was in the lowest third.
In terms of the site’s larger design,
while there is an adherence to a University ‘consumer identity’, this
is a loose rather than well thought out application of visual metaphor,
graphic innovation, style sheets and form. In
terms of technology, a
combination of HTML with various database driven Website technologies have
been used. In terms of newer multimedia
technologies, various examples are on the site, but the use of a
multimedia schema is not widespread. In
terms of structure, a defined
structure and information architecture have been mapped by the previous
web administrator and various departments.
It is now time that this structure be examined and investigated as
a consultative point for undertaking the next level of focused,
user-oriented information architecture.
these preliminary considerations in mind, a series of initial web
committee brainstorming-oriented meetings should be initiated to acquaint
members and other interested parties regarding the current state of
various parts of the Library’s Website design, content and structure. In
this initial phase, parallel library website development and
forward-looking technology directions of larger website prototypes should
also be explored. This
beginning should be supplemented by working reports from various Web
committee members regarding requests for content features for the library
site’s future development. Design initiatives should also be implemented
on the micrological level keeping ideas of organic growth, innovation,
active change and forward technology perspectives in mind.
External Analysis (Looking Around)
Currently, many factors in the Library’s external environment
influence the Library’s site development:
primary factors influencing development regard the ‘social’ – library faculty, staff, institutional and user needs.
No less important are ‘economic’
and budgetary constraints
figured through human resources allocated to work on the Website’s
development and time constraints impinging on human resources
to establish goals. Differently angled, other considerations
surround ‘technological’ change, human resource skills, technology
required in order to accomplish and maintain initiatives (i.e. servers,
software, hardware) and limitations extra to the technology (i.e. download
times, modem speeds, browser and system compatibility issues).
less important is an integration of the Website’s design into the needs
of the entire U.M. Community and into the cultural
milieu and environment in which the
is located, acknowledging
as a global city and as a gateway to and from
while a political valence to the site’s developmental direction is not
transparent, it should be noted that the University web committee, of
which the Library is a part, sees the University’s web presence as
having an important marketing focus for attracting students.
Analysis (Self Study
In terms of staff, currently, it is fair to say, Web Services is
under or minimally staffed in comparison to other ARL peer institutions
(Appendix A) and below other tier one private research universities. A
single allocated employee is assigned to the Website’s daily
administration, maintenance, coordination, long-term design and
development initiatives. Another position is assigned to specialized
projects and digital initiatives not directly concerned with the
library’s website. A few widely placed student assistants from other
departments work on web concerns as portions of their duties.
In terms of equipment, while resources are present in the larger
library environment, there is no dedicated library Web lab or budget
assigned specifically to develop a ‘Web Resource’ Centre, continuous
learning or Research and Development environment for a library web group
(i.e. Duke, mid-sized 5 person library web group model).
With regards to strategies, the current strategy of the Website
works largely without a safety net of established policies and much in
defense, keeping up as much as possible with lists of daily requests
regarding content related administrative changes and letting a pro-active
SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
Identifying Attributes (What are Our Major Strengths?)
- Current strengths of the website include a mapped out
structure and foundational placement of library services within a
large site map.
- Through its various branches, departments,
multifaceted librarian expertise and collections (i.e. archives, south
campus collection, Government, Florida and Cuban heritage), the
library possesses a treasure trove of bibliographic riches with
regards to the possibilities for future digitization projects and
providing information resources for students and faculty.
- The capacity of an advisory web team to act in a
larger policy making capacity, effective forum and lobbying body.
Identifying Constraints and Weaknesses (What Inhibits Us?)
- Lack of stratification of authority. Because there is
essentially a single person handling administration, coordination,
design and long-term vision, a pro-active longer term plan gets lost
in day-to-day concerns.
- Lack of policy with regards to design decisions.
Because there is a lack of policy regarding authority as to design
issues, the larger site’s design becomes lost with various
department heads and individuals making their own design decisions,
haphazardly implemented and without regard for site-wide consistency.
- Lack of policy with regards to submitting requests for
changes from departments. Because of a lack of policy for submission
requests regarding various parties (i.e. the feedback form, casual
requests, informal requests on paper, verbally and by phone), workflow
gets slowed down and/or misinterpreted.
- Lack of a focused long-term commitment to a Website
vision. Because of a lack of longer term coordination, staff and
benchmarks, the Library website grows amorphously without direction or
- Lack of human resources and budget needed to
accomplish recommendations, web team or otherwise.
- Lack of social research and human usability studies
(i.e. faculty, students, staff, visitors) of the library Website’s
actual usability and use.
- Lack of workflow regarding subject/electronic
resources section of website. Because of the way the subject resources
database is currently set up (dynamic, but not working dynamically),
input is time-consuming and inefficient.
- Lack of policy regarding content-related issues of
various subject and department areas. Because of a lack of policy with
regards to the submission of materials (i.e. grammatically correct,
coherent and ‘in final draft form’ before being submitted for HTML
markup), writing ‘content’ that should be handled by respective
departments and areas is added to the roster of Web Services.
- Lack of Library Website policy regarding
‘authority’ over design and web administration issues. Because of
a lack of policy regarding ‘authority’ for design and ‘who makes
pages’, site design becomes amorphous and site security compromised
as various departments submit variously composed pages for uploading.
- To benefit the larger University population in terms
of socio-economic, cultural and information retrieval gains.
- To position the library as an academic leader and
technologically progressive model to follow with regards to other ARL
peer institutions and the implementation of new media rich
technologies and cutting edge design.
- To develop the web committee into an innovative and
powerful forum for forward thinking ideas regarding new Library
Website innovation and policy development.
- The unpredictable nature of the Internet and current
- Miscommunication between departments and lack of
proper policies regarding delegation of authority for the Website’s
design and individual pages.
Lack of research and development time to allocate to tasks.
Technophobe orientations towards change and experimentation.
Goals and Objectives (What Do
We Want Our Future to Be?)
- The service goal of the Otto G. Richter library
website is to provide a leading edge library website for users
accessing library resources and services.
- The human resource goal is to develop a staff
infrastructure capable of implementing, maintaining and upgrading such
a website with a long-term progressive vision.
- The administrative goal is to develop a policy
structure and make funding needs explicit so that a budget can be
allocated and the website’s development and presence can flourish in
the larger library and University structure.
1.1 To implement a site-wide redesign for the Library website with
forward-looking attention to issues of design aesthetics, multimedia, rich
media perspectives and innovation (i.e. Flash, motion graphics, sound,
video components, e-reference).
2.1 To develop a tiered technical team capable of implementing and
maintaining a cutting edge university library website and internally
training a next tier of student assistants.
3.1 To educate existing library staff or Web Committee members on
current design trends, visual literacy and design technologies so that
current competencies can be placed in better dialogue with forward
perspectives regarding Web Concerns in order to make discriminating
4.1 To innovatively manage the administration and day-to-day
requests of a larger university library Web presence within a policy
defined workflow (i.e. feedback forms etc.) beneficial to the library and
5.1 To make administration and wider University links aware of new
technological possibilities so that proactive planning can be engendered
for the Library website’s future development.
6.1. To initiate, develop and implement a series of usability
studies to gain a better understanding of the Library user populations’
needs (i.e. faculty, students, staff, visitors) and requirements.
of Strategy (What Means do We Adopt?)
Identifying Strategic Issues
The Web Committee should be
consulted to generate a list of other strategic issues regarding the
Adequate and Trained Staff:
Developing and training an in-house department to maintain, deliver and
upkeep a larger university library website and a wider staff, educated,
creative and pro-active with suggestions for innovation and features.
Adopting appropriate technology that is congruent with larger web trends
while providing wide usability and accessibility.
Adequate Time for Staff:
Creating an adequate space with regard to policies for web services and
library staff, to be able to generate a creative workflow and work on
design experimentation, research and development related issues while
balancing daily administrative concerns.
- Strategies are the policies that guide decisions.
Keeping this in mind, the Web Committee should set up a regular
schedule to more precisely focus on specific strategies, objectives
and issues that can be developed into policy.
- With regards to a longer-term web vision, a campaign
with regards to the site should be initiated internally and externally
for the next five years.
- Present human resources allocation should be examined
by management to decide on a realistic allocation for the library
website with regards to a longer-term design, development and budget.
- Individual departments should be informed and educated
about the library’s longer term website strategic plan and opinion
- The strategies outlined above should be reviewed by
the Web Committee to solicit opinions and independent assessments of
the proposed draft plan for amendment, critique and improvement.
- Senior library management should be given these plans
for suggestion and review.
- Objectives should be measured as met.
- A preliminary experimentation with page prototypes
regarding specific aspects of the site (i.e. home page, specific
departments) should be begun with opinions from the Web Committee
taken into account.
- Once a larger Site-Wide design is initiated, timelines
and benchmarks should be made explicit and reviewed.
- Web usability studies should also be undertaken by the
Web Committee and creatively developed through survey, questionnaire
and user focus groups so that adequate data can be obtained as to how
the larger library website is actually used.
The Desired Future (Conclusions)
Strategic planning assists the university library Website
initiating a mode of thinking that facilitates projecting the institution
into the desired future. Our
faculty and student patrons exist in a technologically mediated reality.
UM librarians are trained at the vanguard of navigation in the new
world of information. Our
online web presence should similarly act as a front line beacon to
illuminate this future.
A – ARL Peer Institutions Comparison
For this study, a brief survey was conducted in
March 2003 of Richter Library’s ARL peer institutions to make better
comparisons with parallel allocations and plans.
Various Web Services departments of the ARL peer institutions were
contacted and data was gathered through phone, e-mail and websites from
the following e-mail letter and survey questions:
We're conducting a
brief survey at the
's Richter library of parallel university
library institutions to get an idea about the comparative sizes of the
human resources component involved in maintaining, developing and
designing the library web presence on a daily basis.
Would you take a moment to briefly answer these few questions or
forward this e-mail along to the appropriate university library web
master/mistress or library web team leader/coordinator?
How many full and/or
part time staff are assigned to the web services component of maintaining
and managing your university's library web presence (i.e. Web Development,
Web Design, Programming, Planning, Administration etc.)?
this a team and if so, what are the titles?
How many student
assistants are directly involved in the library website's maintenance,
administration and design?
Any other brief
comments relating to the amount of human resources directly allocated
towards the library website's maintenance, administration, planning and
design would be appreciated.
Peer Institutions Survey Results Sample
(While some of the
institutions did not respond, many obliged with e-mails and follow up
telephone calls. Full e-mail
comments are available)
parallel institutions had more people directly involved in web
design/programming on a daily basis than the U of Miami’s Richter’s
resource allocation. This
varied from large peer library web commitments and initiatives (i.e. John
Hopkins 9/20) to more realistic allocations (i.e. Duke 5 Fulltime,
Vanderbilt 2.5 Fulltime/ 5 part time). All
libraries surveyed had at least one dedicated position allocated to web
services - many had entire departments. Richter library ranked in the
lowest third for allocation with regards to Web Services (1-2). It was
similar to other low ranking ARL peer institutions (i.e. U of Washington,
Tulane, 1-2) in that this deficit was recognized and reassessment under
way. These expansions were
commented on with regards to the survey’s final question regarding human
resources allocated to the library site’s maintenance, administration,
planning and design. While a few peer library web teams acted in only
consultative/advisory capacities, many
web team infrastructures were composed of staff whose duties/skills
involved ‘site development, programming and design on a daily basis.
Richter did stand out in that it made higher use of student
assistants with regards to site development than other institutions.
Another trend from the survey was the move towards centralization
of ‘web services’ as a unit in itself.
19 May 2003