Richter Library Website

 Strategic Assessment and Preliminary Plan


Prepared by Ray Uzwyshyn, Web Services, Richter Library

In consultation and with approval by the Richter Library Web Committee

April 2, 2003



Library Website 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 Team’s Charge”:


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 site.

                                                                           (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.

Keeping 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:

Immediately, 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).

 No 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 University of Miami is located, acknowledging Miami as a global city and as a gateway to and from Latin America and the Caribbean .  

 Finally, 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. 

Internal Analysis  (Self Study Processes)  

            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 agenda lapse.


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 long-term goals.


  • 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 bandwidth limitations.

  • 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.

Larger Objectives

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 judgments.


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 University’s mandates.


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.


 Formulation 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 website’s development.

Longer-term issues:

 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.

 Appropriate Technology:
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.

 Strategic Implementation  

  • 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 reports.

Performance Measurement

  • 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.

Appendix 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 University of Miami '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.)?


 Is 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.




ARL 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)



Home:  http://www.duke.edu/




Library: http://www.lib.duke.edu/




Strategic Plan: http://staff.lib.duke.edu/renovation/critical.htm



Full Time/Part Time 5/17

5 Full time Web Services/3 Content Development/ 17 part time



Team (Y/N)

Yes 5 Core Web Services/ 3 Specifically Web  Development



Student Assts.




Johns Hopkins

Home: http://www.jhu.edu/




Library: http://www.jhu.edu/www/library/




Main : http://milton.mse.jhu.edu/



Full Time/Part Time

1/ 40 Part Time/Department. See Below For Breakdown



Team (Y/N)

Y/Content Creators (2/Dept.)/Content Managers (2/Dept.)/Web Committee 4-5 Members



Student Assts.

No/regular salaried employees instead.




Home: http://library.tulane.edu/



Library: http://library.tulane.edu/




Strategic Plan: http://library.tulane.edu/Strpln.htm



Full Time/Part Time




Team (Y/N)




Student Assts.





Home: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/




Library: http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/




Strategic Plan: http://staffweb.library.vanderbilt.edu/lmc/stratplan.htm



Full Time/Part Time





Team (Y/N)

Y Web Task Force 5 People/9 maintain individual Sections



Student Assts.




Wash.U, St. Louis

Home: http://www.wustl.edu/




Library: http://library.wustl.edu/




Mission :  http://library.wustl.edu/about/vision.html



Full Time/Part Time

 1/25 assigned to various sections



Team (Y/N)

Yes/ Currently Expanding for Redesign



Student Assts.





Web Group: http://www.brown.edu/Facilities/University_Library/MODEL/wig/index.html



Full Time/Part Time




Team (Y/N)                          

Y/Web Interest Group 5 (Currently Expanding into Web Access Group)





     Most 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.


Posted by
John Renaud, jrenaud@miami.edu

Last Modified
19 May 2003