Enriching the Library Experience The FY2019-2023 Strategic Plan of the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the world's largest library, with nearly 170 million items in our collections, and extensive expert services and programs. What does this mean for you?
The Library of Congress has built the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled. It is an aweinspiring achievement—a testament to the wisdom of Congresses throughout our history, which have invested national resources in the ideal of a universal collection available to all.
Yet, as Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam noted more than a century ago, "A book used is fulfilling a higher purpose than a book which is merely preserved." In other words, it is not enough to collect and preserve. To be successful, collections must be used. This same principle applies to all parts of our agency— services and programs too must be accessible and used.
The Library's collection and its human expertise hold untold intellectual and inspirational value. I have seen firsthand the spark that results when someone makes a connection with the Library: when a Member of Congress is moved listening to a historian bring to life a founding document of history; when high school music students from Maryland studied the papers of Leonard Bernstein and wrote original music inspired by what they saw; when teachers at our summer institutes have shared with me their innovative strategies for making history come alive using the Library's collections in the classroom; when Smokey Robinson saw his very first piece of sheet music submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office.
How do we extend those experiences to people across the country?
To meet this challenge, the Library is embarking on an exciting new journey that puts users first. By expanding access and enhancing services, while applying data and optimizing resources, we will build lifelong and meaningful connections with our users of today and of tomorrow. This strategic plan, Enriching the Library Experience, is our roadmap to expanding the Library's reach and deepening our impact, thus fulfilling our mission to engage, inspire, and inform our users. I can't wait to see the many thousands of sparks we ignite. Maybe one of them will be yours.
14th Librarian of Congress
Engage, inspire, and inform Congress and the American people with a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity.
Service to Congress has been and remains at the core of our mission. We will continue to engage, inspire, and inform Congress through our collections and our diverse service and experience offerings, including policy consultations, on-demand analysis, briefings, events, programs, and constituent engagement.
As the steward of a unique, universal, and ever-growing collection that belongs to the American people, the Library of Congress also has a mandate to inspire, inform, and serve all Americans by engaging their cultural and intellectual curiosity and creativity.
Our mission in action takes many forms:
Researchers and authors turn to the Library for source material not available anywhere else. With access to original manuscripts, ancient maps, rare books, photographs, films, and sound recordings, these authors create new works that help interpret history for future generations. The process of copyright registration and deposit completes a virtuous cycle that may result in the addition of these new works to the Library's collections.
The Library helps ensure that millions of Americans with blindness and other disabilities continue to experience the joy of reading through a national network of libraries that distribute the latest contemporary literature in a variety of accessible formats.
With 1.6 million annual visitors, the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building has become a landmark destination, renowned for its architectural beauty and celebration of knowledge and creativity.
Programs, exhibitions, centers, and marquee events such as the Veterans History Project, National Book Festival, and Digital Learning Labs expand the Library's reach and inspire learners of all ages.
Congress, the judiciary, and other federal agencies have reliable, round-the-clock access to reliable knowledge in print, online, and via consultation with scholars and experts from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Copyright Office, the Law Library, and the Kluge Center.
Families seeking to research their heritage can rely on subject experts in our reading rooms, tap into the StoryCorps Archive, or take advantage of the vast digital collections of early American newspapers.
All Americans are connected to the Library of Congress.
The Library's vision is aspirational and speaks to the tangible and intangible connections that are possible with the nation we serve. Through our unequaled collections, services, events, and products, users can connect with the Library in meaningful ways throughout their life journey.
This vision reinforces the agency's focus on users—visitors, researchers, and patrons from a variety of locations, circumstances, and walks of life—by expanding our efforts to make the nation's universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity more discoverable, accessible, relevant, and useful.
Connectedness has many forms for the Library:
Informing lawmakers, policy-makers, and their constituents requires us to be connected intellectually.
Engaging and sharing knowledge with users worldwide, and quickly and easily copyrighting creative works requires us to be connected digitally.
Creating strong ties that move partners, organizations, and individuals to donate their time, resources, stories, and creative works requires us to be connected societally.
Being a unified organization requires being connected to our workforce with support, training, and a sustained commitment to recruit the next generation of Library experts and leaders.
The goals and objectives in this Strategic Plan help us get closer to this vision. Enhancing awareness of the Library's offerings, improving discoverability of and access to those resources, and increasing usage through a suite of services that meet diverse needs will connect more people to the agency in more meaningful ways.
Additionally, with a strong emphasis on digital enablement, the Strategic Plan will further the Library's worldwide influence.
A Unified Role
The Library's more than 3,000 dedicated staff work every day to provide authoritative Memory and objective information to Congress.
Library staff build, steward, describe, and share the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of knowledge; examine and register hundreds of thousands of copyright claims for works of original authorship every year; interpret complex, dynamic legal issues for Congress, the judiciary, and executive agencies; provide primary source-based curricula; design and host events and programs across a broad spectrum of creative and intellectual interests; distribute accessible versions of the latest books to people who are blind or have other print or learning disabilities; and demonstrate leadership in their professional fields.
The Library's rich and diverse body of work can be framed in terms largely inspired by Thomas Jefferson's organizing construct for his personal library—the core from which the Library's collection developed:
Acquire, sustain, and provide access to a universal collection;
Provide authoritative and objective research, analysis, and information;
Inspire and encourage creativity, promote and support the work of American creators.
Developed by and applied to all parts of the agency, these concepts transcend our organizational boundaries and inform the goals and objectives which comprise this Strategic Plan.
The unifying themes of Memory/Knowledge/Imagination ground the strategy; the direction forward guides it.
In executing this Strategic Plan over the next five years, the agency is making a decisive shift to be more user centered, digitally enabled, and data driven.
We are a user-centered organization. Therefore, our strategic decisions consider what users want and expect from their national library. Improving user experience is not a one-time event; rather, it represents a fundamentally new way of operating. As such, it requires our leadership to build the capabilities and infrastructure that will enable this transformation.
Our staff are some of the Library's best ambassadors. The new strategy seeks to harness staff insight and their contributions to elevate the user experience. All staff, including those in internal-facing roles, have a part to play in this effort.
As much as we desire to have every American come to Washington, D.C., to visit the Library, that is not possible. This is why being digitally enabled is paramount to our success.
Realizing a digitally enabled Library of Congress is an ongoing process. As technology advances, new business models emerge and user expectations evolve. We will take a long view, developing strategies that account for what is on the horizon. Our Digital Strategy will be closely aligned with the Strategic Plan.
A data driven organization is one that embeds analysis, data, and reasoning into the decision- making process. Efforts to embed analytics have begun in pockets throughout the Library. Becoming a data-driven organization, however, means determining how best to scale these projects across the Library to drive
greater business impact.
Moving forward, we will increase our investment to take advantage of the tremendous amount of data associated with our vast collections. We are also building upon previous efforts to learn more about our users in order to tailor our services.
Being User Centered
The Library has a rich history of serving a diverse group of users.
Dating back to the mid-19th century, Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford managed the transition of the Library from an entity whose role was exclusively in service to Congress to one also serving a more general audience as an institution of knowledge. Today, we continue this pursuit. Being user centered means thinking about the Library in the life of the user instead of the more traditional model of thinking about the user in the life of the Library.
The agency's strategy centers around four user groups: Congress, Creators, Learners, and Connectors.
First and foremost, supporting access to authoritative information and the democratic exchange of ideas
Researchers, originators of new knowledge and scholarship, builders of cultural capacity, and copyright users and stakeholders
Those of any age who seek understanding and knowledge through the Library's digital and physical collections and services
External communities such as libraries, schools, and other groups and institutions that ultimately connect users with the Library
These groups are not mutually exclusive. Users can assume different personas to interact with the Library in multiple capacities in a single day or over the course of their life. They can do so from different locations, using different platforms and devices. Understanding these factors are part of designing an optimized user
Improving our understanding of the myriad ways users interact with the Library's collections, experts, and services is fundamental to delivering our mission. Each interaction is an opportunity to move people along a path, from awareness to discovery, then to use, and finally, to connection with the Library—a continuum that
renews itself over time.
The User Experience Continuum
Many people describe the Library as a beautiful museum or a resource for Congress and scholars, but that is not the full story. We want to broaden awareness and ensure people know even more about what the Library offers—and specifically what it can uniquely offer each person. We also want to learn more about
those who do not know that the Library is a resource available for them. We will use this knowledge to target our outreach efforts.
Our users should be able to find what they are looking for easily and as intuitively as possible. Current user experiences—shaped via search engines, social media platforms, available metadata, and always-connected devices—have led to an expectation that relevant information will rise to the top and in many cases present itself to a user even without asking. While this is a challenging expectation for any organization to meet, in some ways this is where libraries excel. Because of our expert staff, we are well-suited to expose interesting relationships, enable "serendipitous discovery," and facilitate creativity.
Once an item from our collections, a particular expert, or a service we offer has been found, it needs to be useful and delivered in a way that engenders a positive experience. While the primary function of the agency is to serve Congress, many other organizations and individuals use the Library. Given the diverse needs and global dispersion of these groups, we will improve our existing offerings while seeking innovative ways for people to interact with the Library.
The user experience continuum culminates with connection. A connection happens when the user interacts with an item or service and leaves feeling that the experience was personally relevant and valuable. This continuum is renewed as we inform people of reasons to return to the Library and share new ways to engage with and explore our offerings, thus inspiring a connection that strengthens over time.