Review of Heard Libraries shows satisfaction with services, offers recommendations for continued improvement

Central Library (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt)
Central Library (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt)

An external review of the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries conducted during the 2019-20 academic year and completed this summer finds that the libraries have “made significant improvements since the 2015 Report of the Future of the Libraries Committee and (are) well-regarded by faculty and students.” The review also notes Heard Libraries’ “great successes in deep engagement and collaboration with faculty,” and a campus-wide survey finds high levels of satisfaction with library services.

Because faculty’s and students’ needs are constantly evolving, the report makes recommendations across five broad goals, including:

  • Integrating Heard Libraries more fully into the context of campus, including the undergraduate experience, and creating partnerships with faculty based on their teaching needs;
  • Including the Heard Libraries in the continued implementation of the university’s Academic Strategic Plan;
  • Optimizing the use of physical spaces, including the new Digital Commons;
  • Fostering digital partnerships and streamlining infrastructure; and
  • Supporting faculty and student research through a responsive and collaborative approach to collection development and acquisitions.

“This report provides a vital roadmap for next-generation improvements that will enhance our libraries for faculty, students and staff at Vanderbilt. I appreciate all who took the time to be interviewed by the report’s authors,” said Susan R. Wente, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“In response to the pandemic, the Heard Libraries have already adapted and taken important steps to meet the evolving needs of our university,” Wente said. “This report, combined with learnings from necessary COVID-related efforts and forthcoming recommendations from the Digital Support Services Committee, will further position the libraries to best serve the diverse needs of the entire Vanderbilt community.”

To the extent that several of the recommendations emphasized the growth of digital scholarship and related platforms, the report’s release during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for adaptability and forward-thinking strategies to meet community needs.

“The Heard Libraries admirably increased their support of faculty and graduate student research when the university was largely closed over the summer,” noted Vanessa Beasley, vice  provost for academic affairs and dean of residential faculty. “The report asks us to assess those mechanisms for support of faculty and students at all levels even more robustly now, placing the libraries at the heart of the academic mission of the university.”

“I love the fact that this report recognizes the incredible progress we’ve made while offering incisive and innovative recommendations for significant further progress,” University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss said. “Vanderbilt libraries are central to the educational and research mission, and this report encourages us not only to build upon strengths, but to respond to rapidly changing research and teaching environments.”