Vision: TU Delft Library’s Digital Service Programme will deliver sustainable, trusted and engaging digital services that help meet the strategic aims of Delft University of Technology.
Within this vision, the ambition is to
- Be responsive to research and educational demands, without losing sight of need for inclusivity and specific interests
- For services and library staff to have a mature sense of digital literacy, and meet user expectation about digital services in the 21st century
- Be flexible and innovative. Not necessarily open source, but avoiding lock in, expense and inflexible commercial solutions – interoperable, connectable
- Be at the same time sustainable. Recognising the technical, strategic and financial side of a digital service – all must be met, and done so efficiently
- Be in close collaboration with ICT, with well-developed processes and governance for managing critical digital tools
- Engaging partners locally nationally and internationally to expand the reach and sustainability of digital services
- Employ staff who are engaged, innovative, and data- and ‘service-literate’.
- Preserve and present collections and value their immediate worth, but also their long-term value within the broader concept of science & technology in society
- Acknowledge the role of the library in driving such services forward
What improvements will the programme bring? (Benefits)
The TU Delft Library Digital Programme will result in benefits for three distinct groups:
Users of the service(s)
- Will have a clear sense of purpose of the service(s), and know where to find them
- Will want to engage with the service because it will help meet their research or educational goals
- Will want to co-create and interact with the creation of the services
- Will trust the service (both in terms of the content and its long-term existence)
As managers of these services, the library will
- Will have a clear sense of purpose of each service
- Oversee services that are technically, financially and strategically sustainable. (according to public definitions of sustainable services)
- Interact with users, and have mechanisms for getting user feedback and improving the services
- Be capable of adapting or inventing new services to responding to trends in research and education
- Have staff equipped with the skills to engage and respond with these trends
- At a management level, have a clear understanding and evidence of how to make long-term strategic decisions regarding these services, supported by clear assessment mechanisms
- see the value in context of university strategy (especially CvB)
- Understand and appreciate the role of TU Delft library in running these services (especially ICT)
- Wish to work more with the services (external partners)
How will the projects be incorporated into the library as a whole?
TU Delft runs a number of established digital services that are used within and outwith TU Delft. Yet there are many areas where improvements can be made.
Above all, the services suffer from being siloed. Siloed in a technical context, in that each service uses a different technical architecture and storage mechanism; siloed in terms of interoperability, in that there is no link between the services via APIs and exchange of data. Most importantly, there is little strategic synergy between the services – each service operates without awareness of how working with each other could be mutually beneficial.
This is exacerbated by having intermittent engagement with users. Most digital services already collect information about user engagement (e.g. search terms, user journeys). But little use is made of current techniques to analyse that data and evaluate in detail how users are engaging with the service.
Equally, services currently lack the skills and time to construct user groups, run surveys and execute similar methods to ascertain other types of user feedback. Services therefore evolve in a more opportunistic fashion, where trending ideas and the engaged support of a small number of possible users drive the momentum of the service. This is needed when starting a service, but does not provide a base for sustainability over a number of years.
Finally, it is difficult for users to find the services. The website is muddled and offers no clear way to locate services. Often, the mission of the service is not clear, or indistinguishable from other services. Interfaces follow no consistent pattern.
Flash forward to 2024
Where do we want to be? In 2024, TU Delft Library is at the heart of the digital university, and offers digital services that are intuitive, high-quality and trusted, sustainable in technical, financial and staffing contexts.
In 2024, TU Delft digital services are easily findable and recognisable as being part of the library. Services do not look uniform, but follow a consistent pattern. Their mission is clearly understood.
The services are connected without becoming part of a slow-moving monolithic system. Staff have the ability to make use of APIs and exchange interoperable data between services. Efficiencies are achieved by using similar software and underlying storage – without forcing services to use the same system. This will all be underpinned by a close relationship with ICT.
They are informed by metrics, without being ruled by them. The services have strong connections to users, listening and responding to them quickly. Expertise is applied in usability testing, and in gathering and analysing online user data, without damaging the anonymity of users. Digital services have embedded networks within the university that they can also get real-world feedback from users – via surveys, user groups etc.
Meanwhile, staff learn and apply the skills to undertake such user interaction. There exists a fundamental understanding of the importance of user engagement and how to do it. This is part of a larger transition where staff feel not just at ease within the digital realm, but are confident to innovate, design, develop new and existing services.
More generally within the Library, there is a culture of openness; “We should share what we’re doing whenever we can. With colleagues, with users, with the world. Share code, share designs, share ideas, share intentions, share failures. The more eyes there are on a service the better it gets – howlers are spotted, better alternatives are pointed out, the bar is raised.”
Staff have the right balance of skills to run high-quality digital services (collaboration skills, data literacy, software, business planning, project-based working, user engagement.) Where services are procured from third parties, staff have expertise in defining requirements, initiating procurement processes and then governing and managing such services once contracts are established.
Work within the library is service-orientated rather than just based on the hierarchy of internal teams. Management has the evidence to make informed long-term decisions that align to library and university strategy. Among staff, there is a clarity about the purpose of each service.