The Sustainable Strategic Advancement of Academic Libraries: a SWOT analysis (Parallel Paper)

24th May 202313:10Harbour Suite 5


This presentation will use the well-established SWOT analysis technique to examine a selection of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats impacting academic libraries collectively and influencing their status and positioning. These shape the academic library in terms of what it is and does, how it is seen, where it excels and struggles, and its potential for advancement and decline. An understanding of them, and how they interact to generate sometimes unexpected effects and outcomes, is essential to sustainable strategic advancement.

In terms of sustainability, strengths include the predisposition of academic libraries towards collaboration and partnership with other parties and with each other to positive effect. Among the weaknesses are an economic situation in which often static budgets chase sustained rises in expectations and costs. A key opportunity is the disruption to existing paradigms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, opening the way to take new directions or accelerate ongoing changes. Global uncertainty and political, economic, social and technological disruption represent a real threat, creating a very challenging operating environment.

This analysis is focused on helping academic libraries to maximise the sustainability of their positioning by leveraging their strengths, addressing particular weaknesses, taking the major opportunities presented to them and mitigating significant threats they confront. It acknowledges context as vital and variable for different libraries and takes full account of the wider higher education environment. The presentation will propose strategies from which academic libraries may wish to select and pursue where relevant, with the aim of advancing their situation sustainably. These include active positioning, being political, maximising social capital and maintaining long-term perspective.

The environment on and beyond the campus is challenging, uncertain and fast-changing, but academic libraries, if they can mitigate the weaknesses and threats they confront, have much to build on through their established strengths and the opportunities available to them.