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How academic librarians can use strategic planning to align with university goals: part two

23 May 2023

By Paula Milewska

Professionals collaborating across table in an office setting

Learn how to create an effective stakeholder map to guide your communication plan.

Understanding stakeholders and managing those relationships are incredibly important to show value. “It is useful both for internal planning – for instance, for an internal workflow that only impacts library employees – or for a large initiative that impacts multiple groups across the institution because it helps ensure that you do not inadvertently forget someone. It helps ensure that the right people are at the table at the right point in the process,” says Michael Levine-Clark, workshop moderator.

Part one covered critical stages librarians must take if they are to better understand how and where to focus their efforts. This article will cover defining university stakeholders and establishing meaningful relationships.

These strategies were developed as part of a workshop Elsevier conducted with library leaders in Poland during our recent Annual Conference, Open Science: Practice and Perspectives, to support libraries in demonstrating their value to their institution.

Define University Stakeholders and Establish Meaningful Relationships

The goal of this step in the process is to create grids of stakeholders to define, where possible, their exact role in the university’s hierarchy.

In this part of the workshop, participants were asked to map out two specific, current university goals that were most relevant for Polish institutions, along with the stakeholders they felt were most aligned with advancing each goal. Participants used the Mayfield stakeholder management method to create the maps and then discussed the results surrounding research excellence, research assessment, and evaluation.

The beauty of this approach is you aren’t limited to a single map and can instead create additional maps for stakeholders across the institution for separate initiatives like finding support, expressing new ideas, and developing communication strategies.

Dr Katarzyna Weinper, The Director of The Centre of Scientific and Technical Information at The Lublin University of Technology, is sure that she will use this method in her library “to define roles in teams, to make decisions and plan strategies.” “I think that mapping accelerates planning of future steps, literally showing the people who should be involved in projects,” Weinper says.

More about this collaborative event

Once a year, Elsevier organizes a conference in Poland titled “Open Science: practise and perspectivesopens in new tab/window” (OSPP). The event is dedicated to the Polish librarians’ community and includes two days of sessions and workshops attended by, and contributed to, by representatives of the community. During the workshop, we share experiences and knowledge, showcase best practices, and hold open discussions about important challenges surrounding the development of Open Science.

In the 2022 workshop, we focused on supporting research excellence, framing it from different angles, including data management, Open Access publishing, the role of the library in the development of Open Science, challenges around research assessment and evaluation, and the use of CRIS or RIMS systems at universities. The event was organized in partnership with the Gdańsk Tech Libraryopens in new tab/window.

How to create a university stakeholder map

  1. Pull a team together to brainstorm ideas and create a plan

  2. Discuss and thoroughly think through potential stakeholders. NOTE: Over-identifying is not a bad thing, it’s better than leaving a key stakeholder out

  3. Place identified stakeholders on your map(s) and group them into four categories:

    • Governance segment (e.g., decision-makers, rector, dean)

    • Provider segment (e.g., vendors, partners such as Elsevier)

    • Influencer segment (e.g., influential researchers, heads of doctoral schools)

    • Customer segment (e.g., researchers, students)

  4. Don’t be afraid to adapt and rethink your map(s)

Keep in mind, there is no way to create a "perfect map for everyone". Typical stakeholders like rectors, deans, and student representatives are common, but the most important thing when listing these people is to answer the question "who has the real power?"

From our discussions, we found out that in some matters a vice-chancellor may have more power than a rector, or there may be a strong influencer among professors who has a real impact on decisions. These are just a few examples that show how this analysis needs to be modified and clarified on a case-by-case basis.

Create a stakeholder communication plan

After deciding on the stakeholders, it’s important to understand the appropriate communication level. Determine the level of power and interest of key stakeholders and plot them on a graph. Group stakeholders into four categories:

  1. Vital to engage

  2. Need to engage

  3. Good to engage

  4. Courtesy to inform

This visual will always help you in more efficient communication supporting achieving your goals!

Download the stakeholder map templateopens in new tab/window

Pictured above (left to right): Paula Milewska, Witold Kozakiewicz, Małgorzata Rychlik, Michael Levine-Clark, Dr Katarzyna Weinper

Paula Milewska joined Elsevier in 2019, first working as a freelance trainer and then assuming the role of Customer Consultant in 2021, both in support of customers in Central and Eastern Europe. Her expertise is in training—knowing how best to package and present information so it’s relevant and actionable. A librarian by degree and training, Paula worked as a librarian at the University of Lodz, the University of Humanities and Economics in Lodz and the Medical University of Lodz and served as a board member and project manager for the Phenomenon Foundation. Paula was awarded an undergraduate degree in Polish Philology and a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Lodz and matriculated from the elite leader education program at the School for Leaders Foundation and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.

Witold Kozakiewicz has a Master of Science degree on IT, postgraduate diploma on Scientific Information and Librarianship. He is the Director of the Information and Library Centre of the Medical University of Lodzopens in new tab/window, Poland, and Head of the Board of the Lodz Academic Library Network. Kozakiewicz is also an Executive Board member of the European Association for Health Information and Libraries and author of several publications and conference presentations. His interests include innovations in librarianship, the role of the libraries in research process and Open Science movement and social media.

Małgorzata Rychlik is the Deputy Director of University Library in Poznańopens in new tab/window and head of the Research Information and Knowledge Transfer Department. She graduated from Librarianship and Information Science at the University of Warsaw. She is involved in a number of projects aimed at supporting and promoting Open Science at her university and the co-author of the project of the Adam Mickiewicz University Repository (AMUR) established in 2010. She has been given responsibility over the implementation of the Omega-Psir system at AMU, which is the most frequently implemented CRIS class solution in Poland. Her professional areas of interest include Open Science, bibliometrics, altmetrics and scientific visibility

Michael Levine-Clark is Dean of the University of Denver Librariesopens in new tab/window, where he has worked in various positions since 1999. He serves in leadership roles in GWLA, WEST, and the Rosemont Shared Print Alliance and is incoming vice-chair of the OCLC Americas Regional Council. As a member of many publisher and vendor library advisory boards, he provides guidance about library and higher education trends. He helped found the open access journal Collaborative Librarianship, served as co-editor, and continues to serve on its editorial board. He co-edited the 4th edition of The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences and co-authored the 4th edition of the ALA Glossary of Library and Information Sciences. For his work on e-books and demand-driven acquisition models, he received the 2015 Harrasowitz Leadership in Library Acquisitions Award. He is widely published and has been invited to speak on six continents about academic library collections and scholarly communication issues.

Dr Katarzyna Weinper has a Ph.D. in Humanities and is the Director of the Centre of Scientific and Technical Information at Lublin University of Technologyopens in new tab/window, Rector's representative for open access at Lublin University of Technology, graduate of the Data Steward School. Active member of the Polish national group DSCC-PL (Data Stewardship Competence Centers PL). He is interested in matters related to academic publishing, research data management and open science. She pursues classes in scientific information, researcher ethics and copyright.

Guidance from the workshop

We found from the onset that just the idea of gathering in a group setting made the exercise even more informative. Here are some key themes that came up during our session:

  • Mapping stakeholders can be time-consuming and require multiple sessions to obtain all necessary information. For example, one of the working groups left out “researchers” as important stakeholders because they were extra focused on authorities and decision-makers

  • No two libraries or universities are alike, hence there’s no wrong answer in how to set up a map that is specific and customizable to each academic library’s needs

  • Consult with long-tenured colleagues, as their knowledge is a great place to draw insights. With changing roles at institutions, mapping can be difficult, but using your maps as working documents that can be updated will keep the process moving in the right direction.

  • Maps should also include detractors and how to tactfully create plans to deal with roadblocks and those who do not agree or have different perspectives on what a library's role should (or should not) be.

  • Compiling contact methods is integral if you truly want to reach potential allies. Remember that some people prefer face-to-face meetings, some would like to talk to you in a virtual meeting or on the phone, and others will appreciate short PowerPoint presentations sent by email.

  • Building relationships takes time, so persistence is necessary and should be recognized as part of the plan.

Closing thoughts

We learned so much from our workshop and would truly like to thank the participants who helped us create roadmaps for success that can be replicated by any academic librarian looking for new resources or looking to play a larger role in helping their university enact strategies and priorities.

Gwen Evans, Vice President of Global Library Relations at Elsevier, summed up Elsevier’s workshop this way, “This workshop further demonstrated the power of collaboration, not only from an Academic Librarian/University relationship, but also as a wonderful testament on how library leaders and Elsevier can work together to support the exchange of expertise and learnings across the profession.”

In reflecting on the workshop, Witold Kozakiewicz, Director of the Information and Library Centre at the Medical University of Lodz in Poland said, “It’s important to remember a key point that may sometimes be glossed over. Those responsible for university libraries need to not only be aware of their role, but also be able to raise awareness of the library's value within the university community, find allies in strategic areas, and demonstrate how they can support the university's operations.”

Finally, Małgorzata Rychlik, Deputy Director of the University Library in Poznan, concludes that “The stakeholder map makes it crystal clear that a project cannot be implemented without people!”


Paula Milewska


Paula Milewska

Customer Consultant