For decades, digital technologies have rewritten the playbook for government agencies, libraries, and cultural heritage organizations. The Library of Congress has investigated, implemented, and even invented new digital approaches and technical methods since the 1950s, aspiring better to serve Congress and the American people with each new technical turn. Today, technology fuels everything we do, from sustaining the foundations of our work to reaching for innovative approaches that will produce sea changes in the way we do business.
Reaching our vision strategically requires balancing tried-and-true approaches with transformation fitting our dynamic age. The Library of Congress unveiled its FY2024-28 strategic plan, A Library for All, in October 2023. The strategic plan provides a framework for accomplishing our mission in a complex world. It includes a clear vision for exploring and incorporating technology and digital methods to serve Congress and the American people.
The Library’s mission remains the same: to “engage, inspire, and inform Congress and the American people with a universal and enduring source of knowledge and creativity.” The strategic plan guides work in all areas of the Library, including collections, researcher services, the United States Copyright Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled.
For the first time, the plan has digital strategy embedded throughout, rather than being represented in a separate document. Readers of this space may remember when the Library adopted its first agency-wide Digital Strategy in October 2019, as a companion to the 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. The 2019 Digital Strategy presented a bold vision for Throwing Open the Treasure Chest, Connecting, and Investing in the Future. During its term, the Library made substantial progress in modernizing systems, digitizing and born digital collecting, providing machine-readable access, experimenting with creative use of our collections, piloting new technologies, creating digital gathering places, and widening opportunities for Americans to engage with the Library of Congress.
Now, the Library will continue to bolster its mission, stewarding vast collections of cultural and intellectual heritage materials, serving as the research arm to Congress, and encouraging creativity by administering the nation’s Copyright system. The FY2024-28 strategic plan seriously addresses the implications of the digital age we live in, including ever-growing data and digital resources, emerging technologies, and socio-technical change. In the coming years, the Library will continue to expand its digital transformation, collaborating across the agency and working with partners around the world to explore opportunities, study risks, and plan for adoption.
With digital approaches embedded in all Library goals and objectives, we aim to strike a balance between continuing to use time-tested methods and exploring new approaches. Our four strategic goals are to:
- Expand Access – Make our unique collections, experts, and services available when, where, and how our users need them.
- Enhance Services – Create valuable experiences for every user to forge lifelong connections to the Library.
- Strengthen Capacity – Support our staff and strengthen our operations.
- Foster Innovation – Explore new approaches and emerging technologies to address challenges and spark creativity.
Each goal includes objectives to frame our work, acknowledging that digital strategy is key to everything that the Library does. The Library will continue to build and enrich Library collections and content; enhance digital services to meet our communities’ needs; provide trustworthy and authoritative data; develop digital skills; and innovate with imaginative approaches and emerging technologies.
The need to experiment with and adopt new technologies figures prominently in the Library’s new strategic direction. Technologies such as AI have the potential to disrupt and revolutionize many aspects of our work. The Library builds upon a long history of thoughtful implementation—and invention—of technologies.
At the heart of the plan’s fourth goal, Foster Innovation, is supporting the Library’s approach to innovation—both technical and otherwise—to drive progress. The importance of trust and responsibility to this mission require us to bring the well-established research, experimentation, and recommendation practices from past experiences to the opportunities presented by this exciting new technology. Future posts in this series will describe how the Library is approaching the adoption of these technologies, and providing a framework and tools for their use.
The need to understand the risks and potential for innovative technologies and methods reinforces the adoption of a strategic plan with digital strategy integrated throughout. The reach of technology and digital transformation extends far beyond the Library’s walls—real and figurative. All four of our new strategic goals confront the reach of technological change with a digital strategy that will allow us to embrace change and creativity while remaining true to our fundamental mission and vision that “All Americans are connected to the Library of Congress.”