Strategic Plan


April 6, 2018


As a campus crossroads, Fondren Library brings together faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, staff, alumni and the general public, offering welcoming spaces, excellent collections, and strong services in support of teaching, research and creative expression. Libraries are also trusted sources of information. As Rice University pursues its Vision for the Second Century II (V2C2), Fondren Library is poised to help graduate and undergraduate students to develop superior research, critical thinking and communication skills; foster cutting-edge research; provide and preserve rich, easy-to-use collections; offer spaces that foster collaboration, creativity and productivity; engage with Houston and the world; and promote diversity, access and inclusion. To advance these goals, Fondren will build collaborations across campus and beyond, continue to evolve staff expertise, and commit itself to first-rate services and ongoing improvement. Fondren will continue to increase awareness of the services and resources it provides.


Fondren Library will be a research and learning hub for the university, advancing the discovery, creation, exchange and preservation of knowledge.


Fondren Library supports Rice University’s research and teaching by providing innovative research and information services, access to scholarly resources, and inviting physical and virtual spaces.


  • Collaboration
  • Innovation
  • Trustworthiness
  • Diversity
  • Excellence
  • Support for university priorities

Goal 1:  Assist undergraduate and graduate students in becoming adept researchers and effective communicators.    

Historically the library has helped students learn how to conduct research and provided trustworthy collections. That role has become even more important in a digital age, when it can be difficult to discern what is reliable information. With the increasing emphasis on inquiry-based learning, students must learn how to frame research questions, find and make sense of authoritative sources, and organize and analyze information. They must also communicate knowledge in a variety of formats, such as research papers, visual presentations, data visualizations, video and audio. Beyond this, graduate students must develop expert knowledge of core concepts and methods within their discipline, as well as learn how to approach research problems that transcend disciplines. 

To help students become adept at conducting research and expressing their ideas, Fondren will provide unique learning experiences, deepen its partnerships with faculty and campus organizations, become more integrated into the curriculum and co-curriculum, and improve its assessment and instructional practices. Just as Rice has promoted inquiry-based learning, so Fondren has provided both graduate and undergraduate students with experiential learning opportunities through its Fondren Fellows program and specialized library jobs in areas such as User Experience and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The library plans to expand its Fondren Fellows program so that more students can work with a mentor on research projects that benefit both the library and the broader community. The Fondren Fellows program will also enable graduate and advanced undergraduate students to develop and teach workshops. Such opportunities can help graduate and undergraduate students acquire valuable research and communication skills and prepare them for a range of careers. Library staff already offer training in conducting library research, using GIS, creating digital media, and working with data, whether through in-class sessions, open workshops, individual consultations, or online materials. To expand and improve its instructional program, Fondren will deepen its partnerships with the Program in Writing and Communication (PWC), Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), and Inquiry Based Learning program. In addition, it will link library staff with research-intensive courses and co-curricular experiences so that students know whom to approach for help. It will also develop accessible online learning materials to meet students at their point of need and support digital learners.  

As academic departments shape their curricula to support inquiry based learning, Fondren will promote the scaffolded inclusion of information literacy learning objectives into course progressions to ensure that all upper-level students are prepared for advanced research projects. Fondren will also build on its current assessment practices to ensure that workshops, consultations and learning materials meet the needs of learners and to foster ongoing improvements to the library’s instruction program. So that library instructors can learn from and with each other, Fondren will bring them together in a community of practice that will explore effective techniques for teaching and learning.

As Rice develops digital education, Fondren is called to expand its services online. Of course, the library has actively participated in the digital revolution by making available many subscription-based collections online, creating unique digital collections, and helping researchers navigate the digital world. To help all students develop research skills, librarians will provide training and research support to online as well as face-to-face classes.  The library can promote digital learning and international collaboration by hosting one or more specialized rooms with multiple screens/cameras, whiteboards and other tools that support creativity and collaboration at a distance. Fondren will follow the development of digital learning at Rice and contribute to the conversation by sharing information about potential impacts on the library and contributions that it can make.

Goal 2: Deepen the impact and visibility of Rice research.

As Rice embarks on new research initiatives in areas such as data science, Fondren will partner to provide expertise, space and information resources. As an intellectual hub, Fondren is well positioned to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration; it also provides diverse expertise to support research and teaching. Research libraries increasingly achieve distinction not only through the quality of their collections, but also through the excellence of their services, including in areas such as interlibrary loan, data curation, and scholarly communications.

Located at the center of campus and dedicated to serving all disciplines, Fondren acts a "collaborative hub" where interdisciplinary networks can organically form.  Such collaborations can be sparked when members of the Rice community cross paths in library spaces, converse with staff and colleagues in facilities such as the GIS/Data Center, attend lectures and workshops, or interact with exhibits or special collections. Fondren will nurture collaborations by providing space and collections for interdisciplinary groups, hosting classes and user groups focused on particular tools or methods, and building innovative collections. To increase awareness of the library’s resources and services, Fondren will develop a plan to communicate more effectively across the university. 

Given the many demands on researchers’ time, they need to access and use information quickly and efficiently. Fondren will carefully evaluate the needs of researchers through usability studies, create rich, easy-to-use online interfaces, and offer expert assistance in finding and using relevant information. As researchers are inundated by massive amounts of information, Fondren will help them implement tools and workflows for finding and managing information efficiently. It will also assist researchers in converting analog materials to digital formats, including by providing easy-to-use scanning equipment (such as a book scanner) and workflows for formatting converted data for analysis. In addition, Fondren will help Rice researchers and research centers to increase the visibility and impact of their work. It will partner with research centers and research programs to provide access to and preserve reports, articles and other publications through the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive. To support innovative approaches to publishing and make scholarship widely available, Fondren will champion open access publishing initiatives (including undergraduate journals) by providing technical support, access to digital platforms, consulting and other services.

Just as Rice views data science as a vital area for research and education, so Fondren sees supporting data-driven research as important to its mission. Fondren offers access to data collections, expertise in areas such as digital curation, infrastructure such as a professionally managed digital repository, and training in working with data. To provide seamless, coherent support for data-driven research, Fondren will partner with the Office of Information Technology, the Data Science Initiative, and other stakeholders. It will offer professional and technical staff who can provide training and consult with researchers on finding, organizing, visualizing, and curating data. Building on its “Data and Donuts” training series, Fondren will ensure that researchers (particularly graduate students) are well prepared for data intensive research. Extending its successful GIS/Data Center, it will also explore creating a Data Lab where researchers can consult with data experts, access high-end equipment, collaborate, and participate in communities of practice.  

As digital technologies become increasingly important to all academic disciplines, Fondren provides expertise, tools and facilities to advance digital scholarship, manage digital information, and communicate research to diverse audiences. Often these projects involve collaborations with Rice researchers, including projects through the Mellon-funded Resilient Networks to Support Inclusive Digital Humanities. Fondren contributes to digital scholarship projects by providing facilities such as the GIS/Data Center, Digital Media Commons, and Digital Curation Lab; expertise in GIS, metadata, archives, and digital curation; and platforms such as the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive and JSTOR Forum. Building on its collaborations with the Humanities Research Center and the Office of Information Technology, Fondren will help to make Rice a leader in digital scholarship. So that graduate and undergraduate students can develop skills in digital technologies, Fondren will appoint Fondren Fellows to work on digital scholarship projects.

Goal 3: Enable researchers to find, access, use and share rich collections of research materials.

To enable researchers to more easily find authoritative resources appropriate to their research topic, Fondren will adopt new discovery tools and technical approaches and will offer access to robust collections that match Rice’s priorities in research and education. Fondren is adopting a cutting edge, accessible Library Service Platform (LSP) with a robust discovery layer that will enable researchers to search across collections and discover resources relevant to their research. Fondren will continue to analyze data and user experiences to provide better access to collections. Sometimes researchers lack awareness of Fondren’s rich collections, so the library will explore ways of raising awareness of new resources without overwhelming researchers. It will also continue to experiment with linked open data to determine how best to make library collections more visible on the open web and to provide greater context for scholarly materials.

High quality, innovative research depends on access to outstanding library collections in a variety of formats. Fondren will continue to provide up-to-date collections--including in emerging areas of research--and rapid access to them. To ensure that Fondren’s collections support university priorities in research and teaching, it will continue to pursue new models of collection assessment and will expand the library liaison program to include the research needs of academic centers and other distinct programs. To address the rising cost of research materials (particularly journal subscriptions), Fondren will pursue multiple funding models by seeking out new funds and strategically using ongoing funds. It will also promote well-designed open access publishing initiatives to foster a more robust scholarly communications and textbook ecosystem, encourage innovation, manage costs, and expand access to scholarly information. As it seeks to operate more efficiently and innovate in library services, Fondren will expand collaborations with libraries and consortia to secure access to materials, develop infrastructure, and ensure long-term preservation.

Not only does Fondren provide access to research materials generated elsewhere, but it also creates and maintains unique archival and digital collections. Fondren will continue to create collections that reflect the richness of research at Rice and the cultural vitality of Houston, raise the university’s profile, and promote access to knowledge. In addition, it will continue to digitize unique materials from the Woodson Research Center, other unique library collections, and collections of faculty partners and make these collections available online. To ensure long-term access to university resources, Fondren will continue to develop and implement digital and analog preservation processes. So that unique materials are integrated into teaching and research, Fondren will continue to offer tours, exhibits and classes highlighting unique items, including collections in the Woodson Research Center.

Goal 4: Create dynamic spaces that foster learning, collaboration and knowledge creation.

As a central campus crossroads, Fondren Library transcends the disciplines and offers welcoming spaces for faculty, students and staff. In support of the V2C2’s vision of Central Quad 4.0, Fondren will create “vibrant spaces for education, reflection, collaboration and creativity.” Fondren will offer flexible learning environments for both reflection and social learning; host facilities that provide ready access to expertise, collections and tools for creating and sharing knowledge; and promote synergies among related initiatives. To ensure that spaces meet the needs of users, Fondren will continue to use participatory design, which engages users in conceptualizing spaces.

Unfortunately, many areas in Fondren were built before accessibility was a priority. Fondren thus will develop a holistic renovation program plan for all library floors to make them safe, accessible and user centered. This includes renovating the third floor to make better use of space and improve navigability of the building. Fondren will also partner with the Center for Teaching Excellence, Inquiry Based Learning, and the Program in Writing and Communication to establish a facility that connects support for communication, inquiry and research (provisionally called the “Teaching and Learning Kitchen”), unleashing synergies and providing more seamless learning experiences. 

Currently many graduate students lack an academic space where they can both interact with colleagues from different disciplines and focus on their own work. Fondren will create welcoming, flexible and secure spaces for graduate students to study and collaborate on campus. 

In order to free up valuable on-campus space for learning, collaboration and knowledge creation Fondren must construct a new Library Service Center (LSC) module to accommodate print collection needs. It will also evaluate all space use to ensure consistency with the library’s mission.

Goal 5: Engage with Houston and the world.

According to the 1891 Charter of the William Marsh Rice Institute, the endowment funding the university is devoted to “the establishment and maintenance of a Free Library, Reading Room, and Institute for the advancement of Science and Art.” Fondren Library serves both the university and the broader community through its spaces, special collections, and events. As Rice partners with and supports communities beyond campus, such as the city of Houston, cultural institutions, and the Texas Medical Center, Fondren will likewise engage strategically with the broader community. Through its special collections, Fondren not only promotes and preserves the cultural history of the university and the city, but also offers a research destination at Rice. We will leverage Woodson Research Center’s value in curating unique collections. To highlight such collections and research achievements at Rice more broadly, Fondren will develop more exhibit space and partner with campus and local groups to create new exhibits. Fondren will build on existing community relationships through community outreach and interaction with such organizations as The oH Project (Oral Histories of HIV/AIDS in Houston, Harris County and Southeast Texas), Houston Jewish History Archive, HAAA (Houston Asian American Archive), the Houston Folk Music Archive, and the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive. Fondren will also continue to promote and build Woodson's collections through social media, online finding aids, marketing of its campus-wide exhibits program in the library, and offerings in the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive. 

Fondren must also make the wider community aware of its collections, facilities, and programs. Fondren will continue to assess its social media and other outreach approaches for effectiveness and identify targeted efforts that will heighten awareness of the library’s services, both ongoing and event-based. Finally, Fondren will evaluate current library services to non-Rice individuals and groups and create a policy about Fondren's commitment to non-Rice communities to ensure adequate support, give priority to key groups, and both undergird our practices and explain them to the public. 

As Rice seeks to extend Rice’s reach and impact globally, so Fondren aims to support the university’s global ambitions. Fondren’s diverse collections reflect the university’s global orientation; its staff have expertise in expertise in 18 languages. Researchers from around the world access Fondren’s freely available digital collections. To welcome international students at Rice, Fondren hosts special tours. By partnering with campus groups focused on international students and scholars and by supporting international research initiatives, Fondren will deepen its global engagements.

Goal 6: Promote diversity, access and inclusiveness

Accessibility and diversity stand as core values of librarianship as well as central goals for Rice University. Fondren Library offers a welcoming environment where all can come to find information, get help with a research or creative project, study, or reflect. By providing free access to research materials, equipment such as camcorders and computers, and training, Fondren lessens the economic burden on students. To facilitate lower textbook costs, Fondren promotes open educational resources and makes available learning materials through course reserves. In collaboration with Disability Resource Center, Fondren also provides equipment and services to make the library accessible to all users. 

As Fondren strives to advance diversity, access and inclusiveness, it will both develop new services and better promote existing ones. In particular, it will reach out to first generation students to make them aware of resources and opportunities (including jobs) at Fondren. To address students’ economic challenges, Fondren will also investigate extending and improving equipment lending programs and helping students to access course materials. It will also highlight diverse collections and host exhibits and events that promote diversity. Fondren will build on its current staff diversity by partnering with other Rice units and national initiatives, such as the ACRL Diversity Alliance.

Fondren’s building represents a major obstacle to accessibility; it was built before accessibility standards were widespread and much of the building is not ADA-compliant. Through Central Quad 4.0, renovation efforts must consider how to make the building more welcoming and accessible to all members of the Rice community, including by reconfiguring stacks spaces and improving signage. Through both the design of the building and through active efforts by library staff, Fondren will promote a welcoming, collaborative atmosphere. We must also make the collections more accessible to users.