© 2015 by Athenaeum21

Client: New York University Division of Libraries

Project: Strategic Visioning & Alignment (2018-19)

In November of 2018, Athenaeum21 (A21) began working with the New York University Division of Libraries (DoL) to align the organization to its stated mission and values, and to uncover its longer-term aspirations. Continuing through April of 2019, the work focused on organizational discovery and alignment as well as identifying and designing shared criteria for prioritization of work. The work was intended to deepen the conversation among the DoL staff about setting and meeting their strategic goals within the context of foreseeable trends in education and research libraries. Both the activities and outcomes of this work are intended to inform the thoughtful design of administrative structures, decision-making criteria, and a communications plan that will empower staff to respond confidently to oncoming trends, challenges, and opportunities.

This work took place in two phases. The Discover...

Client: Oxford University IT Services & Humanities Division

Project Phase 1: Functional Requirements for a Sustainable Digital Humanities Infrastructure (2018)

In 2018, Athenaeum21 carried out an in-depth analysis of the functional requirements of Digital Humanities (DH) projects at the University of Oxford, including extensive interviews with DH project leads, followed by technical and functional analysis for more than 30 DH projects. Our charge, from the university’s IT department and Division of Humanities, was to help the University to design and more sustainable infrastructure for the DH projects. Our research uncovered a more robust and detailed picture of how both active and retired DH projects differ from the most common research data management and preservation models, and of their unique technical sustainability and preservation issues. In response to these diverse needs, we propose a layered service model for creating a sustainable digital humanities technology infrastructure....

Client: Concordia University

Project: Environmental Scan / What Makes a Successful Digital Strategy? (2018)

Concordia University selected A21 in April 2018 to research higher education institutions’ and industries’ digital strategies and approaches to managing digital transformation. The Concordia University Digital Strategy Committee was charged with creating a path-breaking digital strategy for Concordia University and has undertaken work “to determine what actions we need to take to become a next-generation university that embraces the digital reality of our students, faculty, researchers, staff and life in general.”

The committee charged A21 with conducting an environmental scan of how and why digital strategies in a range of organizations succeed, and also why they “fail.” A21 conducted a literature review, web review, and interviews with thought leaders and practitioners in digital transformation and digital skills-building in higher education, non-profits, and corporations. Intervi...

Client: The Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
Project: Strategic Visioning and Roadmap Development (2017-18)


The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations.

In 2017, A21 designed and led a large-scale quantitative and qualitative research project to review ARL’s existing library assessment program, services, and products, developing a strategic...

Client: University of California, Davis
Funder: Mellon Foundation
Collaborators: University of Oxford, UK; Goettingen State and University Library, Germany

In preparation for building out the foundation and infrastructure to support a comprehensive library assessment program, the University Library at the University of California, Davis commissioned A21 to lead a collaborative research study to scope the work required to develop an open library assessment dashboard & toolkit for libraries to aggregate, view, and interact with their diverse data sources across all library operations.


Further Information

Clients: University of Oxford e-Research Centre, Bodleian Libraries

In 2015, A21 created a detailed report and recommendations that will define the resource discovery strategy for the University of Oxford’s 100+ libraries and 7 museums for the next 5 years.

A21 led the end-user research and needs assessment portion of the project, and then led the synthesis and analysis of the data across all of the research strands, making the recommendations.

Our work included:

  • A detailed analysis of how current tools and services were failing to meet the needs of students and researchers looking to user collections

  • The scoping of entirely new, non-textual approaches to discovery

  • Identifying and prioritising areas for investment around resource discovery


Further Information

Final Report

Client: EBSCO Industries

Prior to rolling out an existing system to a new user base, EBSCO commissioned A21 to conduct a usability study of the system. The study was comprised of an in-depth analysis of 6 months of usage data, interviews with technology and support teams, user task-completion and ethnographic studies with users, and A/B user testing of existing vs. proposed menu structures. A21 identified opportunities for improvement of the user experience, and produced a list of actionable, prioritized enhancements to increase the adoption of, and confidence in the existing system among existing users, before rolling out to their new user base.

Client: Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The Bodleian Libraries holds well over 20,000 manuscripts and serves hundreds of thousands of readers from around the world. Access to over half of the manuscript collections in the Bodleian is effectively hidden to scholars because they are not described online, or those descriptions are not well indexed. In 2016, the A21 team reviewed the existing cataloguing practices for manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries. The aims of the project were to determine a suitable workflow and technical architecture that would both promote findability and allow use by cataloguers with a wide range of technical skills.

  • Conducted a worldwide market review of manuscript cataloguing practices

  • Led a detailed usability assessment of existing systems

  • Made recommendations for improved workflows and technical architecture

  • Designed a sustainability plan around training, communications and standards

Please reload

Case Studies