Visualizing the Libraries Strategic Planning Progress


The Washington University Libraries strategic plan effort is a five-year process, which includes six strategic directions, 18 goals, and 32 objectives. Data Services worked in collaboration with the strategic planning team to conceptualize requirements, build a workflow, and produce a visualization.


Reports by objective groups with various start dates, measures and tasks, and multiple reporting events over a long period of time. 


Once the problem was conceptualized, our first step was to develop a form with the end visualization in mind, using solid naming conventions, quantitative and qualitative fields. We built the form in Qualtrics and set it up so that the team lead could come back to their previous response and update it with new developments. While we were able to control some aspects of the data structure in building the form, some data scrubbing was still necessary in order to make it ready for visualization in Tableau. For this we wrote a script in R (which can be reused) to eliminate errors and discrepancies within the responses and reformat the output data. The clean data could be brought into Tableau, where we determined which attributes we wanted to visualize at a given point in time. Using Tableau we were able to elegantly demonstrate levels of completion for both the objectives and associated tasks, and what is still ahead.

Check out the Visualization

 Tools used: 

Qualtrics: An online survey tool that supports the research needs of academics who need to create and manage sophisticated questionnaires. Washington University has institutional access to this tool.

R: A programming language for data management, analysis, and visualization. You can download it here.

Tableau: A fast, intuitive tool for data analysis and visualization. While our visualization was created using Tableau Desktop, Tableau Public is free.

If you’d like to know more about this project or any of these tools, feel free to contact Data Services. 



About the author

As the Head of Data Services at Washington University in St. Louis, Moore directs services in digital data management, curation, analysis, visualization, literacies, and GIS. She was a co-PI on the IMLS grant, Community Standards for 3D Data Preservation (CS3DP), which continues to bring stakeholders together to establish agreement on how to make 3D data long-lasting (book forthcoming); a partner and curator in the Data Curation Network (DCN), which has created a shared curation model for institutions; a co-PI on the IMLS Specialized Data Curation Workshop grant, which is focused on training curators in DCN methods; and the WashU Representative for the Research Data Alliance, an international organization addressing research data. Moore is program faculty in International and Area Studies and a GIS instructor in the UCollege.