The UW–Madison Policy Library—an online, searchable database for all university-level policies—recorded more than a half million visits in its first year of existence.
The Policy Library allows users to search for policies in a variety of ways, including by title, office, topic, or keywords. The most-searched policies since it went live have been remote work, sexual harassment and sexual violence, enrollment requirements, vacation, and sick leave. Compensation and benefits, human research subjects, and purchasing were the most-searched topics.
What We’ve Learned
After three years of development, implementation, and real-world application, the policy library has highlighted many lessons about policy issues and solutions at UW-Madison. Here are a few of the most notable:
- Due to the decentralized nature of our campus, there is inconsistency in how our policies are written, as well as what structure is in place for their review and maintenance. The centralized nature of the policy library is providing the university community with an opportunity to tackle these issues.
- Having a central repository for all university-level policies has allowed us to identify a variety of issues, including redundancy in policies (e.g., we have 5 policies related to alcohol). We can then work with the appropriate departments to address.
- Many people have a hand in policy management at UW–Madison, but prior to the policy library, the question of who had approval authority for different policies was ambiguous. Every policy in the library now has a role identified as having approval authority.
- Policies need to be written so they are accessible to and inclusive of all UW–Madison constituents to whom they apply. This means using plain language and non-gendered language. We have already begun working on removing gendered language and will be working with units on using plain language as they review and revise their policies.
- The searchability and reporting features of the policy library allow us to focus our attention on what’s of most interest to users at a particular time. There is a seasonality to which policies are most searched/viewed. For example, prior to the academic year, we see more searches about admissions. During the pandemic, searches centered around remote work, leave, and related issues.
Policy Development Resources
You can find a variety of tools and information on the policy development page of the website.
Comments or Questions
If you have comments or questions about the policy library, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
When designing policies on campus, we frequently try to learn from our peers. I was often envious of the policy libraries at other institutions. I’m thrilled, through the hard work of colleagues of the Office of Strategic Consulting and beyond, that UW–Madison now has a state-of-the-art policy library. This resource catalogues campus-level policies, has extensive search capabilities, and plain language policy descriptions, making our policies accessible to anyone seeking this information. It will make us better and I’m grateful for the work and the vision that got us to this place. –Provost Karl Scholz