Greetings to everyone in the University of Illinois community. Since I arrived in September as the new University Librarian, I have been given a wonderful Midwestern welcome. Thank you for making me feel at home during my first year in Illinois.
My personal goal for the Library is to continue to collect and provide access to materials at the depth and breadth that is needed by our patrons and to provide the services that you repeatedly tell us are so important to you. To accomplish this, the Library faculty and staff are focusing on the best way to improve a number of services, including instruction to users. We also plan to explore better ways to preserve our collections.
One of my highest priorities is to bring library matters of critical importance to the campus community for your attention and input. By doing this, the Library becomes a catalyst for discussing current issues, for developing a better understanding of our mutual concerns, and for realizing solutions to the questions.
The Library began the first of its new initiatives to create a dialogue with the campus when it jointly hosted a “Symposium on Scholarly Communication” with the Senate Committee on the Library on April 18. We plan to host many more of these sessions, which will include specific topics of interest, throughout the next academic year.
At the first meeting, members of the departmental library advisory committees were invited to examine how scholars on campus can make a difference in helping to harness the skyrocketing costs of the research publications that are so important to their work. Speakers included Provost Richard Herman, Professor Ward Henson, chair of the Campus Promotion and Tenure Committee, and Professor Alexander Scheeline, chair of the Senate Committee on the Library.
The growing gap between the price of scholarly materials and the ability of libraries to pay for items that are needed by students and faculty is a problem for the University community and for the scholarly community at large. Several factors complicate the situation. The explosion in the output of scholarly research, the increase of publications available in both digital and printed formats, and the steady rise in prices make it increasingly less possible for the Library to acquire all the materials you and your students need.
Statistics furnished by the Association of Research Libraries about their member libraries, which include the University of Illinois Library, indicate that from 1986 to 1998 the unit cost of a serial publication increased by 175% while in the same time period the Consumer Price Index went up 49%. One of the major reasons for the increase in prices of serial publications has been the change in the nature of the publishers that furnish scholarly titles. Journals that were once published by professional societies have been taken over by commercial publishers. In other words, publications purchased by research libraries are now produced by profit-seeking organizations instead of non-profit organizations.
The free transfer of exclusive copyrights by authors to journal publishers is also an important contributor to the increase in the cost of accessing scholarly information. Not only can authors usually not use their own work without the publisher's permission, but the universities in effect give away valuable materials that they then must buy back. The tensions between needing to disseminate the fruits of research quickly and in the highest quality publications and the rising costs of acquiring those materials will continue unabated until everyone who participates in the system of scholarly communication understands its dynamics and is willing to work to change them.
The Library needs your input and participation in helping to combat the rising costs of the information we collectively want to acquire. I encourage you to attend the meetings that will be held throughout the next academic year and to help moderate the rise in the cost of acquiring materials for the Library.
Paula Kaufman's personal web site is at the following URL: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/administration/kaufman/indexDHTML.htm