Thank you for joining me as I start my 12th year as University Librarian. These last 11 years have presented us with challenges and opportunities, some of them unprecedented, that have changed us enormously in many ways, and yet didn't change us much at all. We continue to be true to our basic values and we continue to fulfill our basic roles, often in very different ways, but always in response to or in anticipation of our users' needs and increasingly with an eye on our bottom line. Last year I looked back over the past decade, during which we experienced many notable achievements and faced some tough challenges. Although that hasn't changed this year, I think it's fair to say that the challenges we faced, and that we'll face in the future, are in many ways more daunting than what we've overcome in the past, and I think it's fair to say that we'll continue to experience changes at speeds and depths that are new to us.
But, change is nothing new. Over the last couple of years, I've featured some instrumental music and a contemporary novel in my annual State of the Library talks. This year I've become nostalgic, remembering the time when I was just finishing high school and the air waves resonated with Bob Dylan's song: "Times They Are A Changing." Dylan's lyrics are as relevant now as they were more than 45 years ago. Yes, the times still are a'changin' and we're still changing with them. But, we don't just change for the sake of changing. I think that words, which have been attributed to any number of people from Plato to Einstein to the ever-prolific Anonymous describe my approach well: Excellence can be attained if you care more than others think is wise, Risk more than others think is safe, Dream more than others think is practical, and Expect more than others think is possible. We all strive for excellence; it's obvious in everything you do. But, many of you, and others, may think that I risk too much and that I expect more than you think is possible. I see that as an important part of my role as your University Librarian. As I look at where we are, and at the changes that lie ahead, I think that our anticipatory actions, along with our required responses, have placed us in a good position to move closer to our dreams, to take advantage of what I see as emerging opportunities we must seize if we're to continue to be a great research library, and if we're to continue our roles as library faculty and staff in both traditional and new ways. Pundits tell us that the best time to start a business is when technology or economic discontinuity hits - preferably both. Well, that time - the time to seize opportunities, to go to new places - is now. Instead of recounting what we faced and accomplished last year, I want to provide a only a very general recap, and instead, spend more time talking about my dreams and visions for this great library as we confront the realities of this decade and beyond. First, though, I want to acknowledge the price each one of you has paid this past year, and I don't mean just the impact of no salary increases that many of you have experienced along with, for some of us, salary reductions through the furlough days we were required to take. Only a few of you have benefited from the small amount of funding the University provided to relieve salary compression and equity issues among the Library faculty. Say what you will, money is important, and my inability to improve more salaries troubles me greatly. Of course, not having to lay anyone off was a great relief, and that continues to be a major goal of mine. I know that although having a job is mostly better than not having one, and although earning something is better than earning nothing, not seeing your good work rewarded by appropriate pay increases is very painful to me, particularly in light of the pressures to which a smaller sized staff will be subject. Just as troubling, perhaps even more troubling, are the personal struggles many of you experienced this year. Illnesses, deaths of loved ones, job losses in the family, the ambiguity surrounding the VSIP and VRP programs - who will be leaving and who will do the work they've left behind - all weigh heavily on our shoulders and in our hearts. Close family ties, strong friendships, and the willingness most of you have to think creatively about how to meet these changing times with positive attitudes have helped all of us cope. I wish I could promise quick relief, but it would be deceitful for me to make such a promise. I have no special knowledge and so cannot predict when we might see an economic turnaround.
But, I do want to hear what you have to say; I need to hear your concerns from you. We've had some excellent exchanges at my open budget meetings, and I've followed your suggestions up with promised actions. Although I encourage everyone to attend those sessions, I know that isn't possible, and so I'm going to make a special effort this year to visit you. My goal is to be in each unit at least once this year to have a little bit of time to talk with you and to hear what you have to say. Kim Matherly will begin to schedule those times soon so that my arrival isn't a complete surprise. One would have to have been encapsulated in an isolation chamber or stranded on a remote island with no communications technologies, including notes in bottles, not to know about the profound financial challenges the State of Illinois and the University are experiencing and will continue to experience for who knows how many years. As I have explained in my monthly open budget meetings, the State hasn't cut the University's budget, which at least would give us some sense of predictability; rather, it has failed to send all the funds it owes. This makes planning ever so much more challenging than if we had just been given an actual cut and told to deal with it. Given the upcoming November elections, and the time it will take for our new Governor, whichever of the candidates may win, and the Legislature to put plans together and act on them, I have no expectation that the University will know its real bottom line before the start of 2011 - and, realistically speaking, probably not soon after that. Financial uncertainty the new certainty. This past year we've continued to undergo some structural organizational changes as well as some changes in how we accomplish our work; we've made anticipatory changes and we've made changes in reaction to external forces. We continued to create and implement New Service Models and investigate others. Although most of these anticipated the challenges we saw ahead, some were developed in reaction to changes in use patterns and service demands we had experienced; still others were created in reaction to unanticipated situations. The structural problems found in the Natural History Building, for example, caused us to accelerate our plans to close the Geology Library. I'm very grateful that the work that was necessary to discuss options and develop strategies to create a different service model and that actions to prepare for change were underway before the building's emergency situation was declared by campus.
The VSIP and VRP programs perhaps accelerated the departure of more than a handful of staff from our technical services units; if nothing else, the programs compressed the time in which we lost good colleagues and decades of experienced staff knowledge. Prior planning and a series of pilot programs in Technical Services have left us in a good position to carry out in different ways the good work that these valued staff performed and to offer new emerging services as well. Some outsourcing and some hiring of hourly workers with special skills and knowledge, coupled with extensive changes in work flow and the concomitant reassignment of staff within Tech Services to new roles and new locations, have made it possible to meet this challenge head-on. Once again, creative thinking, risk-taking, and the staff's flexibility and willingness to do new things and to carry out traditional functions in new ways made our adaptations to the departure of so many people at one time look much easier than most of us know they really were. We continue to look for new and more efficient ways to carry out our work. If the Library adopts the recent recommendation to cease using Exceptional Dewey classification numbers, we'll be able to afford to get materials to our shelves and made discoverable in our catalog without the current delays and at considerably lower costs than our current practice allows. This day is long overdue, and assuming that the report's review process doesn't uncover any insurmountable obstacles, we'll pilot this in the literature classifications and, again assuming we encounter no major problems, extend the classification system to the rest of our newly-received monographic materials. Some of you have heard me talk previously about important components of my role, including securing the library's financial and political future. So, let's start with the first and talk some more about money. As I noted a few minutes ago, we can't count on the State to provide more funding, or even what it's provided in the past. We have four other sources of revenue. 1. Currently, we rely on money from the Library/IT fee to supplement what the University can provide. I cannot overstate the importance of this funding source, without which we would be canceling titles and offering fewer and fewer services to our users instead of expanding services, such as extending late night hours in the ACES Library that we implemented this semester. Student fees, including this one and another designated for deferred maintenance, comprise a major portion of the funding for the work currently being done to seal the envelope of the Main Library Building. 2. We're able to undertake specific focused work that advances our services through new technologies and new programs and that adds to our collections thanks to the grant-getting abilities of some of our faculty, either from the Library alone or, increasingly, in collaboration with faculty in other campus units. As the recent Stewarding Excellence at Illinois report on the Library noted, grantsmanship will be increasingly important to our ability to develop new services and new capabilities, and I enthusiastically endorse the report's recommendation that we focus on getting more. 3. We generate a modest revenue stream from activities such as LibPrint, IRIS, and ABSEES, print on demand from our digitized materials, and more, including a share of the revenues from the Espresso Royale café in the tunnel. A small task force, created in response to recommendations from the Stewarding Excellence report on the Library, is looking at other options. I must note, however, that University regulations make it difficult to envision bringing in millions of dollars of profits from these activities. It's not a real "strike it rich" possibility. 4. Our Advancement efforts to attract gifts and endowment funds have resulted in breaking the $40 million mark in our Brilliant Future campaign efforts; this year we set an annual fund record of $637,000, which of course counts towards our goal. We now have 16 months left to make our revised $45 million goal (remember, we exceeded our original $30 million goal back in 2008). I know we're going to make it! You may have noticed that I've been away from the Library quite a bit lately, often to join members of the Advancement Team calling on our donors and potential donors. I expect to be doing this even more in the coming months and years. Building strong endowments as well as generating increasingly larger annual gift revenue will help ensure our financial future.
Gift funds come in several flavors: current use and endowments. Some endowments are directed, that is, the donors specified how they wanted earnings from their endowments to be spent. Other endowment funds are unrestricted, and it is those whose use I have the pleasure of directing. Over the last few years I've invested those funds to increase access by reducing our cataloging backlogs and to process materials from the Main Library Bookstacks to the Oak Street Facility. This year, in addition to continuing to support those activities, I'm pleased to tell you that I'm able to allocate an additional $1000 to every Library faculty member and Academic Professional for professional development and travel. I know it still won't cover all your costs and it's not a permanent fix, but I hope it will help mitigate the absence of salary increases and give you the opportunity to participate in useful professional development activities that are so important as we face so many new challenges and so many new opportunities.
In 2009, as he was leaving the post of interim director of the library at the University of British Columbia, historian Peter Ward wrote this to the ARL Executive Director: It appears that the early 21st century library is a study in intense change over telescoped time. I've been a privileged participant-witness to one of the great shaping moments of the modern research university, seen from the vantage point of the centre - the nodal point in the information distribution system. Yes, this is one of the great shaping moments in research universities and their libraries, and we can either participate in the shaping or sit still like the sands on the beach, not just eroded by the steady beating of tidal waters but washed away by the inevitable storms that pass through. We have not stood still, we are participants in the shaping, and we'll continue in that active mode in both the short and long runs.
The Stewarding Excellence report on the University and Law Libraries affirmed much of what we've been doing and the steps we've been taking to prepare for the short-term future. Although the formal New Service Models program will end with the close of this fiscal year, our efforts to develop new models will continue, albeit at a slower pace and at a lower key. This Library has never stood still, and with changes in user behaviors, user demands, user expectations coming at increasingly rapid rates, and with the possibilities of delivering traditional services differently and designing new services tomorrow that we can't even envision today, we'll keep continuing to look at everything we do with different and fresh perspectives.
Now, let's talk about the Library's political future. Although just as Wired magazine recently proclaimed "The Web is Dead," we hear predictions that the Library as it's widely known and understood is dead, evolution, not extinction, has always been and continues to be the media's - and our - primary driving force. What has changed, and what continues to change, however, is the accelerated pace of change that brings about more and more innovations and more and more user expectations and demands. Our Library is far from dead. Here at UIUC, the Library has long been a point of pride and, more importantly, a vital part of the University's culture. And yet we can't take anything for granted and we must avoid becoming just a warehouse and a convenient place to study. It's my job to listen to what our users say, to listen to what you say, and to work with deans and University administrators to ensure that we remain vital and vitally important to the University's future. I must admit that it's challenging to plan a future when the structure of the campus's highest administrative positions is uncertain and when no searches are yet underway to fill any of these high-level positions that are now filled on an interim basis: Chancellor/Provost and the Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs, Research, and Public Engagement - and others, such as the director of International Programs and Study. But, it's a challenge I am confident of meeting; perhaps that the result of having led research libraries for so long.
The basis for the Library's political future extends beyond the boundaries of the University. Our role in CARLI, the CIC, and other groups has been critically important in the past and will be even more important in the future. As I noted earlier, a great shaping moment is the time for innovation and risk. What can we anticipate further in the future, and how should we be preparing? What innovations can we make, what risks will we take? Will we go the way of newspapers or the music industry, or will we take control and shape our future to emerge vibrant and transformed?
Earlier this year, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) issued its 2010-2012 strategic plan and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) identified the 2010 top ten trends in academic libraries. ARL's strategies were developed with considerable involvement and input from its member directors. ACRL's list was derived by reviewing the current literature. I offer both these lists (don't worry, they're not long), between which there's some overlap, to confirm the context in which we have and will be been operating in the short-run to set the stage for some leaps I'm going to make when I articulate my longer-term vision and dreams for our library in just a few minutes. ARL's three strategic directions are: · to influence information and public policies that govern the way information is managed and made available both nationally and internationally; · to be a leader in the development of effective, extensible, sustainable, and economically viable models of scholarly communication that provide barrier-free access to quality information in support of the mission of research institutions; and · to articulate, promote, and facilitate new and expanding roles for ARL libraries that support, enable, and enrich the transformations affecting research and research-intensive education. ACRL listed the trends it identified in alphabetical order: · Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types. · Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result. · Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets. · Demands for accountability and assessment will increase. · Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources. · Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services. · Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond. · Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services. · Technology will continue to change services and required skills. · The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands. I'd be surprised if you were surprised by any of these points. What both associations describe is the world in which we already live: new demands, fewer resources, and the need for new skills, new roles, and new ways of approaching collaboration. But, what will this mean for us beyond today? How much of our future will we seize and control, how much will we resist or embrace, how much will we be buffeted against the metaphorical rocks of unanticipated danger or steer our own path ahead of the tsunami of competing forces?
Our future depends on a complex set of strategies and choices, including especially the collaborations we'll build that will operate at a different level than do our current ones, and our ability to create capacity to deliver services to a new generation of mobile devices and to create new applications using rapid prototyping and other methodologies to deploy them quickly. Our future depends on our capability and capacity to create and sustain e-science and data stewardship services as well as other methods for increasing access to and preserving data, information, and knowledge of all types and in all formats. Our future depends on more personalized and mass customized services, including recommender services of the highest order; it depends on tighter integration of Special Collections into our more traditional collections and services. Our future depends on a robust set of scholarly communications services; and it depends on our ability to assess and demonstrate the value of the University Library to those who invest in us and to those who have the greatest stake in us: our faculty, students, University administrators, granting agencies and foundations, and our donors and potential donors. No longer can we say "you know we're a great library, so give us more money, appreciate us, praise us."
To be successful, we - that is, you and I - must expand our roles and capabilities to support, enable, and enrich the transformations affecting research and research-intensive education. Let's take a closer look at what this will mean.
To be successful we must add new skills and rethink current services and processes to consolidate, reshape, and eliminate some so that we have the resources - the time, money, and talent - to control our future. This is not so much an extension of the new Services Model program as it is a continuing examination and reexamination of everything we do at all levels. We question everything we do and how we do it all the time, not just under the aegis of a special program. We must be rigorous in identifying services of less or declining value to our users and eliminating them. This will require that we find ways to consult with users that don't take months, that we don't recommend that something new be introduced over a multi-year time period; it will require that we increase our agility, so that we can make changes much more quickly than we can currently, and that we become more comfortable with the ambiguity and the mistakes that such rapid changes inevitably bring. Building on the old aphorism that it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission: it will be better to try something and fail than to take months and years perfecting something that will be outdated or of less value when or soon after it's introduced.
Some of you may have read Lisbet Rausing's article, "Towards a New Alexandria," in the March 12, 2010 issue of The New Republic. In it, she argues that the great libraries of the West can no longer compete against each other and that our current collaborations, of which we're so proud, are neither deep enough nor urgent enough to meet the challenges ahead, and she urges more alliances, outreach and advocacy. I think she's right. A century ago, the academic library was a free-standing physical home to tangible materials that were accessible primarily by the campus community as well as by scholars who traveled physically to use the collections, many of which were not easily accessible bibliographically. The simple idea of sharing, of borrowing and lending some tangible materials from one library to another led to the more complex yet still relatively simple concept of resource sharing and to the development of a national interlibrary lending system for materials not on local reserve, not in local use, or not deemed too fragile, rare, or special to be sent through the mail. To some extent, new technologies have made it easier to discover and share our resources, and to some extent the shift from ownership to access through license agreements has made resource sharing more difficult. In all cases, however, we think of each library's collection as a separate collection, and we view arrangements such as I-Share as a collection of collections. Thinking about resource sharing this way stops us from making more content and more services accessible to our users.
Forty years ago, academic library leaders in Illinois had a compelling vision: to share resources in order to support the work of their faculty and students more effectively than each institution could do on its own. The introduction of new technology in the mid-1980's made part of this vision a reality. Since that time, faculty and students at campuses that participate in what we now call I-Share can discover and request without intervention some materials held at and cataloged by other partners. The crux of this vision is rooted in the 20th century: each institution owns a collection of materials and each makes some portion of that collection accessible through its online catalog. Each institution creates its collection for its campus users, resulting in significant overlaps and significant gaps in holdings in this collection of collections. Although each institution follows some general guidelines, each acts independently in imposing some sets of conditions of use, including declaring some materials non-circulating to some patron groups. Resource sharing is limited to sharing content that is primarily in tangible formats. I-Share today operates as if it was still the 20th century. It is successful, yet limited, and I think the limitations will grow in time. I think it's time to build on our rich history to realize a new vision of collaboration and resource sharing for the 21st century.
Let me try to pick this apart from several perspectives. I envision a 21st century model in which I-Share participants have transformed their many collections into a conceptual single collection, much like the HathiTrust collection, built and managed by individual libraries in a deeply collaborative manner. In this model, individual library members will contribute resources to collectively-owned virtual and physical spaces. They will coordinate purchases and license agreements to eliminate excessive duplication, increase coverage, and fill gaps in the collective holdings. Almost everything in the collection will be available on equal terms to all valid users; only materials licensed for use in a single institution or a subset of institutions and only special materials that are too rare or too fragile to be lent will be excluded. Individual libraries or groups of libraries will be able provide additional tools for their own users - after all, our users have a wide range of needs and in general the needs of users will differ by type of institution. These may include tools to mine digital content or to aggregate digital teaching and learning objects. And the collective may choose to provide selected tools to everyone. This single collection will facilitate management of print collections, allowing I-Share institutions to make collective decisions about where long-term holdings of materials in selected disciplines and types of tangible formats are located. The single collection will be much richer than the former aggregation of individual collections. Freed from routine selection, subject specialists and liaisons will be able to spend more of their time interacting with faculty and students, providing instruction and advice on other resources and tools available for use, identifying locally-created content to be added to the collective collection, and building stronger collaborations with campus units. This single collection will be accessible through a set of interrelated and integrated data bases with a rich set of interfaces and functionalities, that may look and function very differently from the VUFind or WebVoyage interfaces of 2010.
I believe that the vision of a single physical collection can almost be realized within twenty years. We've built the HathiTrust, which is a single collection and not a collection of collections, amazingly quickly and we can build this one quickly too-if we have the will. We'll still have some locally-held replicative physical collections that will be comprised of reference materials and curricular-focused materials, as well as some of the agreed upon titles that comprise the singular collection, archival collections, and collections of unique and rare materials. All other print, microform, and other tangible materials will have been de-duplicated according to an agreed-upon set of guidelines and will be held in a shared facility or series of distributed facilities that provide efficient storage and retrieval and associated services in environments that promote their long lives. Because the state of Illinois is not an island, these efforts will be coordinated with efforts in neighboring states and across the country, the continent, and, eventually, the globe.
It's not a very big jump to envision shared subject expertise as well, although it's much more challenging than building a virtual single collection. The contraction of available funding sources probably won't abate for many years and given the shortage of librarians with skills and knowledge in specialized areas, it's not too large a jump to make to think about how we might consider sharing our expertise. Actually, it's not a very big conceptual jump at all, as we're trying several new models of shared expertise right now: UIC librarians are providing reference, instruction, and collection development services in Psychology here at UIUC, while in exchange, we're doing collection development for Education at UIC. We're sharing the services of a Japanese Studies Librarian with the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and we're buying some time of the Middle Eastern Studies Librarian at Indiana University is providing some support to our faculty and students. But, these are just pilot programs preparatory to what I envision to be much more planned and much deeper collaborative subject services.
Imagine that it's twenty years from now. A faculty member at an I-Share institution needs content and some in-depth help. She accesses the single I-Share database (into which is integrated the HathiTrust records as well as the records of other singular collections) or WorldCat, or whatever offers the greatest and easiest access, and orders what she thinks will be helpful; but she can't find exactly what she needs, or she needs help in managing her references or in finding the appropriate software to do what she wants to do or in figuring out what to do with the data she generates. She'll be able to find that help as easily as she found those materials she ordered and she'll be able to find and connect with that subject expert, whether he's in Urbana or Peoria or Pretoria. Well, okay, we probably won't have gone that global by then, but we will go there too.
We're involved in several initiatives that are exploring the issues embedded in the concept I just sketched (and I do mean sketched), including our participation in the HathiTrust, in the CIC's U.S. documents digitization project, in a group that's preparing a grant proposal to explore shared print repositories, and the Global Digital Library, a project that's focused on research and development work ongoing at major research universities and selected national libraries located across the globe. One of the more important and focused efforts is our collaboration with the Library at UIC. We have committed to collaborating on activities aimed at providing enhanced information services to the user communities on our campus as part of the long-term evolution of academic research libraries. Our intention is to provide programs and services where we see overall mutual benefit, where one library can extend an area of strength to support programs in two locations, and where the product of joint collaboration is greater than the sum of two separate programs in each library. As Charles (Chuck) Henry notes in an unpublished essay ("A Case for New Partnerships for the Promotion and Deployment of Macro Solutions for Higher Education"):
Participating institutions understand that coordination and collaboration are no longer merely good ideas, they are essential for the survival of our cultural heritage.
Chuck highlights the need to rethink the taxonomy of digital library functions and services, noting that many processes that once seemed to be discrete - such as search and discovery, storage and preservation, or collection development and maintenance - are now interconnected. This has fundamental implications for us and how we plan our collaborations.
I've been focusing on collaborations with other institutions, but I don't want you to leave today thinking that those are the only ones that will be important to our future. They are important, but so, too -- perhaps more important -- are the collaborations we build and sustain on campus, and of course between and among various units within the Library. We've always worked closely with some faculty and students and we've always worked with some other units on campus. It seems imperative to me that we deepen those working relationships into true collaborations. We have, or will have, the skills and knowledge essential to the campus's success in many areas. But, it's not enough for us to be at our partners' tables, although that's a start, and it's not enough for our partners to be at our tables, although that's also a start. Rather, we must come together to envision, build, and deliver capabilities and services in new ways, as equal partners, as true collaborators. The grants we work on with other departments and colleges, some of the work we do with other cultural heritage institutions on campus, and the model emerging as the Scholarly Commons develops may serve as good models for strong campus collaborations. There are many needs emerging on campus, and needs we can't even envision that will emerge at rapid rates, and we must be poised to meet them - and we can't meet them alone. A new effort to build campus capability to offer data stewardship services, which will depend to some extent on services being developed through other collaborations (I think here of the shared cloud storage capabilities being developed by the CIC CIOs), is just emerging through a nascent campus collaboration. I'm not sure that we know how to build and sustain these collaborations just yet, but we better learn to do that today, not tomorrow. And if we as individuals haven't yet begun to acquire the new sets of skills we'll need to succeed in the future....well, the time is now.
I know that you have many more ideas about this than I, and so I look to you to help answer these questions. What current partnerships can we turn to to build strong, vibrant, and sustainable collaborations? What new ones will be needed? What are the services that we can offer collaboratively - and what must we retain locally? What collaborations must we build locally and who will take responsibility for doing that? What do you envision, and how can we make it happen?
These are some of the important questions we must address head on and right now and over and over again if we're to continue to be a vibrant and vital library in the future.
We used to talk about size as a desired end, as a measure of our success. We bragged about the number of department libraries on campus and about the number of volumes we held. Now, we talk about effective use of resources, about return on investments, about the value of services to our users. We used to talk about growth as a desired end and as a measure of our success. Now we talk about change, about efficiency, about being effective, flexible, and quick to change. Our huge collection was a treasured asset. Now, much of it is a liability. Don't misunderstand me: our collections are rich and deep and many of our holdings are important to users here and around the globe. But much of it is duplicative, taking up expensive space and requiring care we can't afford. And much of it replicates print material held elsewhere that also is available in electronic formats that are archived in trusted repositories. Our desired end should be a collection of tangible materials that isn't widely available at other libraries or that is required for local use.
Bigger is no longer better. Quality is more important than quantity. Financial uncertainty is the new certainty. Collaboration is more important than singular action. Clearly, ambiguity will increase. Change will continue to accelerate.
Yes, the times they are a'changin' and they'll continue to change. You have made a remarkable series of changes over the last decade, and I'm confident in your capacity to continue to change with even more rapid speed. I remain honored to lead this great Library and I remain very hopeful about its future.
Thank you very much.