2011 State-of-the-Library


Paula Kaufman

August 30, 2011 

I’m so glad that you’ve joined me for my annual state of the library talk as I start my 13th year as your University Librarian. I know that some of you are here for the first time.  Please stand if you’ve joined the Library in the last year so we can welcome you properly.

This morning I want to talk about our challenges and our opportunities.  There are many of both, perhaps too many.

Those of you who are old enough may remember the Ed Sullivan Show. This was an hour-long weekly TV variety program that was hosted by New York entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan and aired on Sundays from 1948 to 1971.

The program featured numerous “acts” ranging from Elvis Presley (shown only from the waist up because those wiggling hips were thought to be too suggestive for a family show) and The Beatles to Senor Wences, a Spanish ventriloquist whose act featured Johnny, a face drawn on his hand (times were different then).  Sullivan often featured people who had made news, including sports figures such as Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain.

One of my most vivid memories from the show was an act that featured plate-spinning, in which a performer spins plates or bowls on poles – many plates on many poles – without any of them falling off and shattering to pieces. Here’s a sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhoos1oY404   I’m sure that you join me in thinking that this is like many of our days, when we have to keep lots of plates spinning, and then, just when we have them all going at once, we get more, or someone takes a pole or two away.

This last year was perhaps the most difficult one we’ve experienced together. I’m so proud of how you met our challenges even as some of those plates fell and shattered.  You really epitomize what Charles Darwin is attributed to have said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Last year we faced many things that caused us to change and adapt: a budget cut; the continued absence of pay increases for many of us; the departure of many of our colleagues through the VSIP and VRP programs and recruiting by other institutions; the imposition of new policies and procedures brought about by SB 51, the legislation that has made purchasing anything much more difficult – and we purchase many many things; the many changes emanating from our New Service Models program, including consolidations, closures, remodeling and moving people and materials; the delay in construction of the third module to the Oak Street Library Facility; and much much more. 

All of this was overlaid with the uncertainties brought about by the arrival of a new UI system president; the continuing interim appointments of our chancellor, provost, and vice chancellors for research and public engagement; the determination of our new Board of Trustees and our new President to control costs by centralizing non-academic functions, including the Chief Information Officers on all three campuses; and closer to home, the uncertainty about the status of many Academic Professional positions.

We were beset by external challenges too.  Among them: UIC’s long-time guest membership in the CIC was terminated, leaving us to work with UIC and the CIC to optimize our sister library’s participation in joint licensing, shared storage, digitization, and other collaborative activities. The proposed Google settlement was rejected, leaving the future of access to many digital books uncertain. 

Looming large in our environment of course is the State of Illinois.  The State’s financial picture isn’t much different than it was last year, except that revenues have been growing slightly, thanks to the increase in state taxes.  However, recent news items have reported that the increased revenues have been below what had been projected and that our state has the worst debt-to-assets ratio in the country.  Money still comes to the University well behind schedule, causing cash-flow challenges that affect all parts of the institution, including us.  As you know, we’ve had to put money aside in case the University needs it.  Late last fiscal year, University officials told us that we could spend some of last year’s set-aside as one-time cash (but the set-aside of recurring funds continues this year); this led to some hasty planning for using these funds, most of which couldn’t be spent immediately on collections or other priority items due to SB 51-related limitations.  On another front, the chaos caused by the State’s bidding process for health insurance carriers caused us all anxiety and confusion, and I fear that these anxieties will recur again when the contracts come up for renewal next Spring.  Also causing anxiety is the uncertainty about the proposed increases in our contributions to our pensions and by SURS’ change in the Money Purchase Factor that should be sending anyone who’s thinking of retiring within the next few years to SURS; although we could experience another surge in retirements as people calculate the difference this change might make in their retirement income, I certainly don’t want anyone to be disadvantaged financially due to not being aware of this change.  So, please, if you think you might want to retire soon, talk with SURS.  And if you decide to retire, please tell us as early as you can.

I know that these challenges were exacerbated by more plates to spin – by the personal challenges many of you faced in your own or family members’ illnesses, by the deaths of loved ones, by job losses in your family and by other trials in your non-work lives, and I know that they continue to weigh heavily on you.  Once again, your fortitude and ability to deal with these challenges, and your willingness to roll up your sleeves here and roll with the punches, have helped all of us cope.  I sure wish I could take away some of those plates and poles.

Despite these challenges, last year was not all doom and gloom; in fact, there were many bright spots.  The University continued to attract top-flight faculty and students and to retain some of our most sought-after faculty members, including some of the Library’s.  You rose to the totality of the situations we faced and you accomplished many notable things.  I have time to review only a smattering of them, so please don’t feel badly if I omit something you think I should have highlighted.

This year I almost reached my goal of meeting with every Library unit.  I enjoyed and learned a lot from these visits; I hope you did, too.  I plan to do them again this year, and Kim will be scheduling them soon.  And, by way of announcements, I have two more.  First, we’ll continue to provide an additional $1000 in travel support this year to all Faculty and Academic Professionals.  Second, I know how helpful it is to have a half-day without interruptions to clean up before the start of the semester.  So, we’re going to add another half-day closure for cleaning sometime before the start of the second semester.  And, yes, we’ll provide pizza then, too.

Now, to some of our accomplishments.  I’m going start with one that has less meaning than it might have had a decade ago.  The University of Illinois Library is now number two in the Association of Research Libraries’ ranking of libraries by number of volumes held.  Yes, we hold 215,910 volumes more than Yale.  Changes in the ways in which ARL counts volumes contributed about as much to our new ranking as did the increased investments we’ve made in cataloging backlogged items, some of which have been inaccessible to our users for decades.  So, whatever you think about the actual ranking, we should cheer for all the items that have been freed from their previous inaccessibility and that can now be identified and used.  We should also cheer that once again we avoided layoffs.  That’s much more meaningful to me than our ranking.

Let’s move on to other important accomplishments, starting with money.  Thanks to the work of the Business Office and the Budget Group, the Library remains debt free.  And thanks to the work of our Advancement Team, we’ve surpassed our second Brilliant Futures goal of $45 million, and in the process we set a new annual giving record of$684,035.  We are very proud that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded us a $1.5 million challenge grant, the only public university library to receive this recognition of our still-young Conservation program.  But, that wasn’t our only grant.  I don’t have time to list them all, but of particular note are three collaborative grants: the NSF-funded National Ethics Center grant, which is a multidisciplinary effort centered in the Grainger Engineering Library; an IMLS-funded grant to the Library and GSLIS to identify best practices in LIS education field experience; and a grant from the Mellon Foundation to NYU, UC San Diego, and UIUC to create ArchivesSpace, of which a major component is the Archon software that Chris Prom and Scott Schwartz developed, and for which they received the Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration in 2008.

Last year I stressed the importance of collaboration.  As I continue my remarks, you’ll see that our collaborations strengthened and grew throughout the past year.  They’ll continue on this path, for it’s only through strong collaborations and partnerships that we can fulfill our increasingly complex mission in today’s challenging times. 

Now, as I continue my remarks, please remember that we have a set of shared values that undergird all of our actions:   

We made considerable progress in improving our facilities this year, thanks to the excellent work of the Facilities team and the support from fee and other monies.  In addition to the new Literatures, Languages, and Linguistics Library in the Main Library; all of the work to seal the Main Library Building’s envelope; and the many volumes moved and retrofitting done to accommodate changes emanating from the New Service Models program, the expansion of the RBML vault and installation of new HVAC equipment has to rank as the most important facility improvement of the year.  It would not have happened without the work of many Library units or without financial support from the Library/IT fee.  We can all sleep a little more easily now, although the continuing preservation challenges of the Main Library BookStacks still keep me awake many nights.

Our digitization activities increased pretty dramatically this year.  Digital Content Creation continues to work on important and interesting projects, including two that arrest one’s attention: the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music’s Instrument Collection and Project Unica, which offers high quality digital facsimiles of printed books that exist in only one copy and that are held in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.  If you haven’t yet looked at the images emanating from both of these projects, you’re in for a treat.  We also continued our large-scale digitization activities through the Open Content Alliance and began our work in earnest with Google on two fronts, work that wouldn’t be accomplished without IPM’s enormous efforts.  First, we partnered with the CIC and Google in an ongoing collaborative project to digitize a comprehensive collection of U.S. Federal Documents.  Digital facsimiles of successfully scanned Federal Documents are being made publicly accessible through Google Book Search, FDSys, and the HathiTrust. I think that if our Founding Fathers returned today, they’d be elated to see how we’re carrying out their wishes for the Federal Government to be open and transparent, and for government-produced information, supported by taxpayers’ money, to be accessible easily to anyone who wants to use it.  And second, we began to send materials to Google for digitization as part of the Google Book Project.  Google will scan and make searchable public domain works as well as copyrighted materials, in a manner consistent with copyright law, more about which later.  Public domain materials can be viewed, searched, or downloaded for printing in their entirety from the Google site and from the HathiTrust.

As in the past two years, we continued to make structural organizational changes through the New Service Models program.  Although most of the changes we made were anticipatory of the environmental changes we saw coming, some were developed in reaction to changing patterns and trends in the use of our content and services.  The English and Modern Languages and Literatures Libraries were consolidated and relocated in newly renovated space as the Literatures and Languages Library (Triple L?) The Scholarly Commons opened in the fall and has seen brisk business, particularly from graduate students.  We’ve strengthened our support for GIS with Lura Joseph joining the Scholarly Commons team this fall. The Biology Library closed at the end of last semester and the Biology and Funk Aces staff worked hard to complete their work that will truly make the Funk Aces Library our Life Sciences hub.  All of the Area Studies division faculty and staff, along with the Global Studies Librarian, have come together in the new International and Area Studies Library, situated in renovated spaces formerly occupied by the English and Asian Libraries.  The Reference Services report’s recommendations are being implemented, and the Business and Economics and the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library Implementation teams are just beginning their work.

One of the recommendations in the Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois’ report on the Library was to move away from using Exceptional Dewey classification numbers.  We agreed with this recommendation, and began to apply it concurrent with the formation of the new Triple L Library.  And now we’re extending it.  This summer we reclassed most of the Undergrad Library’s collection from Dewey to LC, and we’ll be moving strategically to do the same to other parts of our collections over the next few years, including newly acquired materials and materials from Triple L that are destined to go to the Main Stacks.  Our users seem to welcome this change, which we estimate will both save us money and speed new materials to the shelves.  And when we finish, whenever that may be, we’ll have been the last of the major research university libraries in the U.S. to have done so. 

The Library/IT fee continues to be an important source of support for Library activities.  Once again, I can’t overstate the importance of this funding.  Over the past year the fee funded three Academic Professionals to support IT-facilitated actions that enhance the academic experience of our students; extended hours in Grainger, Undergrad, and Funk; helped us address inflation in Library materials and operational costs; and supported large-scale digitization; health information collections; collection access and management; Oak Street renovation; digital image collections; digital signage; student innovation projects; and our participation in the Google Book digitization project.  Coming up this year are these new fee-supported programs: more extended hours; one-time funding for IT services; methodology development and applications to evaluate fee-supported projects; Media Commons in the Undergrad Library; CARE, the Center for Academic Resources in Engineering, which is being developed in collaboration with the College of Engineering; acquisition of a web-scale resource discovery system; improving instructional technology in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library; enhancing the IDEALS-Ethnography of the University community; self-check equipment in Undergrad; a targeted acquisitions program; Asian languages materials processing; Illinois electronic dissertations and theses; and renovation of Rooms 200, 220 and 19 Library.  As you can see, without funds from this fee, our students and other users would have a much less rich library experience.

CARLI and the CIC continue to provide us with critically important partnerships, partnerships through which we make a vast amount of content available to our users and in which we’re tackling more issues and creating more opportunities to expand our services and leverage our investments than we could do on our own.   Additionally, through CODSULI, (and isn’t that an awkwardly named group – the Council of Directors of State University Libraries in Illinois) our collections officers are exploring innovative ways to leverage our investments.

CARLI, the CIC, and CODSULI are not our only important external partnerships.  This year we focused on deepening our collaborations with the Library at UIC, in a formal partnership with another awkward acronym: UIRLCP – University of Illinois Research Libraries Collaboration Program.  During this last year we focused on opportunities to coordinate physical and electronic collections and we’ve begun to focus on developing a broad inclusive health sciences information agenda for the entire U of I.   We’ve extended our electronic theses and dissertations program to the Chicago campus and we’ve invested together in DuraSpace and PKP; the latter will sustain open source publishing software currently used at UIC and that we intend to offer here, although not immediately. We also shared the costs for upgrading both campuses’ institutional repositories to DSpace 1.6 and we collaborated on exhibits of special collections materials.  Currently, we’re working on a joint web site where you can keep up-to-date about our collaboration’s activities.

Our partnerships with campus units also deepened this year.  Next month we’ll launch the “Year of Data Stewardship” along with our partners on the campus Data Stewardship Committee, which includes representatives from the CIO’s Office, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, the Graduate College, NCSA, and the Library.  Watch for announcements of a series of events that will be held throughout the year. The Data Stewardship Committee is also paying considerable attention to new requirements from some federal agencies for data management plans to be included in grant proposals.  We’re working with the California Digital Library, the University of Virginia, and others to develop a wizard that will guide grant proposal writers through the process of responding to these new mandates.  The Data Stewardship Committee will play an increasingly important role on campus as more and more locally created data will need to be managed.

As part of the campus Preservation Working Group, we’re striving to preserve the campus’s cultural objects. Through the good work of this group, you soon should see work being done on the iconic Alma Mater statue – the poor thing suffers from Bronze Disease.  Similarly important is the Center for Media Excellence, a virtual interdisciplinary group of campus media, IT, library, and communication staff who are committed to developing best practices for rich media on the Illinois campus. Both the Preservation Working Group and the Center for Media Excellence are grass-root efforts that arose because of common needs and concerns across campus.  And both represent groups that didn’t use an old model of inviting people from other units to join a unit at its table; rather they’re excellent models of units that are building new tables together.  Together with the Center, the Office of the CIO, and others, we’re developing a fee-supported Media Commons in the Undergrad Library.  The Commons will focus on media creation, information technology training in multimedia hardware and software, and instruction in media literacy.

Next, I want to highlight a couple of our public engagement activities, which also represent important collaborations.  Last weekend’s Urbana Sweet Corn Festival was a great success, thanks in large part to the leadership and engagement of our Special Collections Division.  If you missed that, be sure not to miss our annual November celebration of American Music Month, led by the Sousa Archives and the Center for American Music.  It will feature many activities, including a dance performance accompanied by a rare appearance of the SalMar construction.  And if you don’t know what that is, it’s time for a visit to the Harding Band Building.  We also work with campus units on other important public engagement activities, including the Youth Literary Festival, which is a collaboration of the College of Education, WILL, and the Library, and the Preservation Working Group’s events to help members of the public learn how to preserve their personal treasures.

Work continues on the third module of the Oak Street Library Facility, but that likely will be the last major storage space we’ll construct until funding is available for the proposed automated storage and retrieval facility that will be located just west of the Main Library’s 6th addition and that will be an important component of the envisioned renovated Main and Undergrad spaces.  However, owing to the State’s and University’s financial positions and the interim nature of our recent leadership, we can’t count on that happening any time soon.  Since we’re not going to stop adding tangible materials, what are we going to do with them?  Where and how will we store them and make them accessible to our users?  It’s absolutely unacceptable to return to the conditions I found when I arrived here in 1999, when books were piled knee high on the Stacks’ floors, when we had uncataloged materials shoved into corners or burning in boxes in the attic, and when we had unprocessed collections stored in buildings around campus – some in this attic, some in that closet.  This challenge offers us an unprecedented opportunity.

Some of you may be aware of the new models of shared print repositories that are emerging nationally.  Through CARLI, we’re now associate members of the Five College trusted repository of persistent print collections. The repository’s collection consists of a single paper copy, shared by the consortium, of the journals of the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the American Psychological Association, and the Institute of Physics, as well as those journals included in JSTOR and Project Muse. And we’re founding members of the CIC’s Shared Print Repository.  Starting with storage of about 250,000 print journals in science and technology at Indiana University’s high-density storage facility, the Repository is envisioned to be a network of stored materials that are shared by participating members.  We and other CIC libraries will be contributing volumes to fill in IU’s holdings to ensure that there’s a complete set available to us.  We’ll add our copies of those stored titles to other duplicate holdings that we’re considering for withdrawal.  Although managing our space is an important goal, making sure that we’re not withdrawing something that’s important to retain in a print format or something to which there’s no equivalent access is even more important, and so our criteria include review by subject specialists. 

It should be no surprise that we’re starting with the “easier” materials – commonly held serials that are available digitally and whose digital versions are archived in trusted digital archives.  But, we can’t stop there.  Before I go on to talk about other collaborative storage efforts, I want to talk about why managing our shelving spaces is so very important. 

For decades, this library has strived to amass as much tangible material as we could find and afford to buy, license, or be gifted.  We and the University took, and continue to take, enormous pride in boasting about our national rankings based on number of volumes we hold.  As I noted earlier, we’re now number 2.  These rankings have been an important surrogate for indicating the strength of our collections.  And our collections are stunningly strong.  They’re rich, and they’re broad and they’re deep, and they’re special, and they’re the basis for enormous amounts of scholarship and learning.  But the numbers are misleading, as they include many duplicate items – many many copies of the same things – and they exclude items in microform and the hundreds of thousands of items that we haven’t been able to afford to catalog.  Over the last few years we’ve invested heavily in reducing those backlogs of uncataloged materials, and although more materials can now be found and used, ironically their accessibility reduces available shelf space even more quickly.  So, with no inclination not to continue to acquire tangible content, the only practical strategy is to withdraw some duplicate copies and share with other institutions stored copies of commonly-held serials for which we have digital versions. 

That’s a viable strategy for serials.  What about other materials?  We’ve had the barest beginnings of conversations in CODSULI about sharing little-used microform sets by storing a complete set somewhere, which would permit others to withdraw their own copies.  I don’t know if or when we might make some progress on this strategy.  However, it’s likelier that we’ll make progress on developing a distributed network for storing print monographs.  At the HathiTrust Constitutional Convention this coming October, the membership will consider a resolution to undertake planning for this monumental project.  Monumental?  Oh yes, both in terms of size and importance.  It’s highly likely, in fact I think it would be impossible not to think, that we’ll be a major node in whatever distributed print monograph storage system is developed. We’ve played an important role in developing this resolution and I hope some of you will become engaged in what could be a defining moment for research libraries in the U.S. and beyond.  The October conversations are sure to be spirited and the work is sure to be hard, as there’ll be considerable devil in the details if our colleague members agree that this is the right time to launch this initiative.

With such limited space for collections, and no unlimited relief in sight, we need to do a better job of managing all our spaces, including Oak Street.  We have many duplicate materials stored there, and we must figure out how to withdraw true duplicates for which we anticipate little use, using a set of clearly articulated criteria.  We intend to engage an experienced consultant this year to help us to design this program.

One of the keys to our collective thinking about shared storage is the massive amount of material that’s born digital or that’s been digitized.  Google has been the major player in digitizing enormous numbers of books from research libraries’ collections. More than 9 million of these are now part of the HathiTrust, and another 4 million are at Stanford.  But, with the uncertainty of a settlement between Google and the publishers nad Authors that sued it, the future is uncertain. 

A significant barrier to our collective strategies to providing access to more digital works is copyright. I seem to come back to this theme regularly, for it continues to confound our plans.  The absence of Congressional action leaves uncertain the future of access to so-called “orphan works” – copyrighted works for which the current copyright owner cannot be identified and/or located.  (I’ll come back to the topic of orphan works later.)  The outcome of a suit brought by several publishers against Georgia State University, in which they charge that the GSU Library violated copyright laws in the way in which it made copyrighted materials on e-reserves available to its constituency, has not yet been determined.  Should the publishers prevail, we’ll face severe work process issues that could change significantly the ways in which we can offer e-reserves services.  These and the continuing spread of word in the scholarly community about the importance of managing one’s own intellectual property rights, coupled with the lack of sufficient expertise in the University Counsel’s office to handle the volume of requests for clarification and advice, has resulted in many faculty and grad students turning to the Library for such help.  We must continue to build our capacity in this area.

As we build partnerships with other research libraries around the globe, we face challenges that I strongly believe we should seize as important opportunities.  We’ve long had strong working relationships with libraries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union countries, relationships that help make our federally-funded Slavic Reference Service a model that librarians around the country and around the world know, respect, and want to emulate.  We should seize the opportunity to use and/or develop new working relationships with libraries in other parts of the world so as to build on the foundation of this service to extend it into new areas.

The Mortenson Center also provides us with a set of strong models on which to build.  Through the creativity and energy of its small staff, the Center has offered a wide and changing array of programs over its two decades-old lifetime, an anniversary we celebrated last year.  It also brings colleagues from around the world to our campus, which provides us with the chance to meet and interact with interesting people and to learn about their cultures and about how much we librarians have in common.  And please join me in congratulating Barbara Ford and Susan Schnuer for the Mortenson Center’s latest honor – the 2011 Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Award!

We have other global opportunities just waiting to be seized.  We oversee a federally-funded training program for librarians in China.  And we have formal partnerships with libraries in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere.  The agreements under which they operate are fairly generic, specifying goals that other U.S. research libraries specify with their partners: exchanges of materials, exchanges of staff, training, and the like.  I think there’s an enormous opportunity to move past the implied “big brother” nature of these relationships in which the expectations often are that our partners will gain more from us than we from them.  There’s enormous potential to use the Slavic Reference Service model and to develop other models in which our collective users benefit directly and indirectly from our partnerships, and from which new and innovative programs can develop.  So, here’s a challenge I place before you.  What can and should international partnerships bring to us and our partners?  How should we rethink these partnerships and what actions should we take to make them truly meaningful and sustainable?

So, what else is in our future? It’s not an overstatement to say that we have many other challenges and opportunities ahead.  We’re fortunate enough to be able to launch more than a few more searches for faculty and APs this year.  Our challenges here are two-fold: first, to recruit and hire the very best people we can find, and second, to manage the searches in ways that don’t cause our HR infrastructure to implode.  So, as I announced recently, Scott Walter is going to lend a hand to see that we complete so many academic searches in as short period of time as possible. 

The second personnel-related challenge I want to address is our continuing serious morale issue.  I know that our recent salary increases will help a bit, as will the addition of new employees as we’re able to get them on board.  Although these are necessary conditions, they’re insufficient. So, I want to hear from you.  I invite and welcome your ideas about other things we can do to make your work lives better.  Please send your ideas to me directly.

Our challenges and opportunities don’t stop there.  Although we’ll complete our formal New Service Models program this year, that doesn’t mean that we’re done until another few decades elapse.  Evaluating our services and anticipating new demands and expectations must be a continuous process.  The addition of a newly-approved Assessment Coordinator’s position will help ensure that we continue to look at what we’re doing with an eye to adding, changing, or stopping whatever seems appropriate.  Although the pace of the new Service Models program will slow down, and the formal program will end, the process of self-examination and change can’t stop.

As new service models continue to be developed and implemented, and as our users’ needs and expectations change, we’ll continue to be challenged to keep our spaces vibrant and current.  This includes spaces for collections, spaces for users, spaces for collaborations, and spaces for staff.  For example, the fee-supported changes to the Oak Street Library Facility will allow us to move the Preservation staff now in the Main Library to Oak Street, and then we can move the staff in CAM to the basement of the Main Library.  This will clear room 220.  You’ll hear more about the process of determining the public uses of that large space later this fall.  There are other spaces in the Main Library that also will be under consideration for new uses as their old uses change.

Throughout the New Service Models program we’ve heard about the importance of subject experts.  And our hiring plan includes a preponderance of them.  Our challenge is to design positions that require subject expertise without being so narrowly defined as to keep us from making alterations in the scope of the positions as disciplines change over time.  But we need more than subject expertise.  We also must bring on board more functional experts, people in IT who can help support our work, people who can add to our small cadre of professionals working on our data stewardship activities, people who can provide the support we need to do our work, people who….well, can do whatever it is that we’ll need to do in the coming years. And those people must have flexibility, adaptability, the ability to learn new things quickly, and be comfortable living in a state of perpetual ambiguity, for little will become clear as our worlds change and change and change at ever-increasing rates of speed.  They must be able to spin many plates on many poles.  We must attract the best and we must retain the best, a strategy I’m happy to say was successful this year, when we could have said farewell to even more of our faculty.

Shortages of money and space keep us from acquiring or accessing all of the content that our faculty and students need.  New patron-driven acquisitions programs will help our users get their hands on some new materials quickly.  But our future success rests in new ways of leveraging our resources with other institutions and consortia and of envisioning our collections as part of a greater whole.  Think about CARLI, for example, about which I spoke last year.  Taken together, ISHARE institutions’ collections are an enormous set of resources. I’m thrilled that we’re beginning to move away from the practice of IShare being a collection of collections towards it becoming a single collection. CARLI has taken the first step in this bold new vision.  Its Board has endorsed a new policy that encourages us not to purchase more than five copies within the consortium, with, of course, a set of exceptions.  I urge our fund managers to take this seriously and to use this opportunity to invest in materials that are less common and that would otherwise not be available to our users.

It’s a break from our past and our traditions, but we must acknowledge that our future as a great research library never has and still doesn’t rest on our ability to build traditional collections.  Yes, those materials are important, and they’ll continue to be important.  But of more importance are the uncommon, the rare, and the special items that will support the range of exceptional scholarship for which our University is recognized globally.  These are the materials that you and your predecessors have found and acquired, and these are the materials in which we must invest as much as we can.  Leaving to others some of the more commonly published items will leave more resources for us to acquire the uncommon.  Finding these items isn’t always easy, and I know that it adds more plates for you to spin, but it’s a necessary strategy if we’re to maintain our greatness as a research library.

It’s not only thanks to the Library/IT fee that we have more resources to build our collections and offer cutting-edge services.  For us to continue to be successful, we must continue to find funding from grants and gifts and we must invest those funds strategically.  Library Advancement has set an informal goal of $50 million by the end of the Brilliant Futures campaign in December.  They’re already performed brilliantly, and while it doesn’t really matter if they hit that number by the end of the calendar year, what’s important is that we can’t slip out of campaign mode.  Our future success in fund-raising depends on all of you as you remember that future donors are today’s students, staff, faculty members, and members of the community.

Scholarly communications issues continue to be extremely important to the academic community’s future.  The publishing industry continues to use old and lucrative models to price its content while it’s beginning to capitalize on that content further by reusing it for additional services, such as data mining, that are aimed at University administrators. Our Founding Fathers envisioned a balance in our copyright laws that would protect rights holders for relatively short periods of time while making copyrighted materials accessible to others in a limited fashion.  In recent decades, the laws seem to have tipped pretty heavily in favor of rights holders.  When authors of scholarly articles agree to have their works published, they generally assign the publisher exclusive rights to the work.  Although this often occurs without much thought, even the most well-meaning authors may take this action because their aim is not to make money directly but to have their work read and discussed and used as evidence of the quality of their scholarship in promotion and tenure decisions.  Regrettably, these authors often find that they can’t even reuse their own materials for many decades, and we end up paying higher prices to purchase what they’ve written.  I applaud the Library units that have worked aggressively with their constituents to educate them about IDEALS and to facilitate the deposit of their materials into our openly accessible institutional repository.  I encourage other Library units to join in this important initiative.

Along with the general academic community, we’ve worked to educate our community about these general issues through campaigns such as last year’s grant-supported “Author’s Rights” effort and through Academic Senate resolutions.  And we’ve taken some actions ourselves, including supporting open access initiatives such as SCOAP3 for physics journals and BioMed Central.  We must continue to speak out, to educate, and to take actions that support and advance open access to content and data.

As I noted earlier, there is a special group of works, often called “orphan works,” whose rights holders can’t be located.  Congress has thus far failed to enact legislation to deal with these orphans.  However, there’s a handful of institutions that are taking bold steps to make digital copies of orphaned works available to their academic communities.  I hope we’ll be able to join them soon.  With Mary Case of UIC, I am awaiting approval from President Hogan.  We’re ready to jump in as soon as he says the word.

This year we’re updating our strategic plan to take us through the next few years.  We don’t yet know whether or in what form Chancellor Wise will undertake longer-term planning for the University.  However, if her past record is indicative, we can expect a process that’s thoughtful yet expedient.  Her Two Years to Two Decades (2y2d) planning process articulates priorities for the University of Washington that guide its near-term planning and, through a collaborative process, is developing a sustainable business plan for the next two decades.  So, while I can’t pretend to know what she may do here, I venture to say that the University probably will be back on the planning track soon. 

Innovation, Globalization, and Collaboration. Ironically, that’s the title of an upcoming conference of the Society for Scholarly Publishing.  But it’s also what I’ve been talking about today: some of the strategies that are critically important to our continuing ability to serve our users at the highest levels of excellence, wherever they are and whenever they want it.  We’ll continue to face changes and challenges and we’ll continue to create and seize opportunities.  We’ll continue to have lots of plates spinning on lots of poles.  But I’m confident that this year and next we’ll be in a better position to keep them all going.

I’ve tried not to repeat too much of what I’ve said in past years, although I know that I didn’t succeed entirely, as some themes are important to repeat.  I want to be deliberate, though, by repeating these:

Bigger is no longer better.  Quality is more important than quantity.  Financial uncertainty is the new certainty.  Collaboration is more important than singular action.  Ambiguity will increase.  Flexibility and agility will be important for success.  Change will continue to accelerate.

And, as most of you know by now, one of my favorite sayings:  Visions without actions are just hallucinations.  Visions without actions are just hallucinations.

I want to end by talking about another opportunity.  I’ve had the privilege of leading this great Library for the last 12 years, exactly half the total time I’ve spent as a library director at this and two other research university libraries. I had intended to tell you that this will be my last year to serve in this position.  However, on Sunday, Chancellor-designate Wise persuaded me that it’s in the University’s best interests for me to continue for another year beyond this one. So, I’ll end my service as the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian on August 15, 2013, take a semester’s leave to refresh my research agenda – and myself – and then return as a tenured faculty member to work alongside Barbara Ford and Susan Schnuer in the Mortenson Center, which you know is very important to the Library and our future.  

I want to tell you why I’ve decided not to stay on as University Librarian beyond the next two years and I want to tell you why I’m telling you this now.  Many of you have heard me talk about leadership, and about leaders overstaying their welcome.  Because I don’t think I’m quite at that point, it will be exactly the right time for me to make way for a new leader who will bring new and fresh perspectives as well as enormous reserves of energy.  Keeping those plates spinning takes a lot of mental and physical energy and I recognize that I’ve reached a time in my life when those reserves of energy will soon wane.  And, I’m telling you this now because I’ve always tried to be as open and transparent as possible.  You deserve nothing less.

But, it’s not yet time for me to end my term as University Librarian. For now, I’ll be trying to keep those plates spinning as we strive to keep this great Library in the forefront of innovation, excellent service, global collaborations, and, of course, magnificent collections.

And so the year ahead will be filled with many challenges and many opportunities.  There’s so much to do as we continue to realize our vision of a great 21st-century library.


Thank you for all you do to make this a great Library and a great University.  And thank you for joining me here today.