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Life Sciences Division Plan

March 12, 2009


The University Libraries Life Sciences Division, consisting of the Applied Health Sciences, Biology, Funk ACES, and Veterinary Medicine libraries, offers the following proposal to address the Library Administration's request to expedite the transitioning of our services and physical facilities to meet the goals set forth in the Provost's letter of January 15, 2009.  The Life Sciences Division acknowledges the changing library environment in which we work and the evolving use patterns of our clientele.  While we have only been working on the plan outlined below for a month, we've been identifying trends and developing ideas for our libraries and services for years.   We appreciate this opportunity to bring several of these ideas to light.

A major part of this plan calls for the Funk Library to serve as the central facility around which our specialized life sciences collections and services can continue to grow.  We have identified a number of new activities and personnel moves that can be made immediately to address current needs.  We're also proposing the merger of the Biology and Funk ACES Libraries into a central life sciences hub.  Further out on the timeline, we are considering the eventual closing of the Veterinary Medicine Library and merging its collection with Funk.  The Applied Health Sciences Library may also consider a number of options as space for collections and suitable service models are developed.  While not specifically mentioned in this proposal, we also need to consider the future of the Illinois Natural History Survey and the UIC Health Sciences-Urbana libraries.   These libraries provide essential collections and services for the life sciences on this campus, but remain separate entities from the UIUC Libraries, and thus beyond the scope of this proposal.

We envision the life sciences library collections and services emanating from the Funk Library hub with satellite operations, both physical and virtual, touching nearly every discipline on campus.  We also realize the limitations of the Funk Library's office and shelf space. So while our offices may be physically located in different areas of campus, and our print collections housed in various locations, the core facility, collections, and staff will be centered at the Funk Library. 

There is still much to be determined with regards to the Biology, Applied Health Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine libraries.  There are several valid reasons for maintaining their existing collections and service points that, for many, will outweigh any cost-saving realized from their closing at this time.  Some of these reasons are outlined in the individual library reports, others will surface as the plans get a more public hearing.

We appreciate the opportunity to contribute our thoughts on the future of library and information services for the Life Sciences constituency of this campus.  Our plans will have enormous impact on our users for many years to come.  We realize also, that the status quo cannot be maintained and we stand ready and willing to implement new ideas that make sense now and for the future.

1)  New initiatives that can be implemented immediately:

·       Implement collaborative instruction as outlined the new Funk initiative.

·       IM and Chat reference support will be expanded throughout all LSD units this semester.

·       Expedite Biology and Funk Library collection transfers to Main Stacks and Oak St.

·       Aggressive acquisition of electronic journal backfiles will continue as funding allows.

·       Implement an on-demand scanning and document delivery of print articles/book
chapters.  This would be a quick-turnaround (1 hr or less) photocopy (scan & email) service for journal articles not available electronically.  (This would operate independently from IRRC or anything IPM does for e-reserves).

·       Merge the Life Sciences and Physical Sciences Divisions, or create an even larger Public Services Division that spans all disciplines.

·       Identify life science documents for digitization and work with DCC to fast-track the process.

·       Establish a Divisional tiered reference service that's capable of addressing reference questions effectively and efficiently from a variety of locations.

2)  Establish the Funk Library as the Life Sciences Library

3)  The Biotechnology Librarian serves as a model for new service initiatives.

·       A positive example of collaborative work on web resource development

·       The Biotech position successfully illustrates the "library(ian) without walls" concept

·       Demonstrated that it is not necessary to be physically imbedded, but culturally imbedded. In tune with the information needs of particular user groups.

·       Establishing contacts and channels of communications within academic courses and new research groups.

4)  The Applied Health Sciences Library

5)  The Biology Library

6)  The Veterinary Medicine Library  


  1. Applied Health Sciences Library       
  2. Biology Library
  3. Veterinary Medicine Library
  4. Envisioning What the Funk Library Could Be

Attachment 1:  Applied Health Sciences Library     

It is important for the College of AHS to maintain its library's current identity and the cohesiveness of its collection.  We propose that the AHS Library remain in its current central location, and will adjust our operations to realize savings in other ways.  The AHS Library presents a more complex picture than most departmental libraries because of its high use patterns and the characteristics of its holdings.  The AHS Library is used heavily by a large cohort of students who consider it a central gathering place for academic work.  AHS has a significant portion of students from under-represented classes (20%) for whom strong social networks are a key to retention.  The AHS Library is successful in strengthening their community.  Developing a sustainable AHS Library service model involves collaboration with other library units and a sharing of campus resources.  The overarching research and teaching focus of the College is preventing chronic disease and promoting health and wellness across the lifespan.  This focus has close affinity with the health and behavioral sciences.

The College of AHS is multidisciplinary by nature and the AHS Library currently supports the College's four accredited programs.  The College of AHS is bringing to campus two new degree programs in health:  the graduate level Masters in Public Health (MPH) and the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Health (I-health).  To meet growing curriculum needs in the health sciences, the Library must partner closely with the UIC Library of the Health Sciences to develop collections and instructional services that serve common goals.  Health sciences literature is specialized, and it has not been a traditional strength of this campus.  There is a need for increased instruction on health sciences search tools and the complex methods of accessing information that is not available on campus.  To meet this growing need we will collaborate throughout the Library to build synergies and forge a new approach to information literacy in the health sciences.  The approach will be similar to that used for the Health Information Portal.

Faculty in AHS pursue research collaborations with counterparts in fields as diverse as engineering, nutrition, immunology, neuroscience, and sociology, psychology and human and community development, for example.  Research is primarily directed at improving health and well-being with college-wide research initiatives in the areas of aging and disability. The many aspects of sport and its role as exercise are also predominant subjects.  While it is important for the AHS Library to maintain its present library collaborations with physical sciences and engineering and life sciences, we will also benefit from building stronger collaborative relationships with the UIC Library of the Health Sciences Urbana branch and complementary behavioral science disciplines. 

The following adjustments to operations are being implemented to realize cost savings.  In FY09, the AHS Library's student wage budget was reduced by 20% and its GA position eliminated.  We also propose that the AHS Library reduce open hours in the following manner.  1) Eliminate evening hours during summer term II semester (a net reduction of 8 hours/week in summer).  2) During fall and spring semesters, eliminate Saturday afternoon hours and reduce open hours on Sunday to 2pm-8pm (a net reduction of 5 hours/week in fall and spring).  These reductions in open hours for FY10 would immediately net another savings of 22% in the AHS Library's student wage budget.

We believe that in the future, the AHS collection could be serviced more from central Main Library points.  We could take further advantage of central journal check-in, and of central print reserves, especially for lower level undergrad courses.  AHS faculty already utilizes electronic reserves, but we could promote this service even more.  By migrating some servicing of the collection to central points, the two civil service staff in the AHS Library can begin to take on new roles, whether in the AHS Library or elsewhere in the Library.  The two staff are highly valued by the College for their active role in providing assistance to students in the AHS Library.  If the circulation, shelving and retrieval functions were taken over and handled consistently and effectively by a centrally managed pool, the librarian and staff would be more available to contribute to public service in the unit and beyond, and to Library-wide service initiatives, such as chat reference, IDEALS, digitizing, etc.   Further, with less supervisory responsibility, the librarian would be free to focus on collection development, explore more customized services and faculty liaison activity, pursue collaborative instruction projects, yet still offer specialized reference service during office hours in the unit.  Staff collection support will continue to be required until the Library transitions to fuller electronic access. 

In response to the Provost's request for more efficiency in Library service, the AHS Library proposes to operate more efficiently, yet build on the successes already achieved.  This plan presents a cautious yet realistic approach to planning for the future, but in this case, the caution is warranted because the AHS Library is used heavily as a central gathering place, it ranks among the top 25% of library units in gate count, active circulation, and reference queries answered, and it is integral to the mission of the College of Applied Health Sciences.


Attachment 2:  Biology Library

The Provost tasked the University Library with integrating the Biology Library in to the Funk Library and creating a Life Sciences hub. Alternative proposals for closing the Biology Library were raised during the planning process, but the Life Sciences Division is in agreement that merging the Biology Library into the Funk Library is the best response to the Provost's challenge. As a result of this merger, life sciences materials and services will be available for more hours each day. The merged collections complement each other and will create a broader and deeper collection. Other details of this plan are laid out elsewhere. As part of this New Service Model, the Biology Librarian will work with the two schools of life sciences currently served by the Biology Library to develop a computer commons/reading room in Burrill Hall with office hours for the librarian, managed and staffed by the school(s). We seek funding for as many of the remaining backfiles as possible (in particular the $90,000 Oxford University Press Science package) and flip as many remaining Biology print subscriptions as we can to electronic access.

Biology is the core of the life sciences and one of the most significant subjects on campus with our new focus on translational research. The "pure" biological research reported in core biological journals are used by applied researchers in agriculture, veterinary medicine, human medicine, bioengineering, conservation, business, psychology, and many more fields. In addition, researchers in other "pure" sciences such as anthropology, chemistry, physics, geology, and mathematics utilize these resources. Molecular biology, especially, forms the foundation for research in innumerable fields across the sciences.

The School of Life Sciences split into two separate schools several years ago, the School of Integrative Biology (SIB) (consisting of Animal Biology, Entomology, and Plant Biology) and the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (SMCB) (Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular and Integrative Physiology). The Department of Biochemistry was formerly part of the School of Chemical Sciences but moved to SMCB. The collection responsibility remained with the Chemistry Library. From this description, it is clear that there is overlap in SMCB with the chemical sciences faculty, but also with agriculture, vet med, health sciences (applied and basic), psychology, engineering, and many other fields. SIB interests overlap with ACES and the Natural History Survey as well as all of the SMCB related areas listed above. SIB faculty and students use more print-based and historical materials than SMCB faculty on the whole, but there is so much overlap between the subdisciplines and their use of the literature that generalizations are almost always wrong. Molecular biology resources are routinely used by researchers and students in all three of the SIB departments, for instance.

A combined Biology and Chemistry Library has been proposed by the Library Administration.  After discussing the issue with Tina Chrzastowski, the Chemistry Librarian, we are in agreement that it is not possible to combine all aspects of biology that are currently handled by the Biology Library in the Chemistry Library. The Chemistry Library has about 15,000 volumes and could make room for about 6,000 volumes from Biology. The Biology Library currently holds about 230,000 volumes. Of these, an estimated 12,000 monograph volumes have circulated in the last 5 years, based on a Voyager report that includes analytics and other problems. Most of our current journal subscriptions, including backfiles, are available online and can go to remote storage, but there is a significant subset that is still used and is not available electronically, perhaps about 25,000 volumes. Shrinking the Biology collection dramatically enough to fit in the current Chemistry Library space would be a serious disservice to the users of the material. In addition, moving the Biology Library services to the Chemistry Library does not advance the proposal to make the Funk Library into a life sciences hub, since the core biology materials and services would be held elsewhere.

An alternative is to split the collection and disciplinary responsibilities that are currently managed by the Biology Library into molecular and cellular biology on the one hand, and integrative biology on the other hand, with MCB collections and responsibilities going to a combined Chemistry/MCB library in the current Noyes Lab space. The Integrative Biology materials and services would go to the Funk Library, with the Biology Librarian splitting time between Chemistry and Funk. While it is possible to divide the collection by call number, faculty and students in each school utilize materials across the call number range and would need to go to both the Chemistry and Funk facilities, thus doubling the number of libraries they need to use, not decreasing it. This is not a satisfactory option since the molecular and cellular biology materials are complementary to both the integrative biology materials and the collections in the Funk Library. Combining these collections will allow users to browse the collection as a coherent whole and will allow services that relate to MCB to be focused in the life sciences hub, not split between libraries.

Since keeping the Biology Library open in its current space is not an option, the Life Sciences Division feels that merging the Biology Library collection and services with the Funk Library as part of the process of creating a Life Sciences hub rather than drastically shrinking and splitting the collection and services as part of a temporary Biology-Chemistry library is the best outcome for life scientists across campus.


Attachment 3:   Veterinary Medicine Library

There are a number of significant issues that will influence the decision and timeline to close the Veterinary Medicine Library and consolidate the collections and services with Funk ACES.  The merger of the two libraries would result in an improved collection by combining their animal health sciences and nutrition collection strengths.  The Vet Med Librarian could also provide much needed support in ACES, even in a part-time capacity, due to their existing unfilled professional positions.  The two FTE Vet Med staff members would then be available for reassignment, and over $12,000 in student wage expenditures would be saved by the Library.


The issues that would need to be addressed before such a move could take place are outlined below.  While the issues may take time to resolve, planning and preparation for the merger could begin almost immediately in order to set up the logistics needed to facilitate the physical relocations later on.


Accreditation issue

The UI College of Veterinary Medicine is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association.  The AVMA Accreditation Policies have a specific standard for library support for the colleges. 1 While this standard is open to some interpretation, it should be noted that the accredited veterinary schools in the US and Canada do maintain an identifiable library collection and librarian to address this requirement.   The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is next scheduled for AVMA Accreditation in 2013.   It may smooth the accreditation process if the library merger takes place after the visit.  In informal conversations with several CVM staff, including the Library Committee members and the Dean, this is the most significant concern.

Clinical Staff Needs

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital operates two clinics on a 24-hour basis.  The collection is frequently used by the clinic staff and the 4 th year students in clinical practice.   Electronic resources and the clinician's personal collections meet many of their information needs, however, emergency situations do arise where immediate access to the print resources of the Veterinary Medicine Library is essential.  Having the Library's print resources close at hand ensures timely access in critical situations.

Course Reserve Collection

The most highly used service in the Vet Med Library is the Course Reserve Collection.  These materials, selected by instructors each semester, consist of books and other materials with required reading for each course.  In order to ensure the availability of these materials for all students in the classes, a two-hour loan period is enforced, with fines assessed to materials returned late.  Until these materials are available electronically, or the instructors revise their course reading requirements, the collection must remain available and accessible to the students.

Study Space

The Vet Med Library provides significant study space for students in the College.  A mix of private study carrels, study tables, and a group study room provide seating for over 130 students.  Public access computers, a number of CVM-networked computers and wireless network access are provided here.  It is not likely the students will find another location in the College for studying and class preparation. 



It is estimated that nearly 1,000 linear feet of shelving space would need to be made available in Funk ACES to accommodate the Vet Med Library's "working" collection of monographs.  Another 1,000 linear feet would be needed for the veterinary journals not yet available electronically.  This figure (~2,000 lf) represents less than 40% of the existing Vet Med Library collection.  While combining the collection of the Veterinary Medicine Library with the Funk ACES Library would build a stronger resource, there are areas where the collections don't mix well. Currently there is very little medical component in the Funk collection, so the general medical texts that make up nearly 50% of the Vet Med collection would be out of scope for the agriculture collection.  Ideally, the medical collection would be more appropriate in the Health Sciences Library



The Veterinary Medicine Library is located in the College of Veterinary Medicine building and adjacent to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital on the south end of campus.  The primary users of the Vet Med Library are mostly located within 100 yards of the facility, while the Funk-ACES Library is approximately one mile north of the veterinary campus.  There is no direct bus service and parking at ACES-Funk is severely limited.


While the permanent closure is the desired outcome in terms of cost, there are alternatives to closing that would provide some cost savings, but not to the extent of eliminating the library.  Briefly, they are:

 Attachment 4:  Envisioning what the Funk Library could be


An efficiently operated facility that houses the most vital paper collections, provides users with access to library professionals during scheduled hours, maintains hours/services in accordance with expectations from Library administration for their "busiest facilities", provides premium (not just adequate) public space/equipment for library users during operating hours, and is able to provide outreach for services that are not offered within the physical facility.  An appropriate mixture of staff/faculty will work together to reach common goals.  It is expected that faculty librarians will be a combination of "hub librarians" and embedded librarians, and that these professionals will become a team working toward common goals.  We will be able to both cope with day to day needs that currently exist, and will have the resources and support to go beyond routine needs and pursue larger projects that cannot be accomplished by individuals.  We will be on the cutting edge of innovation in library services nationally, and will accept as our mission the goal of experimenting with technologies and methods that are unproven in traditional library settings.  We will maintain and enhance our current centers of excellence, while divesting from programs that are not in our best interest to continue.

Efficiently operated facility:

We will aim to staff our facility as efficiently as possible.   We will examine any existing Library standards or best practices that might define how a library facility is operated at the most cost-effective level at UIUC.   If no standard exists, we will develop a standard that is on the cutting edge of library operation for this campus and follow it.  We will gather data that can be used to allocate sufficient staff resources for the desired hours of operation.  We expect to see fluctuations in the need for staff based on predictable times, and will design our schedule accordingly.  We will target certain blocks of time that are most favorable to having professional staff available, and have scheduled librarian/professional hours during those targeted periods.

We will invite any campus group interested in energy efficiency to examine our facility and make recommendations on how we can operate more efficiently - such recommendations can then be vetted by Library Facilities for implementation.  Library staff will incorporate energy conservation measures into their daily lives while on the job.  We will be enthusiastic about serving as a pilot facility to test energy saving measures.

Vital Paper Collections:

Electronic information is now the norm, though there are still parts of our historical paper collections that remain vital and that exist in no other format.  We will examine our existing collections to determine if stable electronic versions exist.  If there is a stable electronic version available of something that we also have in paper format, we will not house that paper version in our library - though a paper copy may well be housed elsewhere on campus.  If it is possible to convert what we consider a vital paper document into an electronic version, we will pursue that conversion so that we may then locate that item elsewhere.  We will maintain our vital paper collection in a manner that allows for browsing, circulation service and very long hours of access.


Access to library professionals:

There will be a mix of home librarians (perhaps 2 or 3) and embedded librarians (perhaps 3 or 4) associated with the Funk Library.  We will maintain scheduled hours where professional librarians are available for consultation on a walk-in basis.  We will determine the most effective times to schedule these hours through analysis of facility use data and best practices established elsewhere in the Library.   We expect these hours will be staffed by professional librarians that may well not typically be located in the Funk Library, and this pattern would work well with the embedded librarian model.  Embedded librarians would spend much of their time outside the actual facility working with/for their constituents, but would be part of a services team that made certain that sufficient professional help was available at the most effective times in the Funk Library.   There will be space and equipment available for library professionals while on scheduled duty, so that library patrons who come into the library for personal assistance can expect to receive the highest level of professional service.  This might require specialized workstations for certain disciplines, and private office space for consultations with librarians will be available for the embedded librarians while scheduled in-house.  The private office space used by embedded librarians will not be permanently assigned to any individual, but will be reserved for the use of embedded librarians when they are on scheduled shifts.

Hours and services will reflect "busiest library" standards:

Our goal for the Funk Library is for it to be considered the busiest library on campus.  Though we obviously cannot accommodate the same numbers that larger facilities can, we can strive to create a library that is at its peak capacity as often as possible.  We will undoubtedly suffer in cost effectiveness due to lower patron capacity, which will require us to expend nearly as much money for hourly operation as a larger facility that can accommodate many more people.  We could shift to a 24 hour operation model, but we would first need to determine what is needed for that service increase and then gather the resources to offer the expanded hours.  Careful monitoring of facility usage during extended hours would be needed to assure that this is an efficient use of our resources.  Displaced civil service staff from consolidating units could be added to the Funk Library to provide these extra hours.  There is also historical precedence for using Library/IT fee money to extend library hours.  A suggested minimum staffing would be at least one civil service staff member and one student worker for the potential "graveyard" shift, though 2 civil service staff members would be better.  There are considerable security risks associated with operating a facility during extended hours without adequate staff on hand to assure patron safety.  It is presently unknown whether a standard for extended hours staffing exists within the Library, but should one exist we would certainly comply with that standard.

Premium space and Equipment:

The Funk Library now offers premium space and equipment compared to most libraries on campus, but there is certainly room for improvement as long-term inadequacies and deterioration from use now exist.  It is expected that the Library Administration would focus its resources to make certain that we continue to have an excellent portfolio of public access computers available.  We certainly have plenty of electrical and network capacity for expanding our public computers.  The ACES Academic Computing Facility located in the lower level of the Funk Library's building serves as an added bonus, as there are extra computers available that the Library need not maintain or provide services for.  We currently are plagued by inadequate signage in the library, and this has been on the Library Administration's "to do" list since the building opened.  A program should be established by the Library to maintain the facility and its furnishings in an ongoing fashion, perhaps through development efforts.  It is expected that little or no structural change in the physical facility need take place to fulfill our vision.  We will maintain our group study rooms as a public service, and will not diminish public space currently in the facility for administrative purposes.

Building a team of professionals:

It is expected that the professional librarians, both embedded and hub, will become a vigorous team who can focus on common goals that serve both the Library and campus.  All of these librarians will have a definite administrative responsibility for the hub, while maintaining strong outreach responsibilities for our constituents.  As our constituents are extremely interdisciplinary in their research and instructional needs, the team approach to providing services is expected to be an added bonus to our existing configuration.  We will discuss the discrete administrative goals of various players in our portfolio of professional librarians below.  The Library Administration, in consultation with the Executive Committee, has recently developed new policies and procedures for those that are appointed as Unit Head.  The current description of duties for unit heads is based primarily on old fashioned administrative rubric, rather than forward looking functional needs of an interdisciplinary library unit - but as that is the current state of our documentation we can begin there and continue through what we envision as coordinators for functional goals.

Unit Head:

While recognizing the unique characteristics and special mission of each unit within the Library, it is clear that all units essentially are service providers.  In view of this, unit heads are charged with providing creative leadership for their units and with collegial collaboration with other units in the Library.  This entails providing services to the unit's constituents as well as engaging the world beyond the walls of the University in areas that directly affect the unit's particular mission.

 The unit head is ultimately responsible and accountable for the performance of the unit. This entails running the unit on a day-to-day basis, assuring provision, evaluation and monitoring of quality services, and mentoring and training the staff. Depending on the size of the staff, some of the duties listed in the Appendix may either be delegated to other faculty and staff within the unit or handled directly by the head. In units that contain other Library faculty, the division of subsidiary responsibility will be determined in a collegial manner, with the unit head having the final authority for job assignments.  Without such authority the unit head could not be held responsible and accountable for the performance of staff within the unit. 

(quoted from:

Instruction Coordinator:

§  extension personnel

§  clinical personnel

§  university staff members

§  research groups/labs

§  library staff training


Technology Coordinator:


Collections Coordinator:


Agricultural Communications Documentation Center Coordinator:


Public Services Coordinator:


Big Project Coordinator:


Digital Repository/Author Services Coordinator:



Electronic Reserves/Illinois Compass Coordinator:


Embedded Librarians: