STATE OF THE LIBRARY 2005
September 6, 2005
Thank you so much for joining me as I start my seventh year as your University Librarian. As has become my custom, I want to use the time we have together this morning to talk about where we've been over the past year or so and where we're heading.Last year my talk departed from previous ones. I issued a veritable and urgent, 'call to arms,' if you will, based on my analyses of the immense changes on the horizon for higher education in general and UIUC in particular. I called on all of us to stop trying to 'muddle through' until financial times improved because it was clear to me, as well as to many of you, that the State's support for higher education wasn't going to increase any time soon, if ever. Boldness, audacity, and breaks with traditional approaches, built on our traditional values and strengths, with focus on our users, are the keys to our long-term success. Here are the eleven issues I said we needed to take on in the short-term to ensure our long-term future:
And, I called for us to stop quibbling with one another. Like all families, we need to keep working on how we treat each other. And we need to continue to find ways to support one another during these exciting yet often stressful times.
As Steve Martin might say, it's been a wild and crazy year. Lots of ideas were floated, some spurred by independent bold creative thinking and risk-taking, some spurred by our new strategic plan, some spurred by the Budget Implementation Task Force report, and all focused on improving services - in the very broadest sense - to our users. Our strategies were clear: stop 'muddling through' and focus on making fundamental changes in the ways in which we deliver content and services so we can improve users' access and use of our expertise and our collections, our two most important resources.
The financial sands on which we're grounded are shifting inexorably and relentlessly. When I accepted the position of University Librarian back in 1999, when economic times were healthier than they are today, the Provost agreed to increase the Library's base budget by a minimum of $5 million over the subsequent five year period. Although it took the University a little longer than that, it lived up to then-Provost Herman's word. Besides the additional funds we've received to cover a portion of our salary increases, the campus completed its $5 million base budget increase obligation in FY06 (that is, in our current budget). It's important to remember that most of those years were marked by severe cuts in the State's support for the University and concomitant cuts to most units across campus. With the exception of a relatively small reduction in one of those years, the campus has protected the Library from further budget declines.
But, we can't count on similar protection in the future, not because the campus doesn't continue to value the Library, but because there are so many important priorities on campus that compete for the limited funds that might become available. Even with the continued advocacy of the Library's Long-Range Advisory Committee and the Senate Committee on the Library, it's difficult to predict how the Library will fare as a priority for the new campus leadership. So, we must continue to use our existing funds more effectively and we must generate more and more of our own revenues if we are to control our own fate. We're not without help, but it's very time-consuming work. The campus has given us funds to hire an additional development officer whose beat will be Chicago. I've been spending more than 30% of my time doing development-related work, and you can expect that this percentage will increase, as will the investments of time and money to get our new entrepreneurial activities underway.
It's important that we understand clearly what's happening at the University system level as well as here on campus. President White is engaged in a vigorous strategic planning process that will build on the legacy of success provided by previous generations of faculty, students, and staff. He views that this plan is essential to creating a vibrant future for the University of Illinois.
Many people in academia are skeptical about strategic planning. To them, strategic planning seems to resonate with values from the corporate world and it doesn't seem to relate to the culture we've built in higher education. President White and the Board of Trustees clearly have a different view. Here's President White's perspective:
Higher education has been and will continue to be buffeted by extraordinary changes. The opportunities presented by expanding markets and the challenges of an environment characterized by increasing competition require that we successfully position the University to build a sustainable, competitive advantage. We must also establish high aspirations for this University, focus intense effort on execution of our plans, and secure needed support and resources from our partners. The strategic planning process provides a venue in which we can thoughtfully address these and other issues facing the University."
President White's vision is to create a "brilliant future for the University of Illinois in which the students, faculty, and staff of our inclusive community thrive and the citizens of Illinois, the nation, and the world benefit, a future in which the University of Illinois is the recognized leader among public research universities in teaching, scholarship, and research; arts and culture; public service; global reach; and athletics." In identifying a set of guiding values, he states that in all that we do we will aim high; strive to control our destiny; be accountable for our actions and exercise responsible stewardship; foster diversity, be inclusive, treat each other with dignity and respect, and promote citizenship; value excellence, quality, and service; and foster innovation and creativity.
The strategic planning process calls for development of campus strategic plans by the end of this calendar year and collegiate and other unit plans (this includes the Library) by the end of this academic year. The Urbana campus has drafted - and I emphasize the word 'draft' - a set of strategies, and although they may not end up representing exactly what strategies the campus will endorse, they are indicative of the directions and themes that will be featured over the coming years. In general, they reflect a desire to be more problem-centered, to be linked more strongly to society and societal issues, and to feature more interdisciplinarity and different organizational structures. Here are the drafted specifics as of now:
Earlier this summer, the vice chancellors and deans spent a morning with the Chancellor and Provost talking about the content of the strategic planning process. Comments made at that meeting about the campus parallel comments I've made to you in the past about the Library. The group noted that fear of public ire (i.e., having a negative story appear in a major media outlet) is stifling innovation. In general, our culture was painted as having low risk tolerance and it was urged repeatedly that we find ways for the campus and campus units (which includes us) to become more audacious. The group noted that we don't do enough bench-marking, that we don't factor relevant data into our decision-making, and that we don't often model 'best practices.' There was further consensus that our biggest barrier is our distributed inertia. As one dean put it, "the status quo is very popular." But the status quo can't be sustained.
President White's strategic planning process, the emerging campus focus areas, and the barriers I just described are all important for us to keep in mind as we continue to plan for the future of this great Library. We have been entrusted not only to provide the very best collections, content, services, and expertise to our current users but also to ensure that what we build and create will live on in the future.
I don't think anyone would characterize this past year in the Library as 'status quo.' Nor do I think many people would characterize it as audacious. However, I do think that we have made significant progress in meeting some of the challenges I issued last year. I want to review them briefly. We don't have the time this morning to review all that you have accomplished over the last year, so please don't be offended if the achievement of which you are the proudest isn't highlighted today. My office will soon have the list of all the accomplishments sent to me by Division Coordinators posted on the Web, and I invite you to look there to see the awesome list of what you've done collectively. It's a list to be proud of.
My first challenge last year was for us to stop clinging to all the service points in the Main Library. They're confusing and frustrating to our users, they're expensively replicative of staff tasks, and staff members are increasingly stressed - some by high demand and some by boring routine tasks. It's an expensive system that must be changed. And changing it is. Within the last year we merged all Reference and Information Desk services at the newly installed Info Desk on the second floor, offering less confusing and more economical reference and information services to our many patrons. This summer we consolidated the History & Philosophy Library and the Newspaper Library into a single conceptually integrated library. Faculty and staff positions were redesigned, resulting in robust jobs and a more effective and economical configuration.
But this is just a start. There is a just-completed proposal to create an Access Services Team that will reduce and rationalize access services and service points in the Main Library over the next few years. Proposals for the development of a Scholars Commons on the second floor of the Main Library are also nearly complete. When it's completed this fall, the report that Shepley, Bullfinch will submit to us should provide us with additional ideas and blueprints for making the Main Library Building a more up-to-date and efficient facility.
Last year I challenged us to examine and implement new models of service and content delivery. We've made good progress, although there is still much to be done. We closed the Women and Gender Resources Library this summer, integrating its collections with similar materials held by every division, reassigning a staff member to help boost our increasingly centralized reserves and e-reserves services, locating the WAGR Librarian both where faculty and students in women and gender studies do their work and in the Education and Social Sciences Library where students will have access to her expertise during hours when the WAGR Library had been closed, and converting the facility into a badly-needed conference and instruction space. We introduced IM-based reference and put productivity software on public computers; we're now extending both to other locations. Thanks to the work of the Access Strategies Team, we now have a new approach andstructurefor providing intellectual access to the Library's collections and resources in all formats as well as recommendations for a new intellectual access infrastructure better suited to the evolving information environment. We also reached out to undergraduates in our first Fall Festival, pulling hundreds of students into the building they've long called the "Graduate Library." They should know better now.
Several collaborative ventures are helping us meet the service delivery challenge. We've joined with Haverford, Emory, the University of Florida, and the Library of Congress in the RichCat catalog enhancement pilot program, identifying map folios for scanning tables of contents as our contribution to this attempt to improve access to materials shelved in storage facilities. Together with our CIC colleagues, we're participating in a pilot project in which we're collectively archiving the print journals of two major publishers, Springer and Wiley. By sharing single print subscriptions, we'll reduce our subscription, handling, and shelving costs while extending access through online versions.
We must be alert to upcoming changes in the direction and structures of units on campus, and we must be prepared to find new ways to serve these new units better. Because our departmental libraries are discipline oriented, we'll have to find new ways to collaborate physically and virtually to serve the emerging needs of emerging groups and groupings. For example, the upcoming consolidation of the departments of Atmospheric Sciences, Geography, and Geology into the School of Earth, Society, and the Environment prompted us to engage an external consultant to help us develop short and long term plans to meet the needs of this new School whose whole will be greater than the sum of its old parts.
Together with CITES and thanks to a new hire, we're beginning to seriously address part of the third challenge I issued - developing models for offering large-scale services to undergraduates. Our current instruction program continues to strengthen, bringing critically important information literacy skills to many of our students. But it alone is insufficient to provide the broader learning environment UIUC students and faculty need to thrive on and off campus, throughout the rest of their lives. We must do much more and so we will. Using the financial support the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has pledged and working with CITES, we're building a Learning Commons in the Undergraduate Library. The Provost's investment in renovating a classroom in Undergrad is an important factor in our long-term success in this area. Once the Learning Commons nears operational status, we'll turn our attention to developing two new learning commons models: one that's physically distributed across campus (perhaps, for example, in the Illini Union or one designed with a disciplinary approach, located where students and faculty in the field hang out) and one that's delivered online as a virtual learning commons. I think that the success of our interactive chat and IM reference services provides a good base for developing a robust online model. A nascent collaboration with the Residence Halls Library staff may provide yet another important component of this model.
Preservation. You've heard a lot from me about the imperative of preserving our collections and of extending this concept to UIUC-produced digital content through IDEALS, the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship - our institutional repository. We've made significant progress on IDEALS this year, putting on-the-ground leadership in place, selecting D-Space software, developing a collections policy, and working with our partners in CITES to meet the milestones we articulated in our proposal to the Provost, who is providing major funding for this effort. IDEALS provides us the foundation from which to extend our stewardship responsibilities to representations of the University's intellectual output, as well as for providing current and prolonged access to these important resources. While we look ahead to the challenges of preserving digital content, we must continue to step up to our responsibilities to preserve the millions of items in which the University has invested for more than a century-and-a-quarter. By reallocating internal resources and garnering significant funds from external sources, we're able to extend our recently developed preservation and conservation program to meet more and more of our preservation challenges. When it's completed later this fall, the new lab at the Oak Street facility will give us additional in-house capabilities, as will the earnings from gifts made by private donors and the Mellon Foundation. We can't make up for years of neglect overnight, but we're now in a position to invest our resources wisely.
Improving our services through collaborations with other campus units is another important challenge. Many of you have long had useful collaborations with your colleagues outside of the Library. But, we must concentrate on "capital L" Library partnerships. We made some progress last year. Our participation in University 101, our partnership in the first campus-wide "One Book, One Campus" program, and our collaboration with the Illini Union Bookstore to increase our students' access to expensive textbooks, are but a few examples of what we can accomplish with partners. We still have many challenges in this area. Although our work with some partners in the Cultural Engagement Council has led to the submission of a proposal for funds to inventory our collective audio-visual holdings in preparation for seeking funds to conserve them, in general the lack of productive collaborations within that group has been disappointing. We have much work to do there. We also have much work to do in the coming years to integrate our services into still-developing campus services, such as portals and the learning management system. We have to continue to work hard to keep from becoming isolated and marginalized.
Although we rearranged the Gateway a bit this year, we really didn't make much progress on that challenge. Our websites are still too confusing, confusing to us and even more confusing to our users. Is it any wonder that most users turn first to Google? Or use Amazon to locate a citation? We must modernize our web entry points and keep them up-to-date with our users' needs and expectations. The ORR was a major achievement, the importance of which I can't overstate, and the impending introduction of WebFeat and SFX, acquired through ILCSO, now CARLI, holds the promise of helping improve access and reducing confusion. But many of our users expect more from us and so there is still much work to do.
We are now one of twelve participants in the Aquifer project, whose goal is "bringing collections to light through the Digital Library Federation." Our participation is important to our users, for if successful, Aquifer will provide a distributed online digital library with features that will allow users to find and use digital content in their own environments. Our participation is also important to us as we both contribute and gain knowledge of critical technology applications.
Last year I also emphasized the importance of developing and implementing strategies for digitizing content. Thanks to the Digital Content Creation Team's report, we now have a plan. We have already implemented one major recommendation; the Digital Services and Development unit is now located in the Main Library. But there is much to do and we must have the will to implement expeditiously what's been recommended. Our users, here and elsewhere, are impatiently waiting for digital access to our rich and important collections.
Last year I was very optimistic about the CAMELS Team. Their good work proved me right, but my expectation that it would serve as a model was proved wrong. The Team was effective in providing help for cyclically predictable tasks and in providing some emergency coverage. But there simply aren't enough team members to do both things effectively. So, this year CAMELS will concentrate on the cyclical tasks and we'll try some other approaches for emergency coverage. I understand the reluctance to participate because of staff shortages, but the reluctance of some staff, or their supervisors, to participate for fear that their jobs may be seen as redundant is very disappointing. I hear continuously from and about many staff who long for assignments that are collaborative and filled with variety, and yet when push came to shove many were prevented from participating. My vision is that we must offer opportunities for staff to have interesting and fulfilling jobs, and to learn and grow and promote into higher positions. Although there will be some level of chaos and confusion when Civil Service library classifications are changed this fall, that should be no excuse to take our eyes off our goals. If cross-unit teams aren't a good approach, I challenge you to propose others.
Our facilities also remain a huge challenge. We've made a number of improvements this year, but I'm not going to take our time this morning to recite them to you. Ultimately, the large changes we need to make, and the two new facilities we need to build, require more money than we have in hand.
Let's talk about money for a minute or two. We've passed the half-way mark of our $30 million capital campaign and we continue to work very hard to identify donors. Our partnership with DIA is a wonderful model, but I can't tell you what I wish I could - that all other campus units are following that model. Some are simply better partners than others. We've also received enormous help from the UI Foundation, from some members of our Campaign Steering Committee, and from private individuals, but the Development Office and I still have a lot to do. I want to remind you again, however, that each one of us, each one of you, is responsible through your interactions with patrons and in a myriad of other ways for the success of our fund-raising efforts. We continued to garner grants this year and have really stepped up our revenue-generating activities. Under new leadership, IRIS and ABSEES have increased their revenue potential and you should be on the lookout for a book and gift store that will be installed soon in the Main Library as well as for other activities designed to bring us more money.
My final challenge last year was a call to get serious about evaluation and assessment of our services and collections. We've just received a report from the two ARL visiting program officers who met with many of you last Spring. The document, which will be distributed soon, provides a plan to incorporate assessment into our culture. We must have the will to take it seriously and implement its major recommendations.
Although this may seem to be a formidable list of challenges, it represents only the beginning of what we must do to provide the very best possible services and content to a broad-based user community in the future.
In years past our library was defined primarily by its collections; maybe it still is by some of our users, and perhaps even by a few of you. I think, however, that today we're characterized best as a mélange of collections, content, services, and expertise, with equal focus on all. During most of the twentieth century, librarianship took shape by continuing to build collections of tangible materials and by developing systems of access and services that mediated between individuals and content to serve expressed information needs. These systems generally treated all materials with the same descriptive schema. I know this is a generalization, but I think it's still fairly accurate to say that we served all disciplines with similar tools and in similar ways. Here at UIUC, we built departmental libraries that offered pretty much the same set of services in the same ways to the majority of our users. As the needs of the disciplines diverge, as interdisciplinary fields demand new content, new services, and new approaches, we can't continue to serve all disciplines in the same way. Our departmental library spaces offer us wonderful opportunities to be where some of our scholars and students work. But they must each adapt their services and staffing in ways that best meet the needs of their users. Together with librarians who situate themselves with the folks in their disciplines or in their interdisciplinary groupings, we must infuse the University in a much more fundamental and effective way than we do now. In effect, although the Library will remain distinct and distinctive, we must be commingled more fundamentally within the University. We often think about the Library as place. That is still important. But we must also begin to think about the place - the University - as the Library. The opportunities and possibilities are limitless unless we let the barrier to our success be us, the status quo, or inertia.
So, what do I think we must do to realize this vision, to be infused and commingled and yet remain distinct and distinctive? What do I think we must we do to move beyond the twentieth-century model in which we served all disciplines in similar ways, with similar services, and similar tools?
First, we must be more audacious and daring. We must embrace new ideas and new ways of thinking, and we must celebrate those who try new things - even when they don't work out as planned. The status quo is not acceptable.
Second, it is not acceptable behavior to humiliate someone publicly or privately because you don't agree with their ideas. If we can't celebrate each other, the very least we must do is treat each other collegially, with dignity and respect. We must also pay attention to the effects of changing demands on all of you and your colleagues by redesigning jobs, creating opportunities for promotion, and offering the chance for growth through training and development.
Third, we must become more collaborative with one another. We all have a shared stake in our future; those who don't collaborate, those who don't look at our success as a team effort, really don't have a place in this organization.
Fourth, it's time to recognize that we won't succeed without a strong central infrastructure. By this, I don't mean that I want to build a central empire, filled with people who will tell you what to do. What I do mean is that there are common functions and tasks that can be done more efficiently and more effectively by a central group - that is, they can deliver better service with fewer resources than we now use. We have some good models: IRRC is an excellent example of an effective centralized service. So, too, are preservation and high-density storage. And, we're moving rather well towards centralization of electronic and print reserves. The Budget Implementation Task Force called for more centralization of technical services and soon you will see proposals to centralize some access functions. Digital content creation must be coordinated centrally or we shall continue to fail our users. I hope you embrace these opportunities, for in addition to freeing up resources for us to do new things, to buy more content and develop new kinds of services, they create chances for us to redesign and enrich jobs.
Fifth, we must increase and accelerate the attention we pay to the habits and expectations of new generations of students, both those who are flooding the campus and those who will be our students in the next five to ten years. Current research - and simple observation - shows us that they are accustomed to controlling information; they prefer to engage in interactive activities (such as gaming) than in passive activities (such as watching television); they expect instant access and instant response; and they are marketed to in much more individualized ways than the mass marketers who bombarded people in my generation with generic ads and commercials. This means that we will have to evolve our generic services to more customized and customizable ones, and it means that we must continue to move toward integrating library services with other University services. It is really imperative that we find ways to bring our web pages up-to-date and to keep them current with our users' work patterns and expectations.
Sixth, we can't ignore the global changes that are impacting fields of study, higher education in general and UIUC in particular. Huge demographic changes are happening around us, and we must make strong efforts to see that our work force not only is diverse but that it celebrates diversity in all aspects of our activities. To understand what's happening around the globe, we must be there on the ground, working with current partners and developing new ones to increase our access to resources and to help people who are not at the end of their careers to work comfortably and in leadership capacities in a wide variety of cultures.
Seventh, we also can't ignore our past. We, and those who came before us, built a magnificent Library. It's filled with spectacular collections and even more spectacular people. Unlike many of our peers, we plan to continue to embrace and build on our print collections while at the same time providing access to digital content. But, we must do a better job with our print collections. No longer can we collect and not preserve; no longer can we acquire collections and then ignore them by letting materials linger in nooks and crannies for decades. No longer can we acquire materials and leave them totally intellectually inaccessible. And no longer can we ignore our responsibility to make some of our most intellectually valuable collections accessible digitally. As we continue to struggle with continuously rising prices of scholarly materials we must expand our efforts to educate the UIUC community about many aspects of the scholarly communications process, including their responsibilities to manage their own intellectual property effectively. Our new scholarly communications website and blog are just a start. I hope many of you will want to become engaged in this important Library responsibility.
Eighth there are some past traits to which we cling that we should let go. Remember the 80% solution? Well, 80% may be too low, but we can't afford 100% most of the time either. To move as quickly as our users expect and to spend our resources most wisely, we need to step back from our quest for perfection. At the same time, we must be accountable for how well we use our resources and for how effective our services really are. It's time to incorporate assessment into our culture and to invest time and money in ensure that we're using our resources in the best possible ways.
Ninth, even as we strive to transform the university into the Library, we must pay attention to the Library as place. Twentieth century (or even nineteenth century) models of library space take no notice of the changing needs of our users. We must invest in transforming our spaces to meet the needs of their particular user groups. So, the model the new Chemistry Library will set, which will work for that specific user group, can't be looked at as our generic twenty-first century model for library spaces that serve different discipline groups. Because space enables some services, each of us needs to think deeply about what's needed today and tomorrow. We also need to continue to invest in library spaces that are used by large groups of undergraduates - most notably ACES, ESSL, Grainger, and Undergrad - while working to transform other spaces into places for learning, for contemplation, and in which to build communities of learners and scholars.
Tenth, we must increase the money available to us today and ensure that there will be sufficient funds for our successors tomorrow. This means investing money and time in activities that will generate these resources, most specifically development, grants and contracts, and entrepreneurial services. Although several people are dedicated to these tasks, it doesn't let those of you who aren't engaged directly in them off the hook. I want you to think outside of the box and send me your ideas for new ways to generate money, and I want to be sure that you understand that you are representatives of the Library to all of our users, current donors, and potential donors.
We have many choices to make about the future as we strive to make valuable content and services available to more people as they want them, when they want them, and where they want them. But, we can't achieve our vision alone. We must work collaboratively with each other, with others on campus, and with our colleagues around the world. The consolidation of ILCSO, IDAL and ICCMP to form CARLI was a major step that involved many people. We must seize the opportunity to help shape CARLI and to steer it in ways that will enhance access for all users of all academic libraries in Illinois. We must continue to exploit the possibilities of the CIC, DLF, and other collaborative organizations on behalf of our users. And we must find more ways to become more engaged internationally through and beyond the Mortenson Center.
Later this month, Abby Smith will be here to help Library faculty and academic professionals think about the Library's long-term future: the Library in 2030. This is an opportunity for us to think about the legacy we want to leave behind us, about whether we want those who follow us to build on what we left or have to rebuild a quarter-century's work because we were not bold enough to imagine the future or to make the library of the future as great as the library we inherited from our predecessors. It is really true that the future is in our hands.
These are exciting but perilous times. Peril lies in stagnation, in clinging to the status quo, in striving for perfection in everything we do. Peril also lies in clinging to old job designs, to old-fashioned notions about work and the work place, and it lies in resistance to letting others try out their wings, to test new ideas, to create services for the populations they serve. Peril lies in relationships that aren't collaborative. And peril lies in seeking clarity in situations in which ambiguity prevails. Use ambiguity, don't fear it. These are times in which a little haziness enhances risk-taking and results in better outcomes.
Although these times are exciting, they are also filled with stress. We need to embrace the adventure but we also need to kick back from time to time to 'chill out,' to have some fun, and to look back at how far we've come, knowing that we still have miles to go before reaching the end of our journey.
Despite the peril and the pace, I think we're in for a glorious journey towards transforming this great twentieth century library into the world's greatest academic research library in the twenty-first century. I hope you'll be out in front of me as we stride down this road together.
Thank you very much.