I was really intrigued by Mary Ann Mahoney's E-Science post--very interesting. I think Mary Ann's comments about new directions in scientific research, and the resulting challenge of data stewardship, speak very directly to the opportunities that lie ahead. More later--I'm going to the Blogger lunch now...
I've never blogged before so bear with me...
Until just this morning I have been doing a lot of listening, asking questions of my operations peers and trying to hash out the reticence to jump into the bloggin fray. I have spoken with CSG members, DMCS workers, and even some students at the Privileges Desk. I will focus predominantly on the students today, but will discuss other feedback in later blogs.
The students, and I will go out on a limb and even say undergraduates, who as Ms. Wilson's data suggested, remain a constantly growing presence in the Library may ultimately be the future of funding for the next New Directions initiative.
It is naive at this point in California's fiscal history to assume that the U.C.'s will be receiving vastly increased funding in the future, the budget is pressured from all sides. In fact, it is the student body, the Alumni, and the research which will fund the future of the Library, and to acknowledge this now, and provide a positive responsive space for undergraduates (future Alumni and researchers) is to invest in the future of the Library.
What does this mean?
Student spaces within the Library need to be increased, in some cases decoupled from the physical collection, and adapted to their educational needs (i.e increasingly group oriented work, wireless access, previously physical items in digital formats, etc.) The spaces need to reflect current desires of the student body, this means making spaces where foods and drinks are available, and encouraged as part of the collaborative process. We should be not only observing how the Library's are being used currently, but also asking the freshest incoming students what they would like from the library, and what changes are being made in forward-thinking high school "media center" libraries which are integrating all aspects of media into an experience...
WHAMMO! You have yourself a student body experience that will remain present in the mind later on, when the ideas click communally and creatively in the Library, they are "Library" memories and last beyond the four-years they are on campus.
In keeping with investment of the student body, instead of farming out solicitations for designs for collaborative work spaces we should involve the space designing schools here on campus to cost save and provide an educational nexus with/for the library. All parts of the New Direction process regarding student spaces should be examined to maximize their utility, but also their inclusivity with the larger campus community and student body; personalized and potentially nostalgic for each student.
An active reaching out to the student body population is going to be crucial. We should aim to interact within student domains (e.g. dorms, student academic groups/clubs, etc.), asking them what they don't like and would prefer the Library space to be for them, involving them in the process of making/creating these New Directions initiatives that effect their enduser experience.
Again the future lies in positive Library experiences students leave campus with and return to support. I think it is perilous to forsake the least squeaky wheels on campus, just because they may not feel comfortable (or frankly have time) to invest in the future of the library, does not mean they aren't watching what we do...
How many Alumni parents did I meet during homecoming week showing off "their" Library to the kids? Lots?
Let's shoot for lots more in the future.
The latest edition of "Bear in Mind", conversations with Chancellor Birgeneau, has just been released
The Chancellor talks here of the Hewlett Challenge Grant, the Energy Biosciences Institute, and the new VC for Equity and Inclusion.
What struck me as being pertinent to our New Directions initiative were his comments about UC's "public obligation."
I found myself replacing some of his projects with those spearheaded by the library, and finding our goals sounding very much in line with his notion of public service.
Here are a few quotations for us to ponder as we reconsider The Library's local, national and global roles:
"...we have a commitment to working on problems which are important for society, which have huge implications for society..."
"...the crisis that we're facing...the people who will suffer the most overwhelmingly are the poor..."
"there's an extraordinary pool of talent ...which never get tapped because barriers get set up..."
These statements were made with reference to global climate change, and finding ways to fund undergraduates whose family incomes don't allow them to meet minimum co-pay requirements for financial aid.
It seems to me, that current issues of scholarly communication, intellectual property rights, and the Library's historical value of freely sharing information plug into these statements just as easily.
Just as global warming is a topic that affects people around the globe, so does the free flow of information -- the current model of high-priced subscriptions limited to the elite largely located in the developed world, is a huge "barrier" that puts severe limitations on the worldwide "extraordinary pool of talent". As study becomes more interdisciplinary, and as problems in the rain forest affect our own health, I don't believe that information dare be held so close to the vest.
The Library is here to serve and support the research and needs of faculty and students.
Don't we also have a role, as librarians, to preserve, protect and further the dissemination of information to all who need it?
Certainly we would benefit our own authors by increasing how many minds could connect with their material.
I believe it's quite likely that the people of California will benefit directly from discoveries made by people in perhaps small, perhaps far away countries who solve problems for themselves that in fact may already be washing up on our coast, or showing up on the alert lines at the Center for Disease Control.
As part of a public instituiton, what obligation does The Library have to California to ensure that information we have been able to aggregate gets to all those worldwide who are working to solve the same problems we face at home?
Based on presentations, readings, and informal discussions, I have been thinking a lot lately about the need to foster a Spirit of Experimentation (or a Culture of Risk-Taking) within the library. Users are becoming used to "perpetual beta" on the web, so we lose no credibility by simply trying out low-risk pilot projects. When projects are not successful, we can discontinue them - when they are successful, it moves the library forward.
Government Information has been at the forefront of new services in the library lately (and maybe one of the GovInfo staff will blog about their experiences too). Their experiments with blogs, wikis, and IM reference have encouraged other units to pursue these possibilities. WorldCat Local implementations are another example of risk-taking in a "perpetual beta" environment. But other academic libraries have taken it farther, creating "safe spaces" in which to experiment:
If this is a new value for the library, we need policies that allow and encourage experimentation. We need to cultivate a culture of risk-taking. How do we get there?
A few people have expressed to me their confusion as to what a new direction(s) for the Library might look like. Is it something specific, or is it broad or theoretical in nature? Is it something we can achieve in a short period of time, or is it a medium/long range activity? Well, to be perfectly honest, as a member of the NDCC I have the same kind of confused feelings. What on earth are we talking about -- new directions! I have been using the following as guidelines to help me start to think about some possibilities for new directions for the Library (so far not much progress). These may not work for everyone, but here they are. Please feel free to discuss, criticize, or add your own ideas.
A new direction should:
- be broad reaching and not a specific project.
- offer new opportunities for staff to develop skills and to continue to contribute to the university in a meaningful way.
- focus library services on new and exciting information opportunities needed by a changing teaching and research community.
- encourage us to question how we currently operate and to think about new and perhaps better approaches.
- cause the library organization to move from a fragmented/niche operation to a community of talented staff eager to work together toward goals that continue to assure us a real impact on the campus community.
- respect the Library's work of the past and its contributions to over 160 years of the university's mission, but at the same time look toward the demands and needs of the 21st century.