LAUC Report Draft
Final Report: Discussion on the Future of UC Libraries and Librarians in the 21st Century
LAUC Committee on Professional Governance
Executive Summary The Committee on Professional Governance (CPG) investigated the future of UC libraries and librarianship over the course of the academic year 2009-2010 by moderating a discussion of the statewide LAUC membership on this subject. The subject was subdivided into nine topics which became the subject of LAUC assemblies, campus discussions, reports by division chairs, the LAUC blog and wiki, and LAUC-wide surveys. A review of the material showed, unsurprisingly, that the UC libraries are under considerable strain from the statewide budget cuts that result in turn from the severe recession of the national economy. The libraries have made a significant retrenchment in their collections and personnel. Nevertheless, they have also demonstrated considerable resourcefulness in streamlining their organizations and coming up with innovative ideas to increase their services to face immediate budgetary challenges as well as the changing dynamics of the profession itself. This report reviews the status of the libraries and presents recommendations for LAUC for the continued adaptation and reorganization of the UC libraries.
Introduction A discussion of the future of libraries in the 21st century takes place against a background of four trends. The first, which has dominated discussion and pervaded the daily practice of the profession is the budget crisis. Higher education has not been flush with money for some time, certainly not in the new century. However, the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse with the national budget crisis of 2009. Due to the collapse of major banks and the stock market, followed by a severe recession, the nation has experienced a financial crisis unmatched since the Great Depression of 1929. Within this crisis, the situation of California has been particularly bad; some newspapers have proclaimed California to be the first failed state in the Union. For reasons that are not entirely clear but are due in part to the state’s refusal to raise taxes and the misfortunes of its real estate market, California has experienced one financial crisis after another. Vast numbers of state workers have been laid off, and the state government has undertaken other dramatic cost-cutting measures. These include reducing maintenance of infrastructure and cutting the hours of public parks. The governor and the legislature remain at ideological odds and have, in some cases, failed to meet deadlines for a state budget. Such an impasse has lent an air of hopelessness to the state budget crisis. Naturally, the budgetary pressure has been passed on to higher education. The California State University System has laid off many of its staff, and the UC system has laid off lecturers and cut courses. UC librarians who have traditionally been protected from layoffs have stared this possibility in the face, and recruitment has been frozen with positions closed as they open due to retirement and attrition. The budgetary condition of universities has sparked a separate line of debate. Some consider the cutting of higher education as fair and necessary. Others regard the measures as seriously damaging to the UC system and, insofar as the UC system has fueled California’s prosperity threatening to the long-term future of the state. The most recent state budget proposed appears to demonstrate a commitment to higher education in California and the UC Office of the President (UCOP) has issued a cautiously optimistic statement. In addition to the budget crisis, the profession of librarianship has undergone a sea change due to advances in information technology. In some ways, the “information explosion” with its profusion of readily accessible data has moved the profession from a passive branch of academia to its forefront and to greater prominence in culture as a whole. Online databases have allowed more far-ranging and faster searches, and full-text reproductions have allowed easier access. Librarians can dispense more knowledge than ever. On the other hand, this same technology is also seen to threaten the very existence of the profession. Since the earliest libraries in Mesopotamia, librarians have been seen as gatekeepers of specialized knowledge. But where knowledge is freely available to the public, the question arises: what need librarians? A common answer is that librarians will transform into guides to information rather than keepers of it. Librarians will teach “information literacy” which will allow users to find the right sources from the zoo that is available and evaluate it competently; in that sense librarians will preserve their role as keepers of high quality information. Yet, the various currents at work in the foreseeable future are impossible to read with certainty. There is a degree of anxiety in the librarian profession and the attitude is more one of survival than optimism as reflected in a number of futuristic scenarios for libraries. A fourth trend which has not been widely remarked but has appeared tantalizingly in different guises is a sense among the public that against the background of the information explosion, libraries have value AS libraries, not as a new source of technology. Such an attitude is difficult to measure directly. However, it appears in such instances as a library study evaluating different forms of cooperation between a faculty member and a library liaison in a college course. The best evaluation was for maximum involvement of the librarian in her role as librarian. When she was presented as another faculty member in another version of the course—that is with a totally seamless involvement—the evaluations were lower. Similarly, assessments of instruction reported by librarians indicate much higher ratings for library sources—seen as unique and valuable—over web sources which are seen (rightly or wrongly) as familiar and understood. Additionally, in the spate of campus activism that has accompanied UC budget cuts, several campuses have witnessed student demonstrations at the libraries. A survey of college administrators indicates a more optimistic view of libraries than that held by librarians themselves. Much of the support for libraries in these forums has to do with practical matters of onsite resources and study space. Yet, it is reasonable to suppose that such a diffused attitude has to do with values as well. The library is unique in the university and in society as a whole in its combination of intellectual content and service. The library nurtures the whole person physically and intellectually asking nothing in return. It is an investment in people and the elimination of such a unique space is bound to fill a liberal democratic society with unease. To the extent this attitude exists, it calls for a check on futuristic schemes to eliminate the traditional role of the library and turn it into a routing service for online information. While doing so could solve immediate budget problems, it could erode the foundation of support for libraries in the first place. The LAUC report examined the immediate status and future prospects of the UC libraries against these major trends.
Materials and Methods The main charge of the CPG for 2009-2010 was to organize and administer a statewide discussion of the future of UC libraries and librarianship in the 21st century. The committee was constituted in October 2009. The first project was to open the discussion at the annual LAUC assembly at Berkeley on December 12. The CPG presented a program for the afternoon of the Assembly lasting from 1-4pm. The CPG divided the topic of the future into eight areas based on its review of literature: reference, information providers, personnel, technology, collections, buildings, campus roles, library networks, and a ninth topic to be determined by the participants if desired. The program began with a Powerpoint presentation and overview of issues connected to each of the eight areas that was delivered by members of the CPG. The participants then divided among tables of their choice to discuss the topics. A ninth topic was designated as the organizational culture of libraries. This segment was followed by a summary of the discussions at each table that lasted 45 minutes. To sustain the discussion, the CPG was also tasked with organizing an online platform for it. It was decided because of constraints on time and staffing to adopt the tools that already existed, namely the LAUC blog and wiki. There were some reservations about the applicability of a blog to a multiply-voiced discussion since the blog lacked an apparatus for tracking multiple threads. Nevertheless, for reasons of convenience, it was adopted. As a compensation, the blog had the capacity to label each post with tags corresponding to each of the discussion topics. By clicking on a tag linked in an index in the left sidebar, it was possible to retrieve all the posts labeled with that tag. In this manner, it was possible to construct thematic threads out of the postings. The blog also had the capacity to submit comments in response to a post. The first posts to the blog contained the reports of each of the nine topics from the assembly. The hope was that a discussion would be generated in the comments section of each post, but this never materialized. To sustain the discussion, the CPG volunteered to have each member post a report on developments at their campus, highlighting relevant topics that were tagged accordingly. Blogs were posted every two weeks. In addition, the campus divisions posted reports on local discussions of the future of the libraries. The blog also featured postings by interested individuals which were labeled with appropriate tags by the CPG. Other activities included a “non-assembly” held at UC Irvine, primarily for southern campuses which had more difficulty traveling to Berkeley for the official assembly. This gathering featured a Powerpoint presentation by Brian Schottlaender, University Librarian (UL), at UC San Diego on aspects of the future of librarianship. A brief survey on Survey Monkey was administered to the LAUC membership on themes of recurrent interest in the blog discussions, and another LAUC survey on similar themes from several years ago was discovered. The CPG also compiled a bibliography of sources on the future of librarianship in the course of the year. All of this material was processed by the CPG in compiling this report. The report follows the original organizational scheme of the nine topics.
Reference There is some difference on the basic question of whether use of the reference service has gone down or not. There is a wealth of evidence that patrons are making less use of physical reference desks. Yet, other studies have suggested that these results are artifacts of the information gathering techniques and that reference activity has remained steady or even increased. In any case, a near universal trend among the UCs has been the reduction and consolidation of reference points. For example, UC Davis has consolidated three reference desks at the Shields Library—the Information Desk, the Humanities and Social Science Desk and the Biology/Agriculture desk—into one reference desk. Other campuses have made similar arrangements although interestingly different in detail. UC Irvine has eliminated its reference desk and retained its initial contact point, the Information desk. UC Merced has aggressively adopted a futuristic vision of libraries by not building a reference desk at all. It conducts reference by roaming staff. In part, these developments have followed trends in the profession as a whole. The UC Davis Government Documents department was absorbed into other departments following a national trend. Yet, consolidation as a general trend was accelerated by the budget crisis. The consolidation of reference desks is meant to respond to present and future attrition of personnel whose positions will be closed when they leave. Consolidation has been met with objections by librarians who claim that in some cases it is less efficient than the old system since patrons who could work face-to-face with specialists under the old system now need to be referred with unavoidable miscommunication and waste of time. Librarians have also objected to the pressures of being specialists and generalists simultaneously without the time to do either well. One lengthy statement argued for the value of in-person reference over technical mediums. The primary reasons were that reference serves a publicity/outreach function for the library and that the reference interview allows librarians to provide a context of scholarship for patrons and more nuanced instruction. To compensate for reduced reference service, libraries have explored alternative ways of delivering reference. One experiment at UC Davis involves using the library instruction staff to offer half hour consultation with students by appointment to go over their specific projects. This idea largely duplicates an earlier paper consulting service run by the humanities department. As with that effort, the new consulting service has proven to be very popular. However, it is not scalable since there stand to be many more students desiring appointments than staff to meet this demand. Another new initiative has been participation in the 24/7 reference service Questionpoint, a nationwide reference consortium. This reference service is in the pilot mode with participating campuses staffing in the range of five hours per week. Librarians answer questions of patrons throughout the country, not just the UCs. Data on the new reference service is still being collected. Some librarians, however, have criticized the effectiveness of answering questions from other campuses. Generally, offsite librarians do not have access to a campus’s subscription databases. Thus, they are limited to making very general statements or referring the patron to an onsite librarian.
Relationship to Information Providers While remote from the daily work of front-line librarians, this area stands to have enormous impact on the profession as a whole. It arises from budget issues that preceded the current financial crisis. Books as well as journals have been rising in price for a long time, and a standard method for libraries to meet budget reductions is by eliminating journal subscriptions and providing less information to users. Thus far vendors have been intransigent in efforts to negotiate reductions in price. To compound the problem, vendors often present databases in package form only affordable by consortia of libraries, and these packages inevitably contain irrelevant material for individual libraries for which they must pay. There are also smaller issues of access such as the zoo of different interfaces, many quite poor, that confront users as well as the cumbersome technologies to retrieve materials, mostly articles, that involve multiple windows to click through. While the position of libraries is not enviable here, some librarians have noted that the relationship between libraries and information providers such as book publishers, peer-reviewed journals, and database vendors is one of mutual dependence. Information providers need someone to buy their products. This is a basis for exerting leverage. The question is how. For matters of improved interfaces, librarians suggest seeking membership in the advisory boards of journals and vendors. Part of the problem may be lack of communication. Librarians have observed that those who make the decision about information purchases—administrators on the library side and executives for vendors—have the least involvement in the actual use of the product. For the more fundamental issue of price, it is critical for libraries to cooperate in refusing to pay inflated prices. One library working alone will have no impact, but the consortia that buy standing orders for book and journal packages do. It has been observed that the University of California as the preeminent public university system and one of the largest academic entities in the country has sufficient power all by itself to affect the market. The difficulty for libraries in this struggle is coordinating among themselves. Yet, merely boycotting publishers and vendors by itself is unsustainable. Such an act requires additional coordination outside of the field with the faculty. Such cooperation so far has been limited to committee work and departmental liaisonships. Such a large-scale, high-stakes cooperation between these campus realms is unprecedented. Yet, such a move may have already happened. The California Digital Library (CDL) a body for coordinating the collection activities of the UC libraries has announced in the face of price increases for particular journals that it is willing to forego subscriptions for the entire UC system. The matter is still under negotiation. Such a move cannot be made or at least sustained, however, without an alternative which will provide information to researchers and give them a forum for disseminating their work. As information professionals, libraries have the potential to help researchers publish and disseminate their results through desktop technologies. Such a route could also help faculty circumvent the spiraling cost of textbooks which impacts higher education as a whole. However, librarians have noted this places them at odds with extremely powerful cultural barriers. Faculty are typically very jealous about the right to evaluate themselves and peer-reviewed publications, commonly required for tenure, carry great weight. The whole tenure process has been described by librarians as the “elephant in the room…we don’t want to go there.” Among the players involved here, information providers, faculty, and librarians, the latter can potentially play an important role. However, the necessary decisions for this must take place at such a high administrative level as to be largely outside the scope of frontline librarians.
Personnel This topic was conceived of amid a sense that the library profession was changing so fast that it would be necessary to radically revise library job descriptions. However, hiring has been frozen for some time even before the recent budget crisis so that job descriptions were no longer a concern. Nevertheless, the imperative remains to reconsider the role of the librarian in the context of a changing profession. Brian Schottlaender has stated that the broad list of superlatives that has characterized librarian job skills has only been amplified with time. Librarians need strong written and oral communication skills; need to be generalists with a significant specialization in some area; need management skills, marketing skills, technical skills. As part of the atmosphere in which we work now, librarians have observed that the elimination of positions has increased the workload and forced personnel to do more with less. To compensate, some suggest that librarians be given more freedom to explore new technologies and redefine their jobs without waiting for cumbersome bureaucratic approval processes. In a similar vein, others suggest that more opportunities be given for continuing education and degree study (especially with the prospects of layoffs). One suggestion for dealing with increased workloads is improved succession planning of which there is very little now that has been identified at the various campuses. Librarians have also suggested changes to the way they are evaluated to reflect new duties that may not be given sufficient weight in traditional rubrics. These duties include liaisonships and publication outside of the library field. There are also suggestions that one of the necessary new skills of librarianship is to promote the work of librarians to administration and the campus at large. Longer-term projections of the fate of librarians are necessarily more speculative. One study starts from the assumption that libraries will develop greater networks to share costs. In that eventuality, the study predicts that library staff will shrink. Public service will be merged with Systems to focus on technological delivery of information. The outlook for technical service personnel is even grimmer. The study predicts that with standardized technical services for consortia there will no longer be any need for technical service personnel at individual libraries.
Technology This issue is one of the main drivers of change for the profession as a whole and encompasses every aspect of librarianship. The following issues have emerged as particularly important. Social networking technology in the form of ipods, wikis, blogs, twitter accounts, “small mobile devices,” Facebook, YouTube, clickers and the like are seen as critical to reaching a new generation of technically savvy users and projecting library resources out to compete with other free information tools available. Thus far, the rhetoric on this subject has outpaced practical developments of any significance. Library blogs are not uncommon; also in play are email and chat reference. Yet, none of these tools has dramatically affected the library’s service to its patrons and none represent particularly innovative technology. Perhaps the most innovative developments yet are simultaneous initiatives at UCSF and Berkeley to make their websites and resources available to patrons through small mobile devices. These initiatives have just begun and there has been no effort yet to assess them. The technology of document delivery has been an overlooked area that may turn out to be more critical to the library’s mission than supposed. The “information age” scenario of being overwhelmed by results of a search on an electronic tool is a familiar experience, and library subscription sources—catalogs and databases—do not differ from Google and online counterparts very much in that respect. To the user there is little difference between 2,000 results and 2 million. The area of critical difference appears to lie in the delivery of the information. The web offers instant full-text delivery of its content, such as it is. The library, with its often superior content, provides a much more convoluted pathway to retrieval. Books must by physically retrieved or ordered through interlibrary loan through a multi-step pathway. SFX technology offers a menagerie of windows, buttons, and options among a variety of different interfaces. It is not uncommon for this system to have errors leading to intense frustration by users which they often experience even when the system is working as it should. Streamlining document delivery among information sources is a complex problem requiring new technology, organizational structures, and workflows. Next Generation Melvyl Technical Services (NGMTS) is the system’s formal effort to improve the system-wide book catalogue as well as its technical services. The effort encompasses the development of technology and new organizational procedures. Currently, this work is in the beginning stages. The NGM interface has now been operational for about a year and was greeted with extensive criticisms by librarians. The goal of the NGM interface was to mimic the Google interface for ease of use. However, librarians claim that the interface does not highlight local collections sufficiently and inundates users with results from other campuses that are less relevant. NGMTS is in the very early stages of its far-flung work. Currently, it has organized task forces to do “environmental scans” of areas that it believes will be critical. However, its stated organizational philosophy claims to be based on “enterprise-level units” within the system. In other words, it is unwise to expect answers from above. It is likely that the solutions of NGMTS will come up from below in the innovations of the technical services at the campus level. The technology of e-books is an important subtopic here. The electronic delivery of books will be necessary for the library resources to match the convenience of web resources with which they are competing. However, e-books have lagged considerably behind the technology of full-text articles. The relative difficulty of reading an electronic document compared to a print one is exacerbated for book length sources. There are also difficulties with constructing technology for reading e-books. One product, Kindle, has been universally panned for a number of reasons including that it does not allow the reader to make annotations which is important for many readers of books. E-books under current copyright restrictions are not available for interlibrary loan. Long-term projections indicate that these technological hurdles will eventually be solved, but there are no signs that this will happen soon. The technology of digitization is bound to have an important impact on libraries at many levels. Some of the objections to the mass digitization of information underway now are the poor quality of the results and their lack of permanence (partly an issue of technology and partly of policy). Also worth consideration is digitization technology and “infrastructure” necessary to carry projects out at the campus level. Such equipment would be crucial to digitization and archival work with faculty that could perhaps be the first step in developing local alternatives to book publishers, journals, and database vendors. Another area of consideration is the support and teaching of bibliographic software. All the UC libraries support this in one form or another. EndNote and RefWorks are common technologies. Bibliographic software is analogous to word processing in automating the work of scholarship and subtly changing it as well. In brief, such technology allows librarians to systematically teach principles of information management to individual research projects where, by any indication, it is currently nonexistent. The enormous effect of word processing on the act of writing gives some indication of the potential for librarians to intervene in the storage and retrieval of information in research. Support for bibliographic software by libraries has the potential to provide a powerful service to the UC campuses and serve as important outreach for the value of libraries as a whole.
Collections A major policy option in the future of the UC libraries is the consolidation of the collections of the campuses into one as described by the slogan: one book one copy. Books would be sent out upon request by interlibrary loan. This would accomplish vast savings through the elimination of duplicate copies and the reduction of space to store them in at the individual campuses. Some have used this policy option as a platform for a new and futuristic vision of the libraries as access points to mostly electronic information and have argued for the almost total reduction of campus libraries as physical plants. A powerful factor in support of this policy is the SOPAG report on library space planning that indicates that the UCs will run out of space for their physical collections in 2015. UC Merced has aggressively modeled a library of digitized information. Many of its holdings are ebooks and the shelves of print books remain largely empty. Merced has also adopted a collection policy of allowing faculty to make selections to ensure greater relevance of the material to their work and to relieve the library staff of collections responsibilities. Nevertheless, a host of objections to the one-copy universe has been raised by librarians. There are enormous costs and logistical problems associated with carrying out this plan. In the case of Merced for example, there have been comments that Merced’s lack of print materials requires it to borrow a disproportionate number of books through the systems’ interlibrary loan service without loaning a commensurate number. (Merced, however, claims that it loans seven books for every 10 requested.) In any case, it is not clear that the final number of books in the one copy library will be sufficient for the system. There is the paradox, articulated by Brian Shottlaender, that as books are better secured through a one-copy collection, their access goes down because they are harder to retrieve from remote locations. Interlibrary loan of materials will introduce delays that will impact the quality of research. The campuses also differ in their particular orientations and research interests and require vibrant local collections to support their work. Current plans to increase enrollment and add programs to campuses require growing onsite collections. Journal collections have been digitized with much more success than books. Yet, this has raised the question of permanence which applies to book digitization efforts as well when they come to pass. Part of the historic role of libraries is to secure information across time as well as space to make sure that it will be preserved for future generations. Without a physical copy, the security of its existence is gone. With the storage of information in electronic form, there is no way to anticipate future threats that might destroy the technology to retrieve it. And there is no way to ensure that information might simply be withheld by whatever organization comes into possession of the digitized material. The one-copy collection does not seem to be a realistic goal in the short term, and the Collection Development Center (CDC) is in the very early stages of work on a system-wide plan. In the meantime, the campuses are engaged in new weeding efforts and modifications of their approval plans on their own initiative. Efforts to reduce the physical collection place a new burden upon preservation. With less money for collections and fewer copies, technical services finds that it requires more time, labor, and money to keep the existing copies serviceable. However, technical services is finding itself with a reduced budget like everyone else and is developing a backlog. It has been left up to individual initiative to find creative solutions within these constraints.
Buildings The fate of buildings is largely tied to that of collections. The one-copy vision of the system would leave campus buildings largely empty. They would then seem to offer means to save money by being eliminated from the library’s budget. As mentioned, even without the one-copy universe, change is bound to happen soon: the library buildings are due to run out of space at current growth rates by 2015 which necessitate some kind of change to either the buildings or the collection. There have been efforts at the campus libraries to trade space for money with widely divergent outcomes. A plan at UC Davis to close the Physical Science and Engineering Library (PSE) and consolidate its collections with the Health Science Library was met with outrage by the faculty. A massive letter writing program to the new chancellor resulted in the suspension of the plan. Faculty objected both to the loss of their physical collection and their sense that they had not been consulted about something close to their work. Currently, a campus task force has been established to study the issue. On the other hand, UC Irvine has developed its budget plan around closing the whole sixth floor of their science library and ceding it to other departments. It would seem that space reduction plans depend heavily on their particular campus environments. A related policy option has been to reduce the hours of operation of library buildings to save on maintenance costs. Again the course of the various campus libraries has been quite divergent with some campuses reducing hours and some not. Buildings, however, have other functions besides storehouses for books. Numerous surveys indicate that buildings are treasured as spaces for work by both students and faculty. This is evident in the angry reaction of the UC Davis faculty to a proposed building closure. It is evident as well in a number of campus protests in the past year over the university’s budget cuts. At two campuses, UC Davis and Cal State Los Angeles, students occupied the library buildings in order to complete their studies and to highlight their need for the dedicated study space provided by libraries. Thus plans to close buildings or reduce hours stand to reduce one of the library’s most valued services. Beneath the practicalities of a quiet study area lies a subtler, symbolic value. The library offers a unique environment for the physical and intellectual nurturing of the individual. Students can escape from the pressures of academic achievement or difficult living environments. By virtue of containing the knowledge of the whole university, the library also symbolizes and enables the exchange of ideas among people who work within it. Any effort to reduce building space threatens to strike at the source for its support within its community. Accordingly, there are initiatives for more positive use of library space. Cost savings are envisioned in terms of “green” initiatives such as solar power. Some have suggested using library space for fund-raising to hold events since library buildings tend to be centrally located and have large attractive spaces. The notion of an information commons has been stretched in many different ways but it seems to include technological access and a physically comfortable area for studying and mingling. An important element of such an environment that appears repeatedly is a coffee shop and a space for food. This is usually objected to by preservation departments but also offers the possibility of additional revenue for the library.
Campus Roles Almost every vision of the future for libraries involves greater engagement of the library with its patrons in order to compete with alternative information sources. In many ways, library instruction departments are the paradigmatic departments for bringing this about. The profile of library instruction involves sessions taught to introductory level composition courses and more specialized sessions, often taught by subject specialists to higher-level courses. Instruction departments also run orientation sessions and specialized sessions for campus units, such as the athletic department, for example. The library credit course has been touted as a goal for curriculum instruction but does not appear to have been adopted in significant numbers. It would appear that the interest of faculty and students in library instruction seems to stall at the level of one-shot instruction for advanced courses without any additional commitment. Whether library credit courses should be pursued remains a matter of debate. Instruction departments also take the lead in “outreach” efforts to the campus. These include advertising through bus posters, fliers, work on campus committees, and liaison work with departments often done by subject specialists. There is always demand for new and better forms of outreach. Indeed, the sentiment among many librarians in the year’s discussion is that improved ways of marketing and calling attention to the service of librarians, which is often taken for granted, is imperative. Social networking is one field that opens new possibilities for marketing. Indeed, some librarians suggest that the relevance of these tools for the library will be restricted to publicity and not the delivery of information. Blogs, Facebook sites, twitter accounts and even YouTube videos are common subjects in the literature but all appear to be in the preliminary stages. There is no sign yet of a set of reliable, measurable best practices in the use of social networking to promote libraries. There is another school of thought that simply talking louder and at more length in promoting libraries is not the way to proceed. One article quotes engineering faculty as saying in essence: we get the concept of librarians guiding patrons to information sources but we don’t buy it. We can search information sources as well as we can search Google. We want librarians to find information for us. Doing research for patrons has been anathema to librarians. However, there is potential value in doing over talking. Perhaps, in a dynamic environment where campuses are looking for new ideas, the library could provide targeted research work in specific areas that might help its image. For example, one librarian noted in a previous job that the plant and facilities manager for a campus sought out librarians for research on green initiatives (a common topic in campuses across the country) that was very well received. Another example is to use instruction in bibliographic software that is common on UC campuses as a type of outreach. At UC Davis for example, the EndNote classes have been the most popular of the drop-in classes advertised and regularly fill up their enrollment. Half the work is done in gaining the interest of patrons and bibliographic software—for which libraries typically provide the only instruction. Through teaching bibliographic software, librarians stand to intervene in the research of patrons by teaching them to systematize and annotate their research as well as store it, concepts that cannot be taught through reference, one-shot sessions or any other means available through the library. The success of such concepts could go a long way towards improving the image of libraries and establishing their value. Yet another issue worthy of consideration on the subject of outreach—specifically the library’s image—is not so much how the image will be spread but what its content would be. Social networking is rife with examples of librarians presenting themselves to their patrons in outlandish ways, none of which have really taken. One commentator writes in terms of the “personality” that librarians wish to project. Perhaps some thought here would go some distance towards the effectiveness of the message however it is delivered. How to fashion a corporate personality is not any easy question although the social networking attempts all address this implicitly in one form or another. One promising example is the Question Board in the undergraduate library at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This low-tech operation consists of a bulletin board on which passersby post reference question with written answers from the library’s reference service. In fact, the answers were provided by students in the basic reference course at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). A playful, tolerant yet incisive tone evolved in the answers to the most outlandish questions and the Question Board thrived and became popular for casual reading.
Library Networks “Networks” is a broad concept that embraces many different types of cooperative structures. They include LAUC, interlibrary loan, the CDL and its initiatives, NGMTS, the “tier” structures that govern the purchase of database packages and the Questionpoint chat reference service. Yet, this concept appears to be in vogue in the future of libraries because wherever it is applied it promises to reduce cost and expand library services. One vigorous area of development in networks has to do with the reorganization of collections which is of immediate concern. The one-copy library with enhanced interlibrary loan for the campuses is one example of such a network. Another that is actually coming into existence was outlined by Brian Schottlaender at the Irvine Assembly and is the Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST). The network includes the UCs, many major institutions on the West Coast, other institutions through the nation, such as Harvard, and even extends beyond national borders to include Canada. The goal of the network is to save costs by reducing the number of physical texts that are stored and maintained. However, the service quality of such a network is challenged by an inverse relation between preservation and access: the better protected the copies are the more difficult it is to circulate them. The very number of copies is an issue and relates to the topic of permanence that has appeared in discussions of digitization. Physical books can be destroyed just like digitized information and having too few copies runs the risk of material being lost forever. Schottlaender claims that a study has been made of this problem to find the optimum number of copies that will maximize preservation, access, and economy and with sophisticated methodology has come up with the answer 11. However, this remains a theoretical result that has not been tested. Librarians have generalized the dangers of networks in general to include the tension of the free vs. the good. Sources attractive to a collective for reasons of economy tend to be of lower quality. There is also a tension between the imperatives of a collective and the specific needs of an institution that seeks to best meet the demands of its patrons. Nevertheless, with this in mind, librarians expect that increasingly expanding collectives, even international in scope will play a large part in the future of libraries. Returning to the LAUC discussion of the future, some have suggested monitoring or participating in other discussion about the future of libraries. One specific suggestion was the Taiga forum featuring high-level administrators who make provocative predictions about the future of the profession. This would seem to be more appropriate once the UC discussion is firmly established but grows more relevant all the time.
Organizational Culture A prominent theme of discussions on this topic is a perception of entrenched conservatism and resistance to change in library leadership, a potentially serious obstacle in a dynamic environment where the profession itself is at stake. Looking within the library organization, the antidotes suggested are a more forward-looking risk-taking mentality and increased channels of communication between library administration and all levels of staff. These recommendations are not new and how one enhances communication remains an open question. Suggestions include fewer meetings, publication of minutes, a consistent notation to identify action items. The UC Davis discussion proposed a “Velvet Revolution” reminiscent of the overthrow of totalitarianism by means of… parties, ice socials, potlucks, and other forms of socializing. At a large scale of the library organization, there are suggestions that in terms of the UC system there needs to be a change of expectation that Berkeley and UCLA remain the “flagship” campuses and that all the campuses participate more equally. Facing outward from the library organization, there have been continued calls for more energetic advocacy and promotion and here is where a role for LAUC is mentioned most, both the campus divisions as well as the executive board. LAUC is charged with advocating and publicizing the work of libraries with greater energy. While commendable in spirit, this is not a new recommendation. In fact, there are questions that in a budget constrained environment with active advocacy of different units whether louder and more insistent promotion by the library will accomplish anything or even potentially backfire. There needs to be new, creative methods of promotion, again easier said than done. The notion of doing instead of talking through creative new services to advance the presence of libraries has some appeal in this context.
Recommendations In terms of the next phase of the LAUC discussion of the future, it appears that some of our topics—information providers and library networks and other areas having to do with technical services (technology)—will be less rewarding to pursue. They are either at such a high administrative level, outside the experience of participating librarians, or else they duplicate formalized system-wide efforts (NGMTS) that an informal discussion would be hard-pressed to keep pace with. On the other hand, it would be complacent and unwise to suppose that some organization will come into being that will solve these problems for us. The very deliberate plan laid out by NGMTS, for example, ultimately calls for “enterprise-level” organizations to carry the burden of problem-solving which strongly implies initiative at every level. For each of the areas covered, it would inappropriate here to make specific recommendations. Each campus will need to test the information against its environment to decide what course to take, and the brief summaries here need to be extended with further discussion and sharing of information. It would also be inappropriate and outside the charge of this document to speculate on the future of the profession as a whole and how it will fare in the Information Age. However, it is possible to generalize about the future of the library in higher education, and establishing itself in this niche would be the best possible move for librarianship to position itself for whatever lies ahead. There are three identifiable players at the university level who consume the information which it uses in teaching and research: information providers (publishers, peer-reviewed journals, database vendors), libraries, and universities (researchers and students). Each of these compete with each other in accomplishing the most with the least expense, yet each are interdependent. There is nothing to indicate that one will rise to control the others, and this environment represents a fighting chance for libraries to establish themselves and grow which is all that can be asked for. In order for libraries to compete and survive, they will need to use such resources as they have to maximum efficiency (since it is unlikely that unforeseen funds will descend upon them from the outside). To accomplish this broad goal, the best procedure that appears is the model of rapid decision cycling via that Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action (OODA) loop introduced in the blog and that has seen widespread success in diverse competitive environments such as the business, sporting, and military realms. In short, in every sphere of their activity, libraries need to process their options and act on them with the greatest possible speed. There have been encouraging glimpses of how this would look and what it could accomplish. The CDL has assembled a credible opposition to unreasonable journal prices by threatening a boycott backed up by coordinated action throughout the entire UCs. Brian Schottlaender has described the utility of greater cooperation among the ULs even by a sharing of budgetary information which unveils priorities and issues which would not be seen otherwise. There have been repeated calls in local discussions for increased cooperation between subject bibliographers and technical services to reduce time and expense in cataloging and repairing of print materials. There needs to be greater cooperation at every level. The ULs need to work with LAUC; LAUC needs to work with its divisions; administrations need to work with all segments of their staff; public services needs to cooperate with technical services; and Systems departments with their librarians. These internal spaces within the library are where it will find new resources. It is impossible to say what form this structure will take which will of necessity evolve in an organic way. But it is a fair prediction that in a heavily bureaucratized system such as the UCs, the answer will not lie in radically new organizational structures. The best place to start may lie in what we have called the organizational culture of the system. It is evident from researching the state of the UCs that there is a wealth of expensive and lengthy reports about the state of the libraries such as SOPAG that are not read, disseminated or utilized to nearly their full value. To change this, this material needs to be disseminated more actively. At meetings, instead of mentioning that a report is in some stage of development, those involved should summarize what the report says and what it accomplishes. This would be assisted if reports were written with the expectation of being read. They need to dispense with obscure acronyms, deadening convoluted sentences, redundant organization, and specialized jargon and get to the point. In person meetings should spend less time arguing the finer points of bureaucratic rules and focus on producing new work and meeting urgent priorities. Likewise, meetings should be focused less on participants expressing themselves at length and philosophizing about perennial and unsolvable issues than accomplishing a specific agenda as efficiently as possible. These practices while innocuous individually rapidly divide the profession into silos so that one department has very little idea of what another one is doing, and even greater difficulty in attempting to learn about it. The very channels where information needs to flow is blocked up. Having each staff member as well-informed as possible about all of the major issues affecting the library is a foundation for rapid decision cycling throughout the organization. Of course, these needs must be balanced against the necessity of a professional organization to conduct itself in a thorough, professional way and through technical procedures that will not always be fun and exhilarating. Yet, one cannot become complacent about such procedures. They must always be tested against the standard of what they are really supposed to be accomplishing. On the way toward more specific suggestions about how UC libraries can improve their speed of decision cycling, the first step is clearly a greater exchange of information throughout the system upon which future structures and procedures can be built. Indeed, an increased information flow may go considerably beyond a starting point. Each campus division has an extensive apparatus for achieving and competing which only needs the information, wisdom, and experience of the other campuses to operate at a much higher level. The tightly coordinated campuses of the UC system are an unsurpassed problem-solving tool for analyzing an issue from multiple sides and finding its essence. Specifically, the UCs, through the agency of LAUC, need a rubric for evaluating the performance of its libraries in all dimensions. The nine areas of the discussion—or something like them—would serve this purpose. These areas need to analyzed for issues and a list of best practices for each maintained. Campus divisions could then review these practices. Successful ones could be adopted without each campus reinventing the wheel. Where nothing works, campus divisions would know not to devote their resources to dead-ends but make efforts in new directions. What are successful reference models? What types of social networking tools and procedures work? What are the best practices in preservation? What is the best way to use building space? Who has found a way to create digitization projects for campus units? Examination of these issues could inspire specific surveys of the LAUC membership that could produce more detailed and measurable information than notes of infrequent meetings. ULs need to cooperate closer with LAUC in monitoring the areas under consideration. The ULs’ decisions based on this information would resonate more with their staffs who would be the origins of it in the first place and inspire them to do more. By managing its own information, the UC libraries under the leadership of LAUC have their best prospects for thriving in the future.