Response to Commission on Future

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Overview

In a time of change in academia, it is fair to say that the library field in general and the UC library system in particular stand at the forefront of change because of their relationship with the information explosion that is transforming education. Information is growing so rapidly that it is virtually impossible for an individual, unassisted, to find a specific item of information or get any sense of an overview of a subject area. Only database vendors possess the apparatus for compiling research quality information in an orderly way which, nevertheless, is only accessible through a zoo of different search interfaces and access options. Furthermore, the World Wide Web (WWW), once scorned for its low quality by academics, is evolving new tools and resources of interest to researchers. Libraries are the element of academia that engages with these various corporate enterprises and harnesses them to the educational mission of the UC.

For any function of the university that involves the creation and use of knowledge, the library is integral from the beginning of the process to the end. Librarians select databases and shape their interfaces for the benefit of students and researchers as well as maintain traditional collections. Through reference, instruction, and research consultation, librarians enable all users throughout the university to access information. By maintaining a physical building, librarians hover over researchers and assist their work through the calculated layout of the building as well as a supportive study space that embodies the very ethos of learning and personal development. More than ever before, librarians are participating in the production (as well as dispensing) of knowledge through consultation services and with bibliographic software such as EndNote which offers new and untapped capabilities for assisting with research and writing.

In the environment of change that librarians operate in, it is clear that while all the elements that make up the library are important--facilities, collections, and librarians themselves, it is the latter that are most important and need protection in times of reorganization. With the vast expansion of knowledge available to all, specific collections have less meaning then formerly, online accessibility makes physical space less important; as the active intelligent agents within the milieu of change, it is the library staff which deserve the highest priority in the future plans of the UCs.

There is no element of the UC system that possesses the global influence of libraries on every aspect of education including the improvement of teaching, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration that are crucial to the next phase of the system's development.

Note: > items are those where libraries can contribute.


A. Size and Shape

>1. Increase non-resident student population for increased revenue and geographic diversity.

Non-resident student by definition will spend less time on campus than resident students, and it stands to reason that their experience will be improved by any effort to bridge the distance between them and the campus. Their instructors may do this more or less well within their individual courses. The best way to systematically reach out to all resident students is through the library which can bring them not only all of the resources they need through the library's website. Reference service is available through the telephone and through online chat systems. Additionally, when non-residents are able to visit the campus, the library's service enable them to maximize their time on campus. A healthy and vigorous library is crucial to the experience of non-resident students that the university hopes to attract.

>2. Improve ways for students to transfer from lower divisions to majors. Reduce time to graduation; more efficient use of resources.

The standardization of lower division curricula is a goal that the library has long been striving for on its own. It is a common experience for librarians to encounter library assignments designed by faculty that are badly designed and make erroneous assumptions about the collection. Having a more uniform undergraduate curriculum whose assignments are developed in consultation with library staff would go a long way towards improving the research experience of undergraduates and allow greater use of resources that are currently neglected.

>4. Practical doctorates in allied health professions. Take advantage of growth in these fields and generate revenue.

Doctorates imply a research emphasis, and it is reasonable that in developing new doctoral programs, effort should be concentrated on research resources as much as anything else. The library can provide invaluable resources for developing collections that will assist the expedient completion of doctoral programs as well as training in using those resources. The training consists of research guidance as well as training in bibliographic software that shows great promise in expediting research and writing at an advanced level.


B. Education and Curriculum

>1. Decrease time to graduation. Improve undergraduate experience; more efficient use of resources.

Libraries can make unique and valuable contributions to this goal in two important ways. For any kind of research project, not just lengthy papers that are traditional sites of procrastination, the library can streamline the research process by providing a large collection of resources, easy access to them, and guidance to researchers in how to use them. It is a fair proposition that the support that the library provides here is equivalent to that provided by classroom instructors in producing the final product. Secondly, one barrier to graduation rates is the multiple commitments of students--especially non-resident students--who with the additional burden of increased fees must juggle different commitments and jobs to remain in school. Asynchronous communication online is a proven way to use more time efficiently. The online resources of the library and remote access to reference can play a crucial role in allowing students to work around time commitments.

>2. Online instruction. Improves time to degree; generates revenue.

The movement towards online instruction by universities is a national phenomenon and the UCs are hardly in the forefront. The points regarding the value of a library to a nonresident population apply equally well to online students. In sum, libraries with online resources and accessible reference service are uniquely position to reach out to non-traditional populations to make their learning experience, seamless and continuous and improve their time to graduation. Ironically, while there has been extensive discussion about online education among universities, there has been proportionately little on the integration of libraries into this mode where they can contribute so much. A concentrated study of this problem by the UC libraries in conjunction with an initiative by the system could allow the UCs to make a vital contribution in this area of learning with far-ranging effects.

3. Self-supporting, part-time programs. Improves time to degree; generates revenue


C. Access and Affordability

>1. Reaffirm access to California students. Part of master plan for education.

"Access" to California students can be interpreted not just in terms of admission but also availability of resources to meet students needs. With its collection and access channels consisting of user-friendly search interfaces, link-resolving software, interlibrary loan, and reference assistance, libraries play a key role in bringing scholarship to students.

>3. Reaffirm commitment of graduate work to UC research. Research money siphoned off by need to support graduate students.

Research can be defined as that moment where individuals break free from the framework of courses to work independently on the creation of new knowledge. With this understanding, the focus of support must shift from the faculty-based teaching paradigm to the robustness of library resources consisting of collections and reference assistance. There is a degree of truth to the claim that good collections attract good faculty who attract good students all of whom raise the profile of the university in an ongoing cycle which is heavily grounded in the library. Bibliographic software such as EndNote also offers a new global method of addressing research tasks that have been hitherto unrecognized.


D. Funding Strategies

Various financial measures.

2. Streamline administrative procedures and bureaucracy. Efficiency.

>6. Increase enrollment of nonresident undergraduates. Revenue generation; compete with other states.

The points above about how libraries serve nonresident students also apply to attracting and keeping them.


E. Research Strategies

>2. Continued excellence of research. Requires new interdisciplinary initiatives. Benefits for undergraduates.

As mentioned above, libraries provide unique, global support for research, but it is worth emphasizing their important role in interdisciplinary work. Libraries assist interdisciplinary research through their collections which group work together in suggestive ways in the physical collection and which aggregate them online; through subject specialists who act as department liaisons; through the physical building in which members of the scholarly community interact; and through bibliographic software which allows researchers to manipulate much larger collections of material than previously. Where interdisciplinary work is an initiative and sometimes a catchphrase in other units, it is institutionalized in the library. And the qualities that allow libraries to bring different units together also make it ideal for bringing research to undergraduates. Research, almost by definition, lies outside the traditional classroom format and there is no better supporting service for it than libraries.

5. Demonstrate benefits of research to California and nation. Retain funding.