Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

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October 19, 1998


Review of the University Library - Status as of September 20, 1998
Senate Committee on the Library

The mission of the Senate Committee on the Library (SCL) is statutorily to "... advise the director of the Campus Library on the apportionment of the Library budget and on the formulation and execution of policies governing the operation of the Library, including its branches. The Committee shall advise the Chancellor on the appointment and evaluation of the director of the Campus Library." In recent years, SCL has, for a variety of reasons, been unable to effectively render timely advice on the allocation of Library resources. Last year, we did, however, participate in the 5 year review of the Librarian, reporting to the Provost.

Also last year, in response to budgetary and related concerns, the Provost appointed an ad hoc committee, whose "Final Report of the Task Force on the Future of the Library" (henceforth the "Mengler Report") summarizes the problems, opportunities, and questions facing the Library. Since the University Librarian has recently announced his impending retirement, we are clearly in a period of incipient change, which provides an opportunity to forge new and (one would hope) stronger links between the operation of the Library and scholarship on the Urbana campus.

There is much activity commencing to review the operation and financing of the University Library. While many committees within the Library are contributing to the reviewing effort, the lead committee is the Library Strategic Planning Committee (LSPC), which reports to the Library's Executive Committee. At the campus level, the Campus Library Policy Committee (CLPC) reports directly to the Provost, and we (SCL) report to the Senate. We have started with a large degree of cooperation among these committees; Robert Burger, chair of LSPC, Philippe Tondeur, chair of CLPC, and Alexander Scheeline, chair of SCL, have been in close contact and expect to continue to keep each other closely apprised of their committees' activities.

There is significant cross-service between CLPC and SCL. In addition, Bettina Francis and Terry Ackerman of SCL are attending meetings of the Budget Subcommittee of the Library's Collection Development Committee (chaired by Karen Schmidt), and Prof. Francis is also serving on the search committee for the next University Librarian (chaired by Thomas Mengler). This enhanced representation and communication can only help in understanding the complicated situation facing the Library.

Once the search committee for the Librarian brings candidates to campus, the SCL will interview these candidates and pass our recommendations to the search committee.

The SCL chair has talked to as many librarians as possible to try to obtain a coherent picture of the issues facing the various parts of this vast library system. The enterprise is immense. It is probably beyond the ability of any one person to fully appreciate the system in sufficient detail so that wise decisions in policy and resource allocation can be made unilaterally. While budget problems are reasonably well known (although the causes are complex, differing in magnitude and source from one discipline to another), the problems in staffing, space, and degree to which librarians are free to bring their expertise to bear on the problems particular to their branch libraries vary substantially.

There will be several times during this year when intense debate of faculty and student wishes concerning the Library will need to take place, either in open forum before the SCL or on the floor of the Senate. Even at this early point in the proceedings, it is important to structure the debate to be useful rather than divisive. A priority for the SCL this year will be the development of effective mechanisms for integrating faculty advice and review into the Library's budget formulation process. Critical review of competing needs may provide a better means for budgeting than historical precedent or response to isolated, vocal advocates.

We will report to the Senate, probably in November, the results of a survey in which Librarians are asked how much operation of their particular portion of the University Library would cost, both when constrained to be competitive with their perceived peers and when constrained only by their sense of what this campus needs. In the unlikely event that the amounts suggested are realistically above current levels, we can use the survey results to advocate that additional resources be allocated to fulfill all our pressing needs. In the more likely event that adequate resources are infeasible to obtain (considering that neither Harvard with its vast budget nor the Library of Congress still maintain comprehensive collections), we will need to establish procedures for allocating our resources and for establishing supportable targets for increased funds short of "full funding" (a nebulous concept).

Do we aim for uniform mediocrity? Do we aim for pockets of excellence amidst general sub-mediocrity? How do we choose? To what extent do we trust committees within the Library to use well-founded ideas of librarianship to set priorities and to what extent do we use administrative and non-library faculty priorities to set spending patterns? Do we hold open hearings annually or in rotation over a period of years? The ideas of collegiality inherent in the Senate structure may be sorely tried, but it should be evident that any resort to "X field must be protected at all costs" will only lead to defensiveness in others and will force setting of priorities to the moral equivalent of smoke-filled rooms.

In addition to collection development, there are many issues in library management which CLPC and LSPC must address. Many of these have financial implications. Are Librarian numbers and salaries competitive? (A Library committee, chaired by Bart Clark, is investigating staffing questions in general.) How do we segue from hard-copy-dominated collections to mixed hard copy and electronic collections? What is the right balance between local collections and document delivery/interlibrary loan? For additional well-considered points to investigate, see the "Mengler Report."

SCL reviewed the FY99 Library budget. While approximately $64,000 was distributed to subject funds thought by the University Librarian to be particularly in need, and $77,100 was used for some limited new initiatives, a distinctive feature of the $8.9 million acquisitions budget was a flat allocation to most branch libraries in the amount of (FY96 amount plus 6.2%), plus a one-time allocation to maintain journals at the same level as in FY98. SCL passed the following resolution:

Resolved: The Senate Committee on the Library reluctantly approves the FY99 Library budget, as many areas have inadequate resources to support teaching, research, and service.

There has been substantial debate on the extent to which laser-printer output (at 10 cents per page beyond some small number of free pages per month) should supplement or displace dot matrix printer output (free) within the library. A three month test period in 23 Library units is commencing; the extent to which charging is justified (i.e. where printing replaces photocopying) or burdensome should be brought to the attention of both the Library and SCL.

Please keep individual departmental librarians advised of your Library needs and similarly advise SCL members of these needs. Having multiple paths for input to the Provost and higher administration of the needs of the Library can only help build a complete, vivid picture of what developments will best serve the needs of this University.

Respectfully submitted,

Senate Committee on the Library
Alexander Scheeline, Chair
Terry Ackerman
Bettina M. Francis
Josh Houchin
Howard Jacobson
Al Kagan
F. Adele Proctor
Brett Schmidt
Christopher Silver
Linda C. Smith
Leslie Struble
Robert Wedgeworth, University Librarian (ex officio)