Message to the Campus Community about the Library's Re-envisioning Initiative

April 16, 2012


We launched a Re-envisioning Library Services Initiative this semester in order to improve libraries across campus. Library staff has been exploring new ways to put materials in your hands (or on your screens) as well as the ways we provide expert advice to everyone from freshmen to faculty. Our goal, in unsettled times, is to make libraries stable with a limited workforce and able to play a smart role in the ongoing revolution in how all of us handle information.

The Library has many strengths as we face this challenge. Our talented staff (Librarians, other career people, and hundreds of student workers) have a commitment to public service that is as strong as any group I have seen. The Library operates at great scale across the ten UC campuses and the California Digital Library. At Berkeley we are further leveraging this power in spending money and using the time of professionals. We have digitized millions of older books at a pace unimagined only a decade ago, and tens of millions of dollars cheaper than experts believed was possible. Every year more than five thousand donors help us; $8 million is spent from this source in an average year to improve collections and library space.

The new realities of higher education financing are no more welcome in the Library than they are in other academic units. Or, for that matter, at our peer university libraries. With the loss of public funding at Berkeley over the past 4 years, the Library has lost over 70 budgeted staff, equivalent to more than 20% of our budgeted positions. Assuming relatively stable future budgets, we still need to reduce our workforce over the next three years, via attrition, by approximately 20 FTE to meet budget goals. Greater efficiencies and strategic investments of staff time on our part, along with the campus-wide Operational Excellence (OE) program, are the keys to doing this.

We will not have stability, or have the bandwidth in the library to advance the information revolution, if we just soldier along. We can already see negative impacts on the services we provide, as we stretch our reduced staffing over our many service points and areas of expertise. Re-envisioning has not come from the top down, but rather from the people that you have regular contact with in the Library. With your help, they want to find a better way to deliver services.

The Library has charged two self-study teams to explore options for new, sustainable models. In early May, you will see these options presented for campus-wide review and comment. The new approaches will have input from the Academic Senate Library Committee. The Library will then reach out to faculty, students and staff to understand the advantages and weakness of each model. With the benefit of campus feedback, the Library administration will select a new service model, which will be announced in July, 2012.

Supporting the university's academic mission and patrons is the guiding principle for the Library's Re-envisioning process. You will hear more from me and other library staff next month.

Tom Leonard
University Librarian

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