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Issues Briefing:
Senate Committee on Library
University of California, Berkeley

August 21, 1998


 

The 1998/99 academic year begins a promising new era for Berkeley’s Library. The Chancellor’s funding initiatives for collections and services, exceptionally effective communication between the Library and the Senate Committee on the Library, the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee, the California Digital Library initiative, and the appointment of a new University Librarian all offer opportunities to reinvigorate the Library’s commitment to working with faculty and students to ensure that its collections and services meet the needs of the campus community.

For this IS the primary purpose of the library: to support the teaching, learning, research and public service of the University of California, Berkeley academic community. The Library fulfills its purpose by providing access to recorded thought and information in all formats and by providing services to facilitate that access.

We hope that today’s briefing will establish the basis for a common understanding about the Library’s funding, the mechanisms we propose to employ in planning for collections funding over the next few years, and the most important choices we face in redesigning Library services. We will offer no answers but intend to continue collaboratively define key strategic issues, suggesting some directions without unduly curtailing options, and formulating an agenda and process for consultation and planning during the coming fiscal year.

As a framework for the planning effort ahead, we suggest the following goals. First, the processes we establish must foster improved communication and consultation among all of the parties interested in the Library’s effectiveness, for only through broad participation can we reach a reasonable level of consensus about directions and priorities in the turbulent arena of production and access to scholarship and research. Second, and of equal importance, is the need to identify the major strategic issues which will drive our decisions about directions, objectives, priorities, actions, and funding allocations. If the Library is to respond effectively to current and evolving user demands, a global explosion in the volume of significant publication, a rapidly changing technological environment, and unexpected opportunities, we must build – within The Library, among our clients on campus, and with the Committee on the Library – an organizational capacity for strategic thinking and continuous change. Our most important goal must be to provide the best access to scholarly resources and the most responsive services possible within our fiscal and human resources. The end result of our planning should be formulation of a basis for making wise investment decisions – of money, time, and effort.

 

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Budget:

1998/99 is the first year of the Chancellor’s three-year $5.5 million funding initiative for The Library. This welcome new addition to the base budgets for services and collections gives us time for planning and action, and, in contrast to the budget-cutting focus of the past decade, offers the prospect of funding some new initiatives. However, it does not fully restore the purchasing power of the early 1980's for either collections or services. Moreover, it does not account for the fact that expanded academic programs, network technologies, and changing expectations of faculty and students generate additional demands requiring new approaches to services and to the provision of information.

As the attached charts demonstrate, the Chancellor’s restoration of $900,000 to the services budget must be seen within the context of the $4.6 million cut of the past decade. Thus, to have a significant impact on services, the allocation of the new money must be strategic. It must redress the most serious service problems and also demonstrate that The Library can set priorities for new services that respond effectively to campus needs.

The generous three-year $4.6 million augmentation to the collections budget will result in net additional purchasing power of approximately $1.46 million above anticipated inflation, and will stabilize Berkeley’s position relative to peer libraries’ collections expenditures. The new money reduces the need for continuous inflation-driven cancellations of serials subscriptions and reductions in monograph acquisitions (although collections must constantly be reshaped to support academic programs, requiring that some titles be dropped in order to acquire more relevant materials). It will enable modest strategic investments in such areas as cooperative collection development, information resources for new academic programs, improved document delivery services, and digital library collections.

Viewed from the perspective of Berkeley’s aspirations for its academic programs and library services, it is doubtful that any collections budget would seem adequate. Yet, if managed wisely, this new infusion of money offers the promise of significant improvement to current collections and services and the foundation for future improvements.

 

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Collections:

The Library’s Collections Advisory Group (CAG) has initiated a process of data gathering and analysis to inform our discussions and decisions about budget allocations. As a first step, they are evaluating the current budget allocation by broad discipline to assess how reasonable it is, and to ascertain if there are any significant misalignments of resources with respect to the size of academic programs, use of collections, and other factors.

In addition, information gleaned from the Library’s Collections Performance Measures project conducted during the past year will be evaluated. Assessing how well our collections meet users’ needs entails the compilation and analysis of many kinds of information. Examples of the relevant data include user satisfaction surveys, collection use data (range of collections used by particular disciplines, dates of materials used, intensity of use, subsets of collections that appear not to be used, availability of items requested, document delivery performance), and measurements of digital library usage. Over the next few years, the results of studies such as these can be used to develop data to help us reshape our collections in response to campus needs.

A third, ongoing, component of collection evaluation will be academic program review. What new disciplines or sub-fields are emerging as academic priorities? What are the research areas of new faculty and graduate students? What are their retrospective and prospective collection needs? Are there new kinds of data resources essential to research in a particular discipline? What areas of research are shrinking at Berkeley? A key component of academic program review – and one of increasing importance – is the close, yet informal, consultation that regularly occurs between subject-specialist librarians and faculty/graduate students. In order for The Library to maintain responsive collections, our librarians must possess appropriate academic backgrounds for the disciplines they serve. Also required are sophisticated knowledge of the literature and information resources supporting scholarship in those disciplines, deep understanding of the research process, ability to employ new technologically-based information resources and services effectively, and the willingness to work collaboratively with faculty and graduate students. Thus, the quality of our collections is inextricably tied to the quality of our professional cadre, and this cadre must be rebuilt to redress a decade of attrition.

The data-gathering effort for collections is a necessary prerequisite to allocating the new money, but there are other planning issues as well. It is a certainty that our budget will not be sufficient to build local collections that can fully meet Berkeley’s academic needs. We will need to mete out scarce budgetary resources in ways that provide the greatest impact; that is, the allocations must be strategic rather than pro rata. Obviously, we will need help from the Committee on the Library and others on campus to allocate the total budget, both existing and new resources, effectively. We plan to share the data we gather with you, and work together to arrive at principles for funding collections, access programs, and digital library information.

These principles and guidelines will doubtlessly derive mostly from the assessment of local need. It is critically important to remember that many variables distinguish the collections and access needs of the medieval historian from those of the molecular biologist. Nevertheless, we must also account for issues and events in the larger environment. For example, what are the opportunities and constraints presented by the California Digital Library (CDL) initiatives? What is the quality of digital content that purportedly replicates print resources? What technical issues make use of digital content problematic or, alternatively, more attractive than print? What is the relationship of our print and digital subscriptions? Where are the opportunities for resource sharing most promising and where most problematic? Thinking about these questions, the Collections Advisory Group has posed a draft set of factors to consider in allocating the Chancellors’ initiative money (see attachment).

 

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Services:

As with the collections, we view data gathering and analysis as essential to a review of our current budget allocations and formulation of a strategy for new allocations. A small task force is being constituted to assess the reasonableness of our current budget allocations to various library services. We plan to look at client group size, workload, and other factors, and will share our findings with the Committee on Library.

A second type of analysis will be to look into critical service issues. For example, where do there appear to be serious problems (including service improvements not requiring new budget allocations), and how can they be addressed? Frequently, our assessment of problems rests primarily on individual complaints, but we wish to establish mechanisms for systematic, regular, evaluation of library users’ experience as well.

Third is the need to define our operational choices more broadly. How do we balance our investments in basic support services such as circulation, stack maintenance, opening hours, technical services, or technology renewal with those in academic services such as instruction, research support, selection, and reference? How do we balance services within the walls of the print-based library with those available over the network? What are the tradeoffs we face in making these decisions? We have learned that the use of networked resources from outside of the Library’s walls far exceeds their use from within our walls, but we offer reference services almost exclusively to those who enter the library. Furthermore, we know that many students operate in a different time zone from that during which we offer most of our services. A choice to fund services within the Library during normal staff working hours may preclude our reaching students when they most need our help. At the same time, we see that basic access services such as shelving, circulation, availability of workstations within the Library, and hours of opening are a critical bridge to more advanced services – a precondition for a satisfying library experience for scholars and students alike.

Over the past three years, we have identified critical operational needs whose funding would require several million dollars in new permanent money. These include, for example, restoration of branch staffing, rebuilding of subject specialist expertise, re-establishment of reference services in the Doe/Moffitt Libraries, strengthening of Doe/Moffitt circulation services, and systematic technology renewal. In addition, we experience demands for new services. New demands include technology-based improvements to help users be more independent (self-checkout, electronic reserves, online reference/instruction); improved research and teaching facilities (Humanities Research Services, Visual Arts Library, International and Area Studies Service, Moffitt); educational technology assistance for faculty, GSIs and students; facilitation of new modes of scholarly communication; and many others. In many cases, these new initiatives require a substantial infusion of one-time money, but create little or no impact on the recurring operations budget; in other cases, they require little initial investment, but will entail substantial recurring commitments.

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Communication, Consultation, Planning, and Budget Allocation Process:

Although there is a need to define priorities for allocation of the first year’s increment of the Chancellor’s initiative for the collections and to make wise decisions about the allocation of new budgetary resources to library services, the most pressing task is to work collaboratively with the Senate Committee on Library and other members of the campus community to establish communication, consultation, and planning processes that will serve the campus well both now and into the future. Given the rich diversity of scholarly needs on this campus, the plethora of choices we face about priorities and directions, and the rapidly changing technical environment, there is no single clear path for The Library. Rather, the primary present and future challenge will be that of balance – for example in ownership and access, teaching and research services, innovation and maintenance, and the allocation of scarce resources. The complexity of the environment and the variety of opportunities available highlight the necessity for us, as a campus, to engage in broad explorations of scholarly needs that can inform our discussions about choices and directions. For some faculty and graduate students, digital information is of rapidly increasing importance in their work; for others, the print collections remain the predominant resource. In order for the Library to meet scholars’ needs as well as possible within the budget available, it is essential that there be better understanding among the campus community about the range of these needs and how they might be met. Thus, an important immediate task is for The Library and Committee on Library jointly to develop a plan for a systematic consultative process that will provide the campus community with a deeper understanding of the issues and allow broad discussion of alternatives.

Secondly, we need a new approach to planning that can draw on the results of our consultation about needs and alternatives to develop priorities and directions for action. In the past, much of the Library’s planning has been internal, and the Committee on Library has served in a consultative role. Last year’s Undergraduate Task Force epitomized successful faculty/library collaboration in a targeted area, and we wish to build on that success by working together during the coming year to establish organized processes through which formulation of Library collection and service priorities become a shared responsibility of library staff and the faculty. Generally, there are good relationships between subject specialist librarians and individual faculty; we also see the need for systematic, broader consultation and planning at an organized, aggregated, level. How can The Library and the Senate Committee on Library work together to develop campus-wide library priorities, and present new initiatives? How can the Library be effectively engaged in departmental and senate planning? How do we learn about emerging fields of research interest, new modes of teaching, new kinds of services that are needed and possible, new modes of delivery of information? In short, how can faculty and library planning be knit together so that we can reach effective decisions?

As we look forward to a new era for The Library, we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment expressed through new financial resources, but more importantly, the opportunity to initiate new collaborative processes that will ensure that students and faculty – whether they are learning, teaching, or creating new knowledge – experience successful, rewarding and satisfying library services. Our aim is excellence – excellence defined by the successful library experience of the student and scholar.

 



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