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Campus Seismic Upgrading and Reconfiguration of Library Spaces

An Opportunity for Enhanced Services

January 28, 1998



The 1997 seismic review of Campus buildings revealed that 27 percent of campus structures are rated as Poor or Very Poor in performance in case of a nearby major earthquake, and will require corrective upgrading. Many of these structures house Library units, and therefore The Library faces a succession of seismic projects over a number of years. The need to surge out multiple branches in the next 5(?) years gives us an opportunity to review the programmatic aspects of the Library's current configuration of branches and units and to ask if this configuration is still the most useful to our clientele. Given the growing interdisciplinary nature of research, described below, the question or The Library is: What configurations of services and collections make the most sense in terms of emerging academic programs, and for individual faculty and scholars who now must use many libraries?

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Interdisciplinary Research and Library Consolidation

Interdisciplinary research has been a trend in American universities for at least the last decade, and is now influencing the restructuring of campus academic organization. Derek Bok is quoted in the October 4, 1997, issue of The Economist stating that “part of creating the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard was to engender a sense of collective enterprise by bringing together interdisciplinary teams in a policy-oriented setting.” From the same issue it is noted that at MIT, “[the] university's research on the environment and on advanced manufacturing mixes together researchers from a consortium of industrial companies, as well as the university's school of management and its engineering department. A trend in many other universities has been to created problem-oriented research with no permanent staff or departmental allegiance at all.”

At Berkeley there are a number of new programs, such as Cognitive Science, and the School of Information Management and Systems, which bring together faculty from across multiple disciplines. The reorganization of the biological sciences was an earlier similar undertaking. Even where new disciplinary paradigms have not emerged, individual researchers often have to use many campus branches to find Library materials, since research questions frequently cross disciplinary and departmental lines.

The Library has had some successful experience in reconfiguring units to reflect growing interdisciplinarity. The new Biosciences Library, which brought together many small biology-based branches, paralleled and was a reflection of the change in that set of academic disciplines, and is highly regarded by its faculty and student clientele. We have a similarly successful new space in Doe Library, the Government and Social Sciences Information Service, a service unit designed specifically to meet the needs of an interdisciplinary segment of Berkeley's research community. Collaboratively designed by a working group composed of social sciences faculty, graduate students and collections specialists, with input from their constituencies, it provides for four interrelated functions: reference and research services, study and consultation space, convenient access to a selected number of core journals, and a repository for graduate reserve readings.

Using the same model, two additional spaces in Doe Library have completed the planning stage, and will be implemented within the next eighteen months: a Humanities Reference and Research Collection, and an International and Area Studies Reading Room. They are also tailored to the needs of their respective scholars. Their proximity to the Government and Social Sciences Information Service will benefit those scholars in Area Studies and in the Humanities whose work makes use of social sciences materials.

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Benefits and Costs

The potential benefits of larger interdisciplinary resource centers are many. Bringing together the print resources and collections specialists to serve fields that are highly interdisciplinary would give faculty and students access in one place to both specialists and the resources that cut across many disciplines; increased open hours; and improved infrastructure (such as greater numbers of reader stations, group study facilities, seminar rooms, electronic resources center, and the equipment to assist faculty in creating curriculum materials). Workstations could be configured with customized interfaces providing access to key digital resources in the field. Increasingly library services require multiple kinds of specialists to serve a constituency – data specialists, computing and multimedia specialists as well as collections specialists – thus a library responsive to faculty needs could reconfigure the staffing deployment in light of the need for these new teams.

When faculty and Deans talk about the branch libraries that serve them, a major element is often the sense of the library as a space that brings together the intellectual community which the department represents. As work across interdisciplinary lines increases, these new collaborative entities need similar social spaces which embody the new reality of intellectual work taking place. As a social space, an interdisciplinary resource center would provide an explicit physical recognition of the nature of new research and teaching relationships across disciplines, and an opportunity to meet colleagues from other departments with similar research interests.

Any new space which is not in close proximity to affected faculty and researchers would bring up issues of convenience, which clearly must be considered. But there are technological solutions in existence now or soon to exist which could ameliorate the problems, since growing numbers of resources are or will be available and accessible directly from the scholar's office desktop. For print resources, The Library must work out a solution that will assure faculty rapid access to materials they need; the BAKER service and (soon) on-line request capability from the Northern Regional Library Facility, could minimize inconvenience.

Academic departments appreciate the prestige afforded by affiliation with a library branch devoted to their discipline. We are often told that a specialized branch library enhances the scholarly reputation of a department, when it is compared with peers around the country who lack this specialized resource. The new model of interdisciplinary resource centers can enhance prestige by their implicit recognition of the growing interdisciplinarity of academe, by providing access to new working tools and digital resources, and by the presence of multiple specialists to serve the information needs of scholars.

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Rethinking Library Space

  1. The Doe Building:  As well as contributing to the solution of the seismic surge space problem, the new core space of Doe Library offers the potential to plan for some splendid new interdisciplinary services. Flooring through the Doe Core should provide four new floors of about 10,000 ASF each. All units in the Doe Complex (including the Annex and Moffitt) would be able to benefit from existing centralized Doe resources for security, circulation functions, and technical processing. Access to the collections would be increased via the maximized Doe Complex open hours.

  2. Moffitt Library:  Should Moffitt Library remain an undergraduate Library, or become the home of a consolidated interdisciplinary Library? Several functions of the undergraduate library have already changed in dramatic ways: the new Doe stacks are now open to undergraduates and intensively used by them; the Teaching Library is the primary service model for undergraduates; undergraduates are highly skilled in the use of the digital collections. Thus the Moffitt building could house more than one Library: a Teaching Library/Media Resources Library and an interdisciplinary cluster.

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Next Possible Steps

Barbara Kornstein
January 28, 1998




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