CLIR Sponsors’ Symposium to Focus on Evolution of Library Partnerships
by Deanna B. Marcum
Paying Our Way
by Abby Smith
Transitions: The CLIR Board
by Deanna Marcum
The Registry’s Return
by Daniel Greenstein
SPEAKERS AND PANELISTS at CLIR’s upcoming Sponsors’ Symposium will explore the variety, form, and evolving nature of partnerships that are needed to ensure that library resources are available in the future. The symposium, the second in a new annual series, will take place March 14, 2001, at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The first panel will address the relationship between librarians and the scholarly community. Librarians have long-established relationships with the scholars on their campuses, but as scholars increasingly make use of digital technology to produce digital resources for the classroom, what functions do they expect librarians to serve? As commercial information services begin to sell access to information resources directly to campus administrators and to individual members of the campus community, how do users’ expectations for library services change? Both libraries and scholars are acting as publishers in certain situations, and the implications for the library as physical place or as local resource need to be understood in terms of the evolution of digital resources. Panelists will seek to identify the information resources contemporary scholars need to do their work and will discuss the extent to which they can expect libraries to meet their needs. They will describe the changes occurring in systems of scholarly communication and their effects on the roles of libraries.
The second panel of speakers will look at the evolving relationships between librarians and information technologists. Digital technologies and network access have greatly altered the information landscape. Libraries of all types are struggling to maintain physical collections and build networked resources, but they must meanwhile contend with a growing number of alternative information providers. On some campuses, the roles of the library and the information technology division are not well articulated, and this may result in competition for the same resources or constituencies. Some campuses have dealt with the situation by merging the two units. The panelists will discuss various models that have been tried and look objectively at the results. More important, they will reflect on the evolution of the roles of both organizations and offer suggestions for changes that each needs to make.
Finally, a panel of participants from the Frye Leadership Institute’s class of 2000 will discuss their experiences at last year’s Institute, the influence the Institute has had on them as individuals and as professionals, and their thoughts about leadership for the new-style information organizations on campuses.
All the panels will allow ample time for symposium participants to join the discussion. All CLIR sponsors will have an opportunity to engage in focused discussion with their colleagues about the partnerships that are transforming higher education and the units that serve it.
Each institution that sponsors CLIR is invited to send one or two delegates to the symposium. An official letter of invitation will be mailed in mid-January, at which time panelists will be named and more detailed program information will be available. In the meantime, please hold March 14 on your calendars.
CLIR AND THE Digital Library Foundation (DLF) are engaged in two investigations into how research and cultural institutions are developing sustainable digitized collections. The need for such investigations is clear. Ultimately, the many grant-funded projects under which libraries, archives, and museums are putting analog holdings online must either develop into institutionally supported programs, or this important work will cease. American research libraries are expending enormous sums of money (someone else’s money) on digitization. What will happen when that stops and libraries are forced to pay their own way? How will that change what they do and how?
Trends in Selecting for Digitization
As part of a larger project on digital collection development, the DLF is researching trends in how its members select material for digital reformatting. Libraries that are planning to integrate digitization into their traditional operations are thinking of digital surrogates as institutional assets that have specific maintenance needs. They recognize that a collection of library materials that merits reformatting for online access is best viewed as an acquisition: the initial investment to purchase, in this case by digitizing, will be followed by a predictable number of investments to maintain productivity. This includes the creation of new metadata from old cataloging information; the possible modification of existing records, such as a MARC record, to indicate that the original source material now is available electronically; a plan to preserve the asset over time through migration (or an explicit decision not to preserve); and the allocation of reference staff expertise, tools, and training that users will demand once they discover the resources.
Planning for sustainability means that the digital reformatting of collections would be one option among many—preservation microfilming, deacidification, or repair and rebinding, for example—that has a regular place in the materials budget. An institution that budgets funds for the creation and management of these resources and for the training of staff to do the work shows that it is ready to decide how to spend its own money on digitization to meet faculty and student needs.
Key pieces are still missing from the infrastructure that is needed to support individual institutions in planning for sustainability. They include common repositories where we can place archived digital collections; specifications to which we should digitize in order to meet minimum standards and that would be entered into a record; and agreement on how to notate the record. Without these elements, it is impossible to plan for sustainability.
But, as experts in digital library development wryly note, many companies in the banking and online retail markets already have solved these critical problems in digital asset management. Why are libraries different? To answer that question, it is useful to consider the models that have been developed to sustain important collections of digital material.
Models for Sustaining Digital Collections
Early in 2001, CLIR and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH) will convene a small group of entrepreneurs and leaders in libraries, museums, higher education, private and public funding agencies, and the legal community to discuss models that have been developed to create and sustain digital collections of culturally significant materials. The nature of these existing models is diverse. For example, rather than finding long-term funding from philanthropic organizations and federal agencies, some concerns, such as HighWire Press and JSTOR, have made self-sufficiency a goal. They have focused on meeting the needs of a specific market, determining how to offer products and services that are worth paying for, pricing them at affordable rates, and tracking the behavior and needs of their customers. Other newer concerns, such as Questia and Fathom.com, aim not only to recover costs but to clear a profit. Their business models also will be presented at this meeting.
The subject of money changing hands is far from new in the library world: we have done extremely well in seeking and getting grants for digitization. Nonetheless, the notion of inviting the commercial sector onto campuses and into museums to “capitalize on institutional assets” makes many librarians anxious. It need not. While the future of any of these commercial ventures is unclear, their success would indicate that people outside the academy so value access to culturally and intellectually valuable materials that they are willing to pay for it. Librarians have known this all along, of course. Libraries are among the most expensive “public goods” in our country. Taxpayers have long asserted with their votes that libraries provide value for money.
One of the joys of adulthood is paying your own way. While it is great to be treated to dinner every once in a while, it is even better to be able to go to the restaurant of your choice, with people whose company you enjoy, and to order what you want. Rather than shrink from the challenges of the marketplace, we should recognize that libraries have always been at the center of that marketplace where ideas are exchanged. If information is the currency of the new economy, then institutions that are in the business of collecting knowledge from the plethora of blind data that swirl around on networks should have a great advantage in creating their market niche.
SIX MEMBERS OF the CLIR Board completed their terms of office on October 28, 2000. At a dinner the night before the Board meeting, we said farewell to Betty Bengtson, University of Washington Libraries; Virginia Betancourt, Fundacion Romulo Betancourt, Venezuela; Christine Borgman, University of California, Los Angeles; Robert Bovenschulte, American Chemical Society; David B. Gracy, III, University of Texas; and Marilyn Gell Mason, special advisor to the president of OCLC. Former members Bengtson, Borgman, Gracy, and Mason had also served two terms as members of either the Council on Library Resources or the Commission on Preservation and Access. All five former members were instrumental in helping CLIR establish itself as a new, merged organization with an expanded agenda. They brought important perspectives from diverse communities: research libraries, library education, publishing, international libraries, and public libraries. To all of them, the CLIR Board and staff extend sincere thanks and best wishes.
Also in October, four new members were elected to three-year terms on our Board. They include Francis X. Blouin, Jr., director, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan; Paula T. Kaufman, university librarian and professor of library administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Susan Kent, city librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library; and Celia Ribeiro Zaher, director, Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil.
Fran Blouin brings archival and scholarly perspectives to the CLIR Board by virtue of his long association with the Bentley Historical Library, but he also has very strong international connections. He has led dozens of projects that have brought international archivists to the Bentley Historical Library and he has been responsible for a number of courses and workshops to apply modern archival methods to archives abroad. His peers have honored him by naming him a Rackham Faculty Fellow in 1981, with a Society of American Archivists’ Fellowship in 1984, and with the Cozer Prize for his book on the Vatican Archives in 1999. Mr. Blouin also served on CLIR’s Task Force on the Role of the Artifact.
Paula Kaufman was named university librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in September 1999, making her responsible for the third largest academic library in North America. Prior to that, she served for 11 years as dean of libraries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and in a variety of positions at Columbia University, including acting vice president and university librarian. Ms. Kaufman’s professional honors are extensive, including the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Anniversary Roll of Honor in January 1999 and the Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award in 1989. She was named president of ARL at its fall 2000 meeting. Her many articles in professional journals and her public presentations often address the topics of change in the roles of research libraries.
Susan Kent heads the Los Angeles Public Library. Her previous experience in public libraries includes work at the New York Public Library; the Brooklyn Public Library; the Finkelstein Memorial Library in Spring Valley, New York; the Tucson Public Library in Arizona; and the Minneapolis Public Library in Minnesota.
In 1998, in recognition of her excellence, creativity, and innovation as a public library director, she was named the first recipient of the Charlie Robinson Award from the Public Library Association. Ms. Kent is a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and a member of the Trusteeship, the Southern California Forum of the International Women’s Forum.
Celia Zaher is the technical director of the National Library of Brazil and serves as president of ABINIA (Asociación de Bibliotecas Nacionales de Iberoamérica). She has held positions as full professor of the School of Library Science of the Universidade Federal Fluminense, chief researcher on information at Brazil’s National Research Council, director of the Biblioteca Regional de Medicina y Ciencia de la Salud of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, and assistant director general of communication at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
CLIR looks forward to working with these new Board members. Their talent and experience will deeply enrich our activities and programs.
THE 1980s AND 1990s witnessed a nationwide movement to preserve endangered library and archival material. This activity was spurred by concerns surrounding the at-risk state of printed materials from the past 150 years and by the ready availability of resources for preservation from government and private foundations. In 1989, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) launched its nationally coordinated programs to preserve the intellectual content of U.S. newspapers and brittle books through preservation microfilming. Organizations such as the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the American Library Association (ALA), the Commission on Preservation and Access, the Council on Library Resources, the Library of Congress, and the Research Libraries Group exerted national preservation leadership, articulating both a vision and an advocacy campaign to promote preservation awareness through such measures as the adoption of acid-free paper by the publishing industry and the annual gathering of preservation statistics. By the early 1990s, most research libraries had established full-fledged preservation programs.
By the end of the 1990s, however, there were growing concerns that these programs were themselves at risk. Unfortunately, the available evidence does not provide an adequate basis on which to draw firm conclusions on this matter. Reports from ARL libraries offer contradictory views on the state of preservation programs. ARL annual preservation statistics indicate that preservation expenditures have remained flat for the past seven years and that the number of staff assigned to preservation has reached a 10-year low.1 Yet a very recent ARL survey on preservation and digitization suggests a more positive picture, indicating that staffing levels have risen and that funding has grown or stabilized.2 Statistical information from non-ARL college and research libraries suggests that this conflicting evidence extends beyond the ARL membership and that the impact on preservation programs may manifest itself in different ways.
Several points, however, are clear. While library directors continue to identify preservation as a key concern, new demands, particularly in the digital domain, often compete for resources, and most of these resources must come from internal reallocation. The availability of outside funds has diminished as government and private foundations have experienced declines in appropriations or changed their program priorities. For example, the 20-year effort under which the NEH hoped to make it possible to microfilm three million brittle books has failed to keep pace with projections, in large measure because of the sharp decline in the NEH budget. Many preservation programs were initiated with outside funds, and the degree to which they remain dependent on soft funding varies from institution to institution.
There are disturbing signs within the profession as well: a continuing dependence on outside resources to fund both preservation education programs and regional preservation centers; the lack of a clearly articulated vision for preservation in the digital age; a decline in effective national leadership on the part of professional organizations; and a dwindling pool of qualified candidates for top administrative posts.
Given this state of uncertainty and flux, CLIR, ARL, the University Libraries Group (ULG), and the Oberlin Group have agreed to join forces to conduct a thorough examination of the state of preservation programs in American libraries. A small planning group will meet on January 22, 2001, to consider the scope and duration of this study.
Using both quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques, the authors of the study will document current conditions and challenges in preservation, identify indicators of health in preservation programs, and suggest new strategies to equip these programs for an increasingly complex technical environment. Among the areas to be investigated are the following:
- Library trends: Preservation programs need to be considered in the context of recent trends affecting American libraries. ARL member libraries report a 12.5 percent drop in circulation since 1995 and a significant decline in purchased volumes (26 percent for monographs and 6 percent for serials) since 1986. Members of the Oberlin Group, however, report consistent rises in both acquisition and physical circulation. What accounts for these differences, and how do such figures correlate with core preservation activities such as binding, pre-shelf processing, and book repair? To what extent are preservation and access activities intertwined?
- Digital development: Libraries of all types report significant growth in digital acquisitions and conversion, but few have developed adequate digital preservation strategies, according to Margaret Hedstrom and Sheon Montgomery in their report, Digital Preservation Needs and Requirements in RLG Member Institutions. What is the role of preservation programs in shaping institutional policies for digital preservation? Has there been a shift in preservation resources to meet these needs? How are analog and digital preservation activities related to one another?
- Aging assumptions: In 1991, ALA issued a Preservation Policy, and that same year, ARL published preservation program benchmarks for selected core activities. Are these policies still valid, given the changing circumstances of ownership and access?3 Similarly, does the brittle books strategy developed in the 1980s remain the best approach? Are we making sufficient progress? Employing an ample range of technologies? Is the brittle books program still viewed as an important preservation imperative?
- National leadership: What are the pros and cons of developing a national preservation plan for the digital age? What is needed to revitalize preservation leadership on the part of national professional organizations?
- Education and recruitment: Why are institutions finding it difficult to attract top professionals to preservation positions? What is the state of preservation education in library and information-studies programs? How can the profession help develop preservation leadership skills and the next generation of preservation administrators?
- Collaboration: Consortial preservation efforts have been heavily dependent on outside funding. To what extent have these efforts enabled libraries to reduce their own preservation expenditures and increase program effectiveness? To what degree are institutional funds devoted to cooperative preservation activities (e.g., shared off-site storage facilities)? Are cooperative efforts more characteristic of certain libraries than of others? Are there any business models for cooperative preservation programs that will promote greater self-sufficiency?
- Economics: To what extent are preservation programs at financial risk? What strategies for financial sustainability have succeeded for preservation programs in college and research libraries, and how can they be used elsewhere?
The report will address these and other issues associated with the state of preservation programs in American libraries. It will also serve as the focal point for convening a conference of senior preservation administrators, library directors, representatives from professional organizations, scholars, and other stakeholders. Participants will be challenged to consider the viability of preservation programs in the face of changing circumstances and to develop an action plan to promote the long-term well-being of these programs.
1 Scott, J. R. 1999. Preserving Research Collections: A Collaboration Between Librarians and Scholars. Washington, D.C.: Association for Research Libraries.
2 Survey of Preservation and Digitizing in ARL Libraries, Summer 2000. October 10, 2000. Preliminary draft. Washington, D.C.: Association for Research Libraries.
3 The ALA Preservation Policy, which is currently under review, is available at http://www.ala.org/alcts/publications/preservation.html. The ARL benchmarks are contained in Merrill-Oldham, J., Morrow, C. C., and Roosa, M. 1991. Preservation Program Models: A Study Project and Report. Washington, D.C.: Association for Research Libraries.
THE IDEA OF creating a register of digitally reformatted objects is a cause célèbre once more in fashion, it seems, in research libraries. Registry services, envisaged as online databases to which those who are digitally reformatting monographs, serials, and other library holdings contribute records, promise to keep us informed about what others are doing and to eliminate redundant digitization efforts. But as we rush to invent new uses for existing online registration services (e.g., those used to record information about microfilm production) or to develop new services devoted exclusively to digitally reformatted materials, there are two important questions we should consider.
First, does the registry record information about items or collections? Item-level descriptions work well for digitally reformatted books, but less well for serial publications. Should the registry include the large and growing number of digitally reformatted visual, sound, film, and video materials? How would this be done, given the lack of a consensus about how to catalog these materials in the first place?
Collection-level descriptions are easier to manage, but less informative. Electronic editions of the works of Jack London are available in at least three of the 250-plus online collections that members of the Digital Library Federation (DLF) have developed, yet only one edition is revealed when searching for “Jack London” in the DLF’s registry of its members’ collections. It might be possible to envisage a registry service that mixes collection- and item-level descriptions at will, but the search results would likely be of dubious integrity and usefulness.
This question, initially about cataloging practice, raises the larger issue of how to organize what would emerge as a vast undertaking. Are we looking at a registry service or at a network of services, each developed by a specific community with an interest in a certain type of object (e.g., digitally reformatted books, visual resources, encoded texts)?
The second question is whether all digitally reformatted objects qualify equally for entry into a registry. At issue is whether we want to know about the existence of digitally reformatted materials generally or whether we prefer to know only about those in which we can have some confidence about longevity, accessibility, and quality. Debate on this point can become quite heated. “The best is the enemy of the good,” we are reminded by those who quote Voltaire and argue for a more inclusive registry. And yet, we cannot help wondering whether its potential rewards will remain elusive.
We have a great deal of enthusiasm for an idea that is more complex than it seems on the surface. The library community is interested in minimizing duplicative digitization efforts. We will even, having located a digital object, refrain from creating our own digital version if the existing object meets our requirements. Those requirements are easily stated: It must be possible to integrate existing objects into our digital library service environments in a manner that will enable them to be located by, delivered to, and used effectively by our patrons now and at some unspecified point in the future. The requirements also suggest that the real promise of a registry service (or network of services) is not to serve as an exhaustive list (or lists) of digital objects but as a guarantor of objects that meet a quality benchmark upon which the community has agreed.
At the risk of allowing planning to impede progress, I would venture that the construction of a registry for digitally reformatted objects must begin with a consensus about what materials it includes and about what we as a profession will minimally require of those materials with regard to persistence, quality, and interoperability.
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The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) grew out of the 1997 merger of the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. CLIR identifies the critical issues that affect the welfare and prospects of libraries and archives and the constituencies they serve, convenes individuals and organizations in the best position to engage these issues and respond to them, and encourages institutions to work collaboratively to achieve and manage change.