CPA Annual Report: 1997 – 1998
|“The CLIR Board concluded that our focus should be on a close examination of the ‘big picture’ issues that will determine the quality and effectiveness of higher education in the future.”
he Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) marked its first anniversary as a merged organization on May 30, 1998. While it is premature to boast of stability, the legal and procedural details of the merger have been largely addressed, allowing us to concentrate this year on strengthening and developing programs.
Technology, the expectations and demands of users, and dislocations in the higher education community all contribute to the rapid, fundamental changes occurring in the information agencies and divisions on college and university campuses. In surveying the work that needs to be done, the CLIR Board concluded that our focus should be on a close examination of the “big picture” issues that will determine the quality and effectiveness of higher education in the future. Noting with appreciation the excellent work being done by our colleague institutions, the Board advised that we avoid wasting resources by duplicating those efforts. Instead, we have surveyed the landscape from the perspective of a high-level decision maker and asked, “What does the academic officer, government official, or trustee need to know to make effective, socially beneficial investments in the infrastructure and the organizations that will serve the information needs of the communitybe it a campus, a state, or a municipality?”
The Board’s second conclusion was that focus is essential. In a world with so many problems to be solved, what can a small not-for-profit organization with no endowment accomplish? We can expect to remain a vital force in the library and information community only if we make our plans and aspirations specific and if we make a persuasive case for them to funding organizations. To sharpen CLIR’s focus, the program staff and the Board worked intensely on program definition and direction. Through a combination of regular Board meetings and staff retreats, we examined the possible activities and reached decisions about the most productive strategies.
|“In this highly volatile period for library and information organizations, we are compelled to dream of information services as they should be for the new millennium.”
|The beauty of a flexible, independent organization is that it has the opportunity to dream. In this highly volatile period for library and information organizations, we are compelled to dream of information services as they should be for the new millennium. Unlike membership organizations that must respond to the immediate needs of those who pay the bills, we are not limited to an agenda that addresses urgent organizational problems, although we try to be practical. We are also not limited by an agenda that is politically fashionable. With this luxury of freedom and independence, we are obliged to think creatively and expansively, to draw together the best minds from many different communities to find common ground, and to inspire those who cannot abandon their daily, pressing responsibilities to design the future.
The ability to bring dreams to fruition is limited, of course, by the dollars that are available. Our dreams cannot be realized unless we deliver reports, publications, and projects that respond to the needs of the communities we aim to serve. Recognizing that funding for nonprofit organizations such as ours has become a much different kind of challenge, the Board and staff have turned their attention to developing new strategies for securing the financial base to advance our chosen programs.
Similarly, we have restructured Board meetings to allow more time for discussions about the future. The lively, probing conversations among the talented and farsighted individuals who volunteer their time to CLIR have been critically important in guiding the programs developed by the staff. We hope to find ways to make the essence of the discussions more accessible to a general audience in the future.
The bulk of this report consists of the program officers’ narratives of accomplishments of the past year. Here, I want to highlight future activities. The activities planned generally respond to the issues we have identified as being of greatest concern to decision makers: economics of information, responsible management of intellectual property, preservation of and access to knowledge, and assuring leadership of information organizations in the next generation. As an overarching concern, decision makers want to understand how digital libraries will make new demands on our institutions.
In response to the interest in the economics of information, we are designing an Investment in Information Project. Still in its developmental stage, the project is being formed by an economist and a provost who are jointly creating a prospectus. We believe that, increasingly, information resources are acquired or leased by many university departments and divisions, not by the library. In earlier days, the library was responsible for securing and managing the information assets of the institution. Equitable access to that information by all members of the campus community was the goal. Today, campus networking, the Internet, and more decentralized budgeting have changed the way universities manage their information resources. Our plan is to develop a tool that universities of different sizes and budgeting systems can use to analyze their own investments in information resources and to make more effective decisions about future investments.
During the past year, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and CLIR convened meetings of five task forces to consider the effects of digital technology on the creation and distribution of scholarly resources. The substance of the task forces’ deliberations is reported in the program narrative, but the discussions that were held over six months will have far-reaching consequences for CLIR. The gap between the services librarians want to offerand are technologically feasibleand the benefits perceived by scholars, particularly by humanists, is simply too great. Although librarians argue, justifiably, that it is too early to calculate the costs and benefits of digital technology and its derivative products, it is not too soon to engage scholars in discussions of how to engineer change in the scholarly enterprise that will serve current scholars and the generations to follow.
Preservation and Access, the program that was, until recently, an organization itself, will be reconsidered in the coming year. Confusion abounds about what constitutes preservation in the digital environment. Despite pressure from all quarters to specify the requirements for digital preservation, we believe that digital surrogates can be justified only as a way of extending access. The 1996 report, Preservation of Digital Information, by Don Waters and John
Garrett, eloquently described the analysis and experimentation that must proceed before we can discuss digital preservation confidently. Following the report’s recommendations, CLIR has commissioned Jeff Rothenberg to write a research paper on emulation techniques and has commissioned a risk-assessment study of migration strategies from Cornell University. But much more work is needed in this area before we can assure those who follow us that we have been diligent stewards of this generation’s scholarly output in its dazzling variety of formats.
Preservation and access will remain the focus of our international initiatives. This year we began work in South Africa. Training in preservation management remains an urgent need in many parts of the world, and CLIR’s international activities will continue to place a strong emphasis on building preservation awareness. Increasingly, our international preservation and access agenda will also support activities that link scholars around the world to the resources they use.
Leadership in the digital age also commands much of our attention. Encouraged by the CLIR Board to proceed, we continue to refine the curriculum for the Digital Leadership Institute, even as we seek funding. A recently published collection of essays, The Mirage of Continuity, edited by Brian L. Hawkins and Patricia Battin, provides an expansive range of views on what will be required for successful management of academic resources. We expect the book to spark discussions among academic officers, library directors, information technology directors, and scholars. We hope that the monograph will stimulate change in the way information resources are managed on many campuses.
In all of these program activities, our aim is to think about the library and information services as they might be configured in the next three to five years. We want to put programs into effect that will analyze the current situation and assemble the facts in a way that aids decision makers. Two new publicationsCLIR Issues, which takes an issues-analysis stance, and Preservation and Access International Newsletter, which reports on preservation developments worldwidewere launched this past year. Our goal is to provide policy-level analysis that decision makers will find helpful as they attempt to make changes in their institutions. As always, we ask that you contact us with ideas for projects, with feedback on our current work, or with information about activities of your organizations that relate to our programs.
On October 31, 1997, the CLIR Board bade farewell to those members who completed their terms of office. With fondness and gratitude, we honored Dr. William N. Hubbard, Jr., Dr. Harvey Brooks, Dr. Samuel Cook and Mr. Herman Liebaers from the former Council on Library Resources Board. All four had served on the CLR Board for many years, and their historical perspective, along with their high academic standards and innate good sense, will be sorely missed. From the former Commission on Preservation and Access Board, Dr. Carole Huxley completed her term and Dr. Cornelius Pings resigned. Dr. Huxley had been a CPA Board member from its creation, and her abiding commitment to preservation and knowledge of political strategies served the Commission, and later, CLIR, exceptionally well. Dr. Pings, who ably represented the Association of American Universities (AAU), retired as its president.
In the spring of 1998, CLIR welcomed three new appointed members, and on July 1, 1998, greeted Dr. Nils Hasselmo, the new president of AAU, who will serve on the CLIR Board by virtue of his appointment. The appointed membersDr. Robert Bovenschulte, Dr. Charles Phelps, and Ms. Virginia Betancourt Valverdebring important new perspectives to the Board.
Virginia Betancourt is the national librarian of Venezuela, a post she has held since 1977, and the executive secretary of the Association of Iberoamerican National Libraries. Trained in sociology at the University of Chicago, Ms. Betancourt has written widely on international cooperation and development and preservation. Charles Phelps is provost of the University of Rochester, and his academic background is business economics, specifically, the economics of health care. Through the committee work of the Association of American Universities, Dr. Phelps has taken keen interest in reshaping the system of scholarly communication. Dr. Robert Bovenschulte, director of the Publications Division of the American Chemical Society, has been engaged in scholarly, professional, trade, college, and school publishing over the course of his career. He is working closely with the Association of Research Libraries on the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) initiative. The experience and professional connections of each of these individuals will enhance the CLIR Board’s capacity in the scholarly communication and international arenas.
As program directions were clarified, staff responsibilities were defined and we added two important program positions. On September 15, 1998, Dr. Abby Smith joined CLIR as the Preservation and Access Program Officer. A Russian history scholar with nearly a decade of collections-related experience at the Library of Congress, she is bringing a sharper collections-in-all-formats focus to CLIR’s preservation and access program. Dr. Donald Waters joined the staff as the director of the Digital Library Federation on October 6, 1997. His strong academic and systems experience, gained through his 15-year tenure at Yale University, makes him an ideal person to head the Federation. Thanks to his leadership of the first eight months, the Digital Library Federation has a program plan and a governance structure in place, and a host of multi-institutional digital library projects are underway.
Pamela Davis Northcutt, executive assistant, who joined the staff of the Commission on Preservation and Access in its first year of operation, moved away from the metropolitan area on June 26, 1998. Her departure leaves a great organizational and personal void. Alex Mathews, administrative associate, resigned on June 30, 1998.
Although I have overall responsibility for the organization, CLIR’s success is realized through the efforts of the highly talented and committed staff who relentlessly pursue the program agendas that have been set in collaboration with the Board. We are richly blessed by the wisdom and creativity of the Board. The day-to-day hard work of the staff gives life and form to the programs that will make a lasting contribution to all of the communities that care about the creation of and continuing access to knowledge. The Board and staff have my greatest admirationand profound gratitude.
Deanna B. Marcum
September 30, 1998