CLIR Annual Report: 1998 – 1999
t the close of the nineteenth century, American public libraries, as we know them today, were being invented, as were many of the cultural and educational agencies that have become well known in the twentieth century. Academic libraries were still closely modeled on their European counterparts; reforms in higher education would come later in the twentieth century, bringing with them widespread changes in library services and operations.
Recognizing that time is as much a cultural construction as anything else, it nonetheless seems important that, at the closing of this century and this millennium, we ask how libraries and archives should be reconceptualized to do their jobs in the next century. What must change? What must, no matter what, remain? The professional literature’s focus on hardware, software, and specific projects masks a truly important question: Is society willing to protect and nurture an organization whose purpose it is to guarantee unimpeded access to information that is essential to the continuation of a democracy?
Libraries of all types and archives are in a volatile transition period. They are simultaneously managing the vast resources they have acquired over the years and exploring new ways to make their storehouses of treasures available through the World Wide Web. The resulting financial pressures are painful. The volume of print publications that need preservation for long-term access only increases while electronic counterparts are requested by patrons for greater ease of searching. The dream of substituting one format for another remains elusive because the problem of digital archiving is not yet solved. Libraries promise to be gateways to information that lies beyond their building walls; yet, the building itself is an icon cherished by the public and an important gathering place for students and faculty. When funds for new and renovated buildings are frightfully scarce, how do libraries and archives balance the need for buildings to serve their iconic purposes with the need to provide new services demanded in a new era?
As libraries and archives go about the business of transforming themselves, CLIR is interested in shaping the answer to the broad questions about what libraries and archives must do to serve society’s needs in the next century. Of course, CLIR will work with other organizations and agencies to frame the questions and begin to form answers, for such collaboration is key to progress in the digital environment. Similarly, the users of libraries and archives must be brought more fully and directly into the discussion about the shape and form of future organizations, for their successors’ ability to do their work depends upon it.
|The dream of a few years agothat preservation and access were inextricably bundledhas faded.
The specific accomplishments in each of four program areas are described in the program section of this report, but a few notes are necessary here as well to describe the underlying premises of each program.
In the preservation and access program, we concentrated on two general themespreservation awareness and digital archiving. The need to preserve library materials grows more urgent as libraries are under increasing pressure to invest in electronic resources and in retrospective digitization of special collections. The dream of a few years agothat preservation and access were inextricably bundledhas faded. Until technology provides a dramatic breakthrough, traditional preservation methods are required if materials will be available for the long-term. Digital surrogates provide quick and easy access to a significantly expanded audience, but they cannot be counted on for use even a few years from now.
CLIR recognizes that without solutions to the important problem of digital archiving, our best contribution is to discover the approaches that are being pursued and report the possibilities. Although we run the risk of appearing to invest in a particular approach as we publish reports, we have systematically tried to bring to light as many ways as possible of thinking about digital archiving. In that spirit, we commissioned a report from Jeff Rothenberg, who believes that software emulation provides the best prospect for long-term preservation. With the release of that report in the spring of 1999, other authors who disagree with Rothenberg’s approach have identified themselves, and we have engaged them to write reports arguing their points of view.
The need for preservation awareness in other countries is markedly different from the needs in the United States. We have worked with the principal supporter of our international preservation activities, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to identify the geographic areas in which we make substantial investments. In Latin America, South Africa, and Southern Europe this year, we have worked with leaders in libraries and institutions of higher education to identify ways in which preservation awareness can be made a higher priority and to instill a preservation ethic wherever possible. Generally, our work abroad takes the form of basic preservation training, translation of standard preservation texts into native languages, and identification of opportunities to add to the worldwide bibliographic information so that scholars everywhere will know what has been preserved and made available for use.
The Digital Library Federation (DLF), funded by the members of the Federation, stands as CLIR’s signal activity in the digital libraries program. The Federation is working hard to identify barriers to the development of fully functioning digital libraries and to overcome them through carefully considered projects designed to produce answers. This year, the DLF identified several discipline-based projects to emphasize. The Academic Image Exchange, aimed at producing content that will be used in art history courses across the country, makes a significant contribution to understanding the power and utility of the Web-based technology. Other projects were advanced to the point of readiness for reporting, and DLF issued its first two publications for broad distribution this year. As time goes by, the aim will be to disseminate the findings of DLF projects more quickly so that all libraries and archives, not simply the members of the Federation, will have more in-depth information available to them to apply to their own institutions’ digital library efforts.
The Frye Leadership Institute, named to honor Billy Frye, Chancellor of Emory University and the first Board chairman of the Commission on Preservation and Access, has begun to take shape this year with the help of the advisory committee, made up of representatives of CLIR, EDUCAUSE, and the Association of Research Libraries. A series of advisory meetings were held to determine the curriculum and identify speakers for the first institute. Solicitation of applications is under way.
The College Libraries Committee completed its collection of nine case studies of innovations in library services using technology on college campuses. The collected material served as excellent background material for an invitational conference at the Belmont Conference Center in March, during which college administrators, librarians, and teaching faculty considered the major issues confronting liberal arts colleges and mid-sized universities as they enter the digital age.
The Economics of Information Program has been the most difficult to define and put into operation. While several small projects have been productive, the scope of the larger program is still being determined.
|With the advice of the CLIR Board, we have designated six themes for our work: preservation awareness, digital libraries, leadership, economics of information, resources for scholarship, and international developments.
This has been a year of stability for CLIR’s Board. There has been no turnover due to term completion or resignation. The experience of the Board and its strong commitment to the organization are abundantly evident in all aspects of the organization, but perhaps most evident in the path the Board chose for itself in 1999.
In preparation for the spring meeting, CLIR’s Board chairman and president convened a series of regional briefings, aimed chiefly at the members of the Association of Research Libraries, to discuss CLIR’s future agenda. Through a combination of Board deliberations in late 1998 and program staff retreats in early 1999, CLIR developed a tentative agenda consisting of six areas of interest for future work. We asked those who attended the briefings to comment on the prospective topics and submitted the results to the Board for discussion and approval at its May 1999 meeting.
We recognized early in our discussions that the old model of dividing the agenda into descrete programs, each headed by a program officer, did not serve us well. The areas in which we had chosen to work cannot be so neatly circumscribed. Our concern about digital archiving, for example, fits into the preservation and access program, but it is also central to digital library issues. We believe the best approach is to identify the issues or themes that seem most important for the advancement of libraries, archives, and other information organizations and to think of those themes as a collective assignment to our staff.
With the advice of the CLIR Board, we have designated six themes for our work: preservation awareness, digital libraries, leadership, economics of information, resources for scholarship, and international developments.
Staff assignments have been redefined after a resignation and after the Board adopted the six-theme agenda in May 1999. James Morris resigned as vice president on August 31, 1998. Abby Smith was named director of programs to coordinate the projects within each of the then four program areas and to help shape the interaction that is called for in the new agenda. In October 1998, Rebecca Graham joined the Digital Library Federation as its research associate. Kathlin Smith was named director of communications, charged with sharpening the focus of CLIR’s newsletters and reports, in addition to working with program staff in shaping the reports that will be published both in print and in electronic form.
Cassie Savage and Cynthia Bergquist joined CLIR as administrative associate and executive assistant, respectively, on July 1, 1998. They are the friendly, helpful individuals our telephone and in-office visitors first encounter. They have set new standards for providing responsive, timely information.
Donald Waters, who joined CLIR in October 1997 as director of the Digital Library Federation, resigned to become program officer for scholarly communication at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York on July 1, 1999.
Staff changes, though inevitable, are difficult for a small organization to absorb. And yet, each day brings fresh reminders that a high-quality staff is the best investment any organization can make. As president of CLIR, I am deeply grateful to work with a Board of great distinction and commitment and to have staff colleagues who define, by their words and deeds, excellence.
Deanna B. Marcum
September 30, 1999