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CLIR Annual Report: 1999 – 2000


Message from the President
What is a library? This question is the foundation for CLIR’s agenda at a time when digital technology is transforming academic and research institutions. Former Stanford University President Gerhard Casper offered a thoughtful answer in his remarks at the dedication of the Bing Wing of Stanford’s Green Library in October 1999:

Guarding the rational process is the Western university’s major contribution to civilization. . . . The search to know—the search for truth—has always been characterized by the need to doubt, the need to be critical, including being self-critical: looking not just for the evidence, but for the counterevidence as well. The holdings of the university library, paper, object, and digital, are one of the means by which the university performs its role as the custodian of that rational process.

It takes courage for a university or college president to build expensive library facilities at a time when so many technologists predict that electronic networks and ubiquitous access will make libraries obsolete. Caught in the debate between library as place and library as information service, campus communities are forced to find new meaning for the library.

In some ways, the library’s identity seems self-evident, because the library building has been a symbol on American campuses for more than 200 years. The library is an iconic expression of the campus community’s belief in the importance of knowledge and the creation of new knowledge. Despite this tradition, however, libraries cannot continue in their established patterns. They must reinvent themselves so that tomorrow’s scholars and students will be well served by the choices made today.

Reinvention is necessary because the library no longer has a lock on information resources. Before digital technology changed everything, the library was the primary information source for students and faculty alike. What the university or college could afford to spend on library acquisitions determined the level of easy access the campus community had to information. No more. There is no central site for scholarly resources on the campus. Today, libraries must be understood in terms of the services they provide, not simply in terms of their physical holdings.

The new information environment poses challenges to libraries of all types. Even the Library of Congress is uncertain how to respond to the questions posed by digital technology. As James O’Donnell, chairman of a National Academy of Sciences’ study of the Library, made clear in his overview of LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress, all libraries are confronted with a series of questions:

Will the distinctive features of the Western library survive? Will preserved information continue to be widely and freely available in public libraries? Will the great research libraries continue to be the point of entry to the information universe for their select band of users? Will the integration of digital with print information succeed, or will print suffer a damaging loss of prestige in the general rush to exploit the possibilities of the Internet? Will new integrators and organizers of knowledge emerge, perhaps from the commercial sector, bypassing libraries and finding ways that succeed in putting information directly in users’ hands? No individual and no committee knows the answers to those questions, but librarians must guide their institutions with an acute awareness that the questions will be answered decisively—perhaps within a very few years.

Today, libraries must be understood in terms of the services they provide, not simply in terms of their physical holdings. The questions O’Donnell raises go to the heart of the difficulties in being a steward of the rational process. So many new players are now appearing on the information stage that it is very hard to know how each influences the whole. And the questions are not left to librarians alone to answer. Campus administrators are now faced with choices about investments in information. While once they counted on libraries to select the most appropriate resources to meet the campus community’s information needs, now the many departments and units on campus are securing the specialized information they need from Web-based sources developed by colleagues around the world.

CLIR’s agenda has been shaped by our belief that the reinvention of libraries must involve many different communities—administrators and funding entities who pay the bills, scholars who use the resources to create new knowledge, and publishers who have been part of the information chain for well over a hundred years. CLIR sees its role as one of helping the many interested parties determine how the new system will preserve the best of the old and incorporate the most promising features of the new. It would be a mistake to think that the new system involves only adapting to digital technology. The most interesting questions are connected to the role of the artifact in the new environment, the legal and organizational requirements of preserving digital information, and the preparation and formation of a new cadre of professionals who will be tomorrow’s stewards of information resources. The projects described in this annual report reflect our understanding of the questions that must be addressed. In every case, we bring together the diverse interests of the many groups affected by changes in the system of scholarly communication.

In Gratitude

The activities described in this annual report are generously supported by 215 institutions, private foundations, and individual donors.

CLIR is not a membership organization; rather, it invites all libraries that see CLIR’s agenda as integral to their own to become partners in a common enterprise. This year, the number of CLIR sponsors grew from 109 to 145, a 33 percent increase. Twenty-five research libraries support the full operational costs of the Digital Library Federation (DLF). To all of the institutions that invested in our work, we extend sincere thanks.

CLIR sees its role as one of helping the many interested parties determine how the new system will preserve the best of the old and incorporate the most promising features of the new. We are especially grateful to the two foundations that have provided general support. Funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have enabled CLIR to remain flexible in identifying and responding to the issues we see as critical to the library and scholarly communities in a time of rapid change. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made generous grants to support both general operations and specific projects. The entire library community benefits enormously from Mellon’s farsighted views about changes in scholarly communication and the library’s role in the system.

Other foundations—the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the William Penn Foundation, and the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation—have enabled us to advance some important projects in leadership and resources for scholarship.

Financial resources are essential, but the ideas about what will most help libraries, archives, and other information agencies come from CLIR’s talented staff. Their contributions, made on a daily basis, often grow out of the thoughtful, deeply reflective discussions held with the Board twice annually.

There were some staff changes at CLIR during the year. Hans Rütimann, who was responsible for international preservation programs for nearly a decade, resigned in December 1999 to become an independent consultant. We appreciate the skill he brought to developing networks of international colleagues who are also working to advance the cause of preservation. Daniel Greenstein joined CLIR as director of the DLF in December 1999. He brings great intellect and energy to the task of finding ways to help research libraries collaborate and develop effective digital library services. DLF Research Associate Rebecca Graham left CLIR in May 1999 to become head of library computing services and the digital library program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Novera King joined the CLIR staff in May as the DLF administrative associate. She comes with a degree in film studies from Columbia University. Finally, we are pleased to have the able assistance of Ann Marie Parsons, a graduate student in library science at Catholic University, who joined the CLIR staff as an intern in January 2000.

It is a privilege to lead this organization. The Board, the staff, and our sponsors are all committed to creating a future library that takes full advantage of technology in delivering better and more customized services. There are many difficult choices facing the library community, but I take comfort in being surrounded by so many who are stubbornly dedicated to achieving meaningful change.
Deanna B. Marcum


September 30, 2000

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