April 2020

FY2021 Budget Request and Annual Report

It seems a bit odd to be sending out a note on something as mundane as the FY21 budget meeting in the midst of COVID-19 preparations, but life goes on! The budget meeting on March 6, 2020 was exceptionally good. Those in attendance, including the Provost and Vice Provost for Budget and Planning Paul Ellinger, were very appreciative of the work we reflected in the report, and they were all very engaged with topics that were there. The questions they asked reflected genuine interest, and there were moments of praise, e.g., for the metrics we included. At one point, a bit tongue in cheek, they said we earned a “gold star” for the quality and relevance of our data.

In budget meetings, questions will occasionally be a tacit challenge to what was written; for us, however, that was certainly not the case. Understandably, several of the questions were about the data we shared: they were impressed and intrigued by the early usage data and wanted to know what was most surprising; they were interested in learning what might be in store for teaching and learning analytics, and asked to talk more about the Investment for Growth Proposal we crafted along with LAS and Engineering; and, apparently, they’ve received some pushback from units about the cost or difficulty of gathering data, and asked whether our data collection efforts had been costly and difficult.

Another area of discussion was the topic of challenges in sustainability of IT. This gave me an opportunity to remind them that we had reflected this challenge in last year’s report, as well, pointing out the impact of staff departures on smaller units. As some of you know, my perspective on this type of challenge, e.g., our investments in and sustainability of Medusa, is that we either need to grow these locally developed systems (e.g., through outreach and collaboration) or be prepared to let go of local development in favor of shared services offered by other institutions or vendors. I explained this and talked about our early conversations with CARLI about repository services, which, if they come to fruition, will allow us to deepen our investment in our repository as we extend it to other institutions.

The budget meeting was also an opportunity for the Provost’s office to share some good preliminary news on additional funding on the building project. Details on that will be coming out in the coming weeks and months, but it’s heartening to see funding begin to fall into place.

We talked about a number of other things, including transformative agreements (hats off to Bill Mischo for his work with IEEE–more on this coming soon) and our progress on diversity–both numerically over the last several years and with our recent staffing investments. I was pleased by the warm support throughout.

As always, this annual report (available here) and meeting gives me an opportunity to thank all of you for the fine work you do. We have a great library that makes outstanding contributions to the University of Illinois, and the budget meeting is a moment for us to shine. Thank you!

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian