June 2018

Reunion Tour Recap

I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the “Dean Wilkin Reunion Tour.” I’m grateful to the Staff Development and Training Committee for organizing and executing the tour, and to all of you who prepared materials and presented during the tour. I know a great deal of work went into those presentations, and I appreciated hearing about the work you’ve been doing over the past year. And I don’t think I can thank Bill Mischo enough for his leadership and steady hand while I served as provostthank you, Bill.

The Reunion Tour was interesting to me for a variety of reasons. Bill Mischo did a good job of keeping me in the loop about Library activities while I was gone, and it’s also the case that Library work comes to the attention of the provost frequently, so I was also familiar with much of your good work while I was away. Still, there were many pleasant surprises, and the totality of the picture you presented was one of engagement, impact, and creativity. Thank you!

From my first days here, I’ve been impressed by and grateful for the responsibility you all take for our Library. There is a sense of collective ownership that pervades our enterprise, and this lightens my load and the load of every individual in our Library. Throughout your work, you show creativity and leadership in addressing our challenges. There are many things we can try to foster or cultivate through training and education, but this kind of collective ownership is not one of them: your commitment and your sense of agency reflects an appreciation for our role and our institution and the sense that you’re a meaningful part of it all. I’m grateful for this.

At each stop on the Tour, I took a moment to remind people of the big picture—why we’re here. There’s much we do to advance our professions and our understanding of specific problems, but ultimately we’re here to make the University of Illinois—its students and faculty—successful. You demonstrated that amply in your presentations. I heard about both new and continuing efforts to improve instruction, to improve research, and to build and care for our collections. All of these things ensure the success of our students and our faculty. I’m proud of all you do to ensure that success.

Finally, as I did in my closing comments at several of the Reunion Tour stops, let me use this opportunity to remind you of my priorities:

  1. Bolster support for collections. We lost ground during the weak budget period, and it’s time to move from a defensive posture to a position of pride. I’ve had encouraging conversations with the provost and his staff on this point, and we should have more news late this summer on a proposed strategy for moving forward.
  2. Give attention to efficiency and different ways of doing things. Our operations budget is likely to be flat, or only grow with inflation, so it’s more important now than it has been in the past to examine our work to determine what we can do more efficiently and what we can stop doing. Part of our strategy should be using metrics to decide what has the most impact.
  3. Finally, we all must continue to give attention to strengthening our organizational culture. We are the totality of all of our work and the combination of all our job families. Resource constraints and pressures like the recent state budget impasse often create tensions in an organization. Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to work together to fulfill our mission.

Thanks again to all of you for the care you’ve taken in doing our work, and thanks again to all of you who took the time to organize and present at the Reunion Tour.

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