November 2014

ARL Membership Meeting, Fall 2014

The ARL Membership Meeting is a meeting for the library directors, held twice a year. The agenda is always a combination of committee and business activities, along with some programming. With the conclusion of the Strategic Thinking+Design (ST+D) process, I expect to see some fairly dramatic changes in the way we do our work in ARL, but those changes are still imminent.

The meeting begins with committee activities. I’ve visit the Diversity and Leadership Committee as an observer and am a member of the Influencing Public Policy committee. Work on the Diversity and Leadership Committee is currently focused on strengthening existing programs by, for example, seeking ongoing funding for programs like the Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW) and the Leadership and Career Development Program (LCDP). These programs have been immensely successful, and many would like ARL to seek permanent funding from the member institutions. The Influencing Public Policy Committee focused on copyright and IP issues in the aftermath of the HathiTrust decision, and on US federal depository library issues. With regard to the former, there’s considerable interest in and discussion around finding meaningful paths for new fair uses, and a desire to see more vigorous activity in support of users with print disabilities. The focus on US federal government documents continues to be on trying to coordinate digitization and print storage strategies.

The meeting itself began with a brief closed business meeting, during which the budget was approved and some library director from Illinois was elected to the Board for a three-year term. The program began with a substantial update on ARL activities, including:

  • A presentation by Board members on next steps with the ST+D process.
  • An update on SHARE, including efforts to create the Notification System.
  • A presentation by “branding” consultants on the process to develop a new ARL logo.
  • And a celebration of the tenth year of the ARL Leadership Fellows (previously RLLF) program.

Topical programs were varied (the program is online), but two are worth highlighting. One substantial program was devoted to accessibility, particularly in light of the new proposed TEACH Act. I was struck by the very high bar the new legislation would create, the gap between where we are and the new standards, and the extraordinary importance of improving accessibility. Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric opposed to the TEACH Act is focused on the expense and the way that compliance will limit our ability to innovate in support of students who need no accommodation. Nevertheless, I see a growing desire among the ARL directors to improve the accessibility of our libraries and their collections and services. The meeting concluded with a program on Data Management Programs, which I chaired. Johns Hopkins, Purdue and Illinois were each represented, and Heidi Imker did a fabulous job helping the directors appreciate the value of broad governance and a strong service orientation in mounting a Research Data Service.

The meeting was very productive and we can expect to see more focus on reorganizing the work of ARL around the System of Action (a key presentation from the previous meeting lays out the SoA). I was pleased with the amount of focus on accessibility, particularly because it bodes well for seeing some coordinated action around access to resources for users with print disabilities. And of course the focus on copyright and intellectual property always encourages me. Even though the new Georgia State decision (see, for example, this Chronicle story) had not been delivered, there was considerable optimism about digitization and fair use as aids to helping guide historical collection management. This, along with the ST+D process, may lead to more large-scale collaboration in ARL in the future.

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