January 2018

In Closing…

With the imminent return of John Wilkin to the Library in mid-January, my time as Acting Dean and University Librarian is drawing to a close. I want to thank everyone for their support and assistance during this past year.

The Library is currently completing the FY19 budget document to the campus (my second budget document) and that will complete a busy 11 months as Acting Dean. The FY19 budget guidelines ask the Library to reduce expenditures in operations by 1.5% or $300,000. This is on top of a 3% or $600,000 cut in FY18 and brings the total budget reductions in the operations budget over the last four years to $2.45 million. We’ve been able to absorb these cuts by making strategic reductions, primarily in administrative expenditures, and realizing some savings as we replace (or not replace) faculty, academic professionals, and staff positions at lesser salaries. But, clearly there is a limit to what we can absorb in operations budget reductions. On top of this, because of a multi-year lack of inflation monies in our collections budget, we now rank 6th in collection funding (down from 3rd last year) among the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) libraries and 22nd (down from 15th last year) among North American research libraries, now trailing many state-funded institutions such as Michigan, Texas A&M, Berkeley, UT-Austin, Penn State, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Iowa. The collection budget problems have severely compromised our ability to meet the campus’s scholarly research needs and has hurt the campus’s reputation and ability to be competitive with peer institutions. We were able to convert part of the FY18 budget reductions to $200,000 in added collection funds and the FY19 budget request again asks for additional collections monies.

At the same time, as I mentioned in the budget presentation last September, there are any number of exciting and innovative initiatives that we are engaged in during this time of budget adjustments. I would offer that we are at a tipping point in what is a fundamental transformation of the academic library. We need to seize this opportunity to re-imagineer the Library’s role in the university. Until quite recently, libraries served primarily as an end-point repository for the generated knowledge of the academy. Libraries now play a more integral role in the end-to-end knowledge creation and knowledge management process and lifecycle. Increasingly, the Library is looked upon as a key player in the overarching scholarly communication process and the campus research and instructional workflow. We have developed and implemented a number of services to meet this challenge and we do indeed have a focused vision for the future of the Library. The University Library can lead this effort to develop models and research tools for the library of the future.

The mechanisms of research and instruction in academia have fundamentally changed over the last 20 years. There has been an increased focus on enhancing scholarly communication workflows and processes. These activities are often referred to under the rubric of digital scholarship, which typically refers to all elements of scholarly communication and the entire body of changing scholarly practice. We’ve talked earlier about the web conversion site efforts and the annual 11 million full-text downloads and 4 million Easy Search transactions. The Library has developed and implemented a number of creative new initiatives and services that address changing digital scholarship needs and campus initiatives. These include: the Research Data Service, focused on addressing data management and curation needs; the Illinois Experts faculty and researcher profile system and other supporting analytics software; enhanced discovery and full-text information content delivery services that find us as a national leader in this field; a suite of newly developed collaboration, visualization, and entrepreneurship services and facilities (including the Scholarly Commons, the IDEA Lab Immersive Scholars grant, and the Media Commons); digital library preservation and stewardship services with nationally-recognized image viewing services; the Scholarly Publishing program; the HathiTrust Research Center, adaptive services and technologies; and cloud storage capabilities through the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and Amazon.

The Library is also engaged in other initiatives such as the remodeling of room 220 for an expanded Scholarly Commons (Interdisciplinary Collaboratory), the first floor service point planning efforts, the Grainger Library design studio test classroom, and the expansion of the Media Commons that will all play key roles in further supporting digital scholarship.

It is important to note that the campus is changing and evolving in response to academic and State needs and initiatives. Among the current major campus initiatives are the Siebel Center for Design (opening in late 2019), the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the Discovery Partners Institute (with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University) and the broader Illinois Innovation Network. The latter two initiatives will establish our campus presence in Chicago and other areas of the State. The Library is actively engaged with these initiatives and working on developing and refining tools and services to meet the distributed and interdisciplinary needs of these new entities. As an example, the Library has developed publication metrics and productivity software for the Illinois Cancer Center and is moving these to other initiatives. In addition, the Library continues to work closely with long-time partners such as the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and all the colleges and academic departments.

As noted, one clear goal of the Library is to develop models and research tools for the library of the future. In cooperation with the iSchool, the Library has engaged in research on services and technologies that support innovative models for enhanced knowledge creation and management. Two recently received endowed professorships, the Berthold Family Professorship in Information Access and Discovery and the new Allen and Elaine Avner Professorship in Interdisciplinary Research – along with the Turyn professorship – support these research activities. The Library is exploring expanded collaborative partnerships with other colleges and academic departments that can help push a research agenda focused on the study of knowledge creation, research workflow, and information management forward.

In addition, the Library has secured several grants to support the development of innovative digital support services, including a Mellon Foundation grant to support scholarly publishing activities, a sub-award to the IDEA Lab from a Mellon grant to develop portable software and applications for shared large-scale digital displays in academic libraries, and several grants to explore online document annotation and linked open data information services. In addition, we have many other service endeavors that are planned or are in place.

The Library has made great strides over the last several years in the face of continuing budget reductions and the pressing collection needs. We will continue to move forward because of the inherent strengths of the people, services, and facilities that are the backbone of the University Library. We need to remain nimble and flexible in our service endeavors and foundational training efforts. We strongly encourage anyone with ideas and interests to contact us as we position the Library to address campus and national information technology needs.

William Mischo
Acting Dean of Libraries and University Librarian