March 2019

Year in Review

Occasionally, Heather Murphy and I brainstorm about possible LON pieces, and the December/January period struck us as a natural opportunity for a “year in review.” Of course life got in the way! For example, the provost’s office sent out guidance on our annual report and budget request over the holidays, with a March 1st deadline, a very quick turnaround. We’re wrapping up that report now, and I’ll return to that in just a moment.

This was an exceptionally busy year, and we accomplished a great deal organizationally and for the campus. I’d like to highlight a few of those things here. Although I won’t try to paint a comprehensive picture, I hope this smattering of things is a reminder of the great and substantial work we’re doing.

Of course I should start with the kickoff of the Library building project. We’ve had many Library and campus conversations, hosted a visit from a consultant to review the possibilities for special collections, formed two important working groups, and had a few major gifts designated for the project. While this is only the beginning of what will be a major effort for us, we didn’t start small or slowly, and we initiated other improvements throughout our buildings (e.g., a first floor service point in Main Library, changes to rooms 200 and 220, flooring in Ricker, improvements to MPAL, and more).

The Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI) signed a contract with Ex Libris to begin a process of migrating i-Share to a new platform. We have Michael Norman to thank for his hard work on the committee that did the review. Subsequent to the selection of Alma, we started to engage CARLI on ways that we need to participate so that our substantial body of records is an effective foundation for the state.

With your guidance and participation, we embarked on a new process for appointing AULs. You can find some of my reflections on AUL appointments in LON. Many of you were involved in those conversations, and I’d like to thank you for your feedback and engagement. As I’ve said, I think this new approach strengthens the organization, makes us nimbler, and positions us better on campus. We already have strong contributions from our two new AULs, Heidi Imker and Chris Prom.

Within the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), we made some significant progress on shared print of journals and reference publications for which we have electronic access. We helped the BTAA wrap up the Shared Print Repository (SPR) 1.0 and deduplicated a sizeable number of volumes, and we began serving as the home of SPR 2.0, rapidly hitting more than 75,000 volumes.

We merged our two library acquisitions and cataloging units into one, Acquisitions and Cataloging Services, under MJ Han’s capable leadership. With Lynn Wiley’s retirement and Michael Norman’s new role, we clearly needed to find a different way to get the work done, and many of you participated in the discussions that allowed us to respond creatively and rapidly. Of course we had other notable administrative appointments this last year, including Kirstin Dougan (MPAL), Dan Tracy (SC&P), Sarah Williams (Funk ACES), Jen Yu (Director of Assessment), and Tracy Tolliver (Library IT). Thanks, too, to Chris Quinn (Ricker) and Lynne Rudasill (HPNL and IASL) for stepping in as interim/acting!

We (finally!) launched the AP promotion process. The discussions and planning that led to this new process were long, inclusive and arduous, but I know that we’ve created something critically important to support the academic professionals who work in the Library. (This seems like a good place to bring up the SUCCS audit process and the great anxiety that produced. No one could ignore the fact that we all felt considerable frustration and uncertainty about the audit process and its implications. It’s nice to have the dust settle a bit.)

Quietly in the background, our digital library, digital preservation, and IT staff have been working to migrate Medusa to Amazon Web Services (AWS) for a key part of the storage infrastructure. Indeed, the entire Medusa strategy has matured and feels like a great foundation. All of our investments should give us greater reliability and scalability, and took considerable work.

Our emergent services are beginning to get traction. The Scholarly Commons partnered with Research IT and CITL to offer the campus’ only free statistical consultations. The Research Data Service staffing is solid, and the Illinois Data Bank celebrated its 100th dataset. Scholarly Communication and Publishing saw its first original publication, #TheJayZMixtape, as well as its first live peer-reviewed research journal, and has six more titles in the works. And Illinois Experts succeeded in getting humanities faculty profiles into Experts.

Nearly all of the things that I’ve included here took a long time to come to fruition, and should have implications for our work for years to come. Some involved a few people and others involved most of the Library. I hope you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in this small subset of great accomplishments.

As I mentioned, we’re now wrapping up our FY19 annual report and FY20 budget request. As I walked the Executive Committee through the report, and in particular the reporting of metrics, the pride everyone in the room felt was clear and substantial. I’m closing here by excerpting a section on metrics related to our strategic priorities. I hope you too feel pride in what we’ve accomplished, and that you’ll take time to read the entire budget report when it comes out:

Many of our metrics relate to several of [the Library’s] goals in interrelated ways. Assessment of use of the collections is an excellent example. While use of our collections can be clearly seen in the third goal, our success in this area is furthered by the Library’s work to “Ensure an integrated and coherent user experience…,” and this in turn is enhanced by the Library’s work to “Strengthen campus infrastructure to support scholarship and innovation.” Because of our work in these areas, use of our collections, whether in print or digitally, is robust and compares favorably to that of our peers. In FY18, our users borrowed 316,273 print volumes, evidencing the significant continuing value of the print collection. Our users downloaded 7,947,179 electronic articles and chapters from the licensed resources the Library manages for the University. The process of finding this information is conducted through database searches: our users conducted 22,027,261 searches last year. A related metric is use of Library facilities, which is also robust, with nearly 5 million persons using University Library buildings; this number has increased steadily, from 4.6m in FY14 to 4.96m in FY18.

The University Library systematically collects student learning outcomes assessment information, guided by the Provost’s Council for Learning Outcomes Assessment (C-LOA). We provide resources, instruction, and reference or consultation services to ensure our graduates receive the world-class education and develop the knowledge and skills needed to meet their goals. In FY18, the University Library taught 1,587 instructional sessions or workshops to 31,023 learners who were undergraduate students, graduate students or faculty, significant growth from the 1,486 instructional sessions reaching 26,818 learners in FY14. In addition, we provided 61,305 reference consultations to students, faculty, and researchers on campus, as well as researchers around the world. According to recent nationally-coordinated library surveys, 66% of our undergraduate students and 74% of our graduate students who attended instruction sessions or workshops stated that the librarians and library staff helped them develop their research skills to find and use academic sources of information for their course or research projects (Illinois Student Learning Outcomes #1 and #2). Library instruction contributes significantly to the success of our students and continues to grow.

Our services in support of sharing the products of University research, leveraging our management of digital repositories, represent an important new area of library work. In many cases, these activities are in place to ensure that grant awardees are able to comply with funder requirements. Our digital repositories and their use have grown substantially over time. IDEALS contains nearly 100,000 publications and serves many distinct communities. IDEALS publications were downloaded nearly 11m times in 2018, growth of 17% from 2017 and more than 250% since 2014. Some campus units see particularly significant activity: Prairie Research Institute publications were downloaded more than one million times in 2018, and Illinois Natural History Survey publications were downloaded on average nearly 200 times per item. The nascent Illinois Data Bank provides public access to and preservation of data. Most of the 134 datasets in the Illinois Data Bank are the result of work for more than 80 grant-funded projects with support from 29 distinct funders, including major federal agencies like NSF, NIH, DOE, NASA, and USDA. As of January 2019, the datasets in the Illinois Data Bank were downloaded more than 60,200 times. The Illinois Data Bank is a service of our Research Data Service (RDS), which also guides grant applicants in the process of assembling federally-mandated Data Management Plans; the RDS provided 17 reviews of Data Management Plans last year.

These are just a few of our measures of impact, which relate to all four areas of our current strategic goals. However, we know that we need more and better data to guide and communicate our work. As a result of conversations regarding the use of Library resources by iMBA students, we undertook a one-time analysis of usage data that demonstrated that 86% of enrolled iMBA students logged in to Library systems to use licensed books, journals, and databases. Those students engaged in sustained use of materials, with each student logging an average of 28 sessions. These usage data were not readily available, and we have no historical or comparative data to help us understand similar (and longitudinal) patterns of use. Moreover, weak metrics make it more challenging to use data to improve services. We will make improving these and similar metrics (responsibly and ethically) a priority.

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