Friday, May 9, 2008

Keynote Address 5/8/08: Positioning the Academic Library for the 21st Century: A New Model of Library Centrality

Keynote Address 5/8/08: Positioning the Academic Library for the 21st Century: A New Model of Library Centrality
Speakers: Susan Parker, Ph.D., Deputy University Librarian and CFO, UCLA
Susan Scrimshaw, President of Simmons College

Unfortunately I missed the first half of Ms. Parker’s presentation so my post will focus on Ms. Scrimshaw’s presentation and the Q and A.

Some background – I have served on the alumni board at GSLIS and had the pleasure of hearing President Scrimshaw speak a couple of occasions. She is dynamic and vivacious. Her energy is contagious and she seems genuine when she speaks about her admiration for Simmons College. Whenever she speaks about the Simmons Library, you can tell she admires the staff and is a fan of the library. Unfortunately she is leaving Simmons; so it was nice to see her speak about libraries one last time.

First thing she did was acknowledge anyone in the audience who was a Simmons alum, or affiliated with Simmons GSLIS program. Most of the hands in the audience went up. (As I looked around the room, it was great to see a number of friends from public and academic libraries.)

Scrimshaw is an anthropologist so she peppers her talk with vivid stories of people and their relevance to the subject she is talking about. This morning, the topic was libraries so she spoke of two family members (an aunt and uncle) and a university librarian she credited for providing good feelings toward libraries.

Her talk was geared toward helping librarians convey the importance of the library to the Chancellor/Provost/President of a college. She advocated doing some homework. Find out if the President of the college has any stories to share about his/her experience with libraries. Ask administrators directly – how do they feel about libraries? Then tailor your elevator speech to their experience.

Scrimshaw recommended not waiting till budget time to share your suggestions, recommendations and desires. Have an elevator speech prepared all of the time. Think of ways to get administrators to the library by hosting events at the library. Increase your visibility. Celebrate everything. Bring people to the library that will impact your budget. Get people out of their offices. Find excuses to show them what is happening at the library. Hold demonstrations. Find compelling ways for administrators to experience the library.

For the Q and A portion of the library:
Parker asks Scrimshaw her view of what is the library of today. Scrimshaw talked about not only the importance of collections but making the holdings available in a variety of ways. Libraries have changed and for the better. User centered. The notion of library as a place – the library is a place for help, for study, for gathering. Libraries are more complex.

Parker asked “what has the library done for you lately”. Without hesitating, Scrimshaw told us how she prepared for this talk and her other presentations by relying on librarians to provide her research assistance. Any time she needs data, she goes to librarians.

Parker asked Scrimshaw her approach towards resource allocation. Scrimshaw stressed the importance of keep up with the cost of living, and making the case for incremental expenditures. How to affect resource allocation? Be invited to key meetings with Provosts and Deans. Win Deans over and if you are not invited to a key meeting, get yourself invited next time around.

On the topic of assessment, Scrimshaw suggested to get the appropriate data points. Do surveys. Conduct systematic evaluation. Compare your library with other libraries.

Parker asked Scrimshaw “What makes you most proud of your library?” Scrimshaw beamed as she described the new library with the increased foot traffic. It was designed with users input. It is the core of the university. It has meeting rooms, comfy chairs, windows that one could actually see what is going on outside. Users are content and the place bustles with energy. Director of library listened to the community.

In terms of teaching information literacy, Scrimshaw recommended short courses tailored to information literacy skills and not necessarily offering a credit bearing course.

Too bad she is leaving Simmons. What a great advocate for libraries…

Millie Gonzalez
Reference and Electronic Services Librarian
Framingham State College

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