Reflections from University Librarian Yolanda Cooper

Published 04-17-2015

Yolanda Cooper, University Librarian.

As the academic year comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on our activities and accomplishments, and bring to light the significant progress we’ve made over the past year.

The Libraries have a number of new initiatives underway and with the support and cooperation of the entire staff as well as from partners across the LITS organization and the campus we have made excellent headway and the achievements are many. Through our collaborative approach, we now have the makings of a final draft for the organizational framework and roadmap. All discussions and interactions throughout this process have informed the revision of the Libraries’ vision, mission, and values, and outlined themes and goals to populate a roadmap for the next two years. I’ve highlighted just a few of our initiatives below and included a few items on the horizon.

Preparation for Alma, our new library inventory management and cataloging system, has been outstanding! So much so that our partners as well as other institutions are looking to us as a model for implementation. The initiative is being lead by Graydon Kirk from the project management office and Christopher Spalding, director of core systems, but everyone involved has contributed an enormous amount of work across the entire Emory library system. The result of this work and documentation increases our capacity to control the upcoming process and places us in the best possible position to work with our friends at Ex Libris this June.

The Repository Working Group (RWG) has completed its work and garnered support from leadership and governance to move forward with a comprehensive program to address new requirements for access, delivery, and preservation of digital formats. In spite of popular belief, while there are decreases in the use and maintenance needed for print materials, there is still a demand for this material and maintenance efforts still remain and will continue. At the same time the demand to accommodate digital formats continues to grow and dominate our activities, requiring an expanded capacity in knowledge, skills, and tools.

Our work as information/knowledge professionals has not diminished but now expands beyond what were once our traditional spaces, requiring high touch, tech, and use environments for collections and services. Planning for this new infrastructure is currently underway by the new digital library program (DLP) coordinator, Emily Porter, project manager Trisha Wilson, and the DLP Steering Committee formerly known as the RWG. This initiative will significantly impact our operations and development activities in the coming months.

Marc Overcash, interim senior vice provost for library services and digital scholarship, and Yolanda Cooper at a recent Library meeting.

In consideration of the needs of our community we have launched a review of services for faculty, spearheaded by co-chairs Kim Braxton, director of ATS, and Chuck Spornick, director of services. Expanding our engagement requires us to consider new developments in academic technology; the entire research lifecycle, impact on teaching and learning outcomes, and new forms of scholarly communication. We will need to build upon our current strengths and capacity and effectively communicate our potential and the value of the engagement. This group will also look at the relevance of these services for graduate students.

To accomplish this charge, the co-chairs are working with an exceptional group of service specialists and informationists representing the diversity of our clientele, subject expertise, and services. They are working toward a deliverable that includes outlining a suite of services that can be offered for faculty and graduate students to enhance scholarly advancement and productivity, prepare future scholars, and even offer new career paths. The work of this group will be completed sometime this summer.

MARBL renovation is speeding to a close and soon relocated staff will return to the 9th floor. Furniture and finishes are being chosen for level 10, the digital content for the exhibitions and signage are in the development stage, and MARBL will soon reveal enhanced services and spaces for research and teaching. A soft opening will be planned for the beginning of the fall semester with more to come later in the year. We’ve hosted a few hard-hat tours specifically for staff and may have more in the next few months.

The construction of the Library Services Center, in partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology, is now a real building with its own staff. The Center will create a state of the art environment built to preserve collections for current and future generations. The activities associated with this initiative cross library and organizational cultures and require daily and weekly discussions and decisions on service agreements, operations, staffing, equipment, furniture and lighting, to name a few. Completion is anticipated for October of this year, with ingest beginning soon after.

On the horizon

Yolanda discusses her vision with Library staff in the Jones Room.

Aside from providing optimal space, the Library Service Center will also provide an opportunity to reconsider the use of our current library spaces and possibly give us the ability to experiment with new configurations to accommodate changes in how research, teaching, and learning are accomplished by both students and faculty. To take a thoughtful look at this process that will include all stakeholders, we have convened a Master Planning Committee co-chaired by Charles Forrest, director of Library Facilities and Tony Shiver, manager of Student Digital Life, who will work closely with consultants to outline a phased approach. Outcomes should provide research and analysis that will enable the Libraries to address and predict future environmental and services needs. Preparation will begin this summer with a full engagement with campus stakeholders commencing in the fall.

We have also finished a review of our current learning management system and we are recommending piloting a new platform. Kim Braxton is working through governance and meeting with stakeholders to gain acceptance and inform the process. This will be a massive undertaking but future developments will contribute to our ability to meet the expectations of our community.

In closing, I would note that many of the initiatives mentioned above will assist in providing a solid foundation going forward with the support and strategies needed to reinforce our current strengths and assets, to enable future growth and innovation, and create opportunities for future development. There is still much to do and while I would like to express my thanks and appreciation for what we have already accomplished, I am very eager to see the outcome of our current and future endeavors.

More to come in November 2015 . . .