Library Realignment

The library recently hired a consulting group to help us evaluate our workflow and think about restructuring and repurposing existing staff openings to best fit the changing library model. We got the report back yesterday.

I’m intrigued by the recommendations, and what seems to me to be a few curiously large holes in them. In particular there was a heavy emphasis on the library’s move towards more digital content, but no mention of a library webmaster. There was a significant amount of discussion about digital access, and there is a recommendation for a “Discovery and Delivery” group, which would investigate additional ways of meeting virtual information needs, but I fail to see how these can be implemented with the current staffing structure. Currently the library website is maintained by committee and while the committee manages to keep the library website mostly up to date, there is no one dedicated to implementing new features, or staying on top of web technologies. I think that it is very important for the library to have a full time professional dedicated to the libraries virtual presence, and by virtual presence I mean more than just updating the website. There are a lot of possibilities for getting content to users in different ways, remixing current library content to be more context relevant, and to improve existing interfaces and tools. (Check out this post to see some interesting developments in libraries.) This kind of work can not be done by part time members of a committee who all have other jobs and professional interests to keep up with. Although this hole in the recommendations doesn’t really effect the CDI it does have a huge impact on my workload, as I’m on the web team and part of the current redesign efforts.

The report was generally very positive for the CDI. The CDI is listed as a “strategic initiative” which indicates a continued commitment from the library. They recommended that my position be made permanent (yay, because funding runs out soon), with the addition of two new positions; a metadata librarian and a programmer. They also suggested the possibility of repurposing a copy cataloger to do metadata work. Which means I need to get those XForms polished and ready for primetime. (We have also had some interest in our architecture, eXist, XForms, and Solr from the Center for Teaching and Learning.)

But here is where things get a little wonky. Currently the CDI is situated under Special Collections, actually I believe it is called Research Collections. I had mentioned in my interview that I thought this may not be the best place for the CDI, as it could give the impression that the CDI was a Special Collections project rather than a university wide resource. I suggested that the CDI should be its own department. The reason I thought, and still think, the CDI could be its own department is that as a digital library, the CDI has many of the same operations that a physical library has (although we don’t do much in the way of reference service). We have cataloging (metadata), collection development, systems, and some unique CDI functions as well. I also mentioned in my interview that the CDI in its current incarnation has some organizational issues. Because there isn’t a clear (in my mind) head of the CDI there are a lot of loose ends, and some unsupervised work flows.

In the report the consultants recommended the CDI be gradually moved under Collection Development. They went on to qualify that this would only be the collection part of the CDI, the rest could live… elsewhere.

“As the grant funding that enabled CDI development wanes, it will be important for UVM to decide how it wants to use these new capabilities. At bottom, decisions related to content and priorities are collection development decisions, and we believe the CDI program should be driven by Collection Development. (We’re referring specifically to content decisions; the actual operation and technical infrastructure of the CDI could reside elsewhere.)”

Huh? I don’t understand how this solves the organizational problems that I mentioned in my interview with the consultants, as a matter of fact I think it confuses rather than clarifies organization, essentially further diversifying CDI functions and farming them out all over the library. I suppose this is one way of running the center, but the I think a diversified model will only exasperate our organizational/management issues.

The more I think about the issue of where the CDI should live in the organizational workflow chart the more agnostic I become. I’m not sure it matters so much. We will still need to interface with systems, collection development, technical services and reference, what we actually need is internal clarity in our management structure. Someone who is in charge, and can oversee all the different aspects of the CDI operations (scanning, metadata, collection development, relationships with faculty, policy and procedure creation and management). This is kind of a touchy subject, who is managing the project, and I don’t really care who is doing it (well maybe I do, a little), I just think there needs to be someone who can devote the necessary time, and has the right skills to oversee the project. A lot of this I have been doing myself with the metadata portion handled part time by the Curator of Manuscripts, but if it is my job (unclear) then I think I need to have more of a mandate, and also more time to devote to project management.

One other issue that the report raises is the issue of an institutional repository. The report assumes a natural evolution of the CDI from special grant funded project to “something more like an institutional repository.” I’m not sure if the consultants understand the implications of an institutional repository, but I’ve been very careful about not throwing around the phrase “institutional repository” in relation to the CDI. The CDI was built as a digital library project, and while it is pretty flexible, I’m fairly confident it is not heavy hitting enough to function as an institutional repository. Nor do we have the mandate to insure we get participation in an institutional repository from the university administration. Not to mention all of the other issues associated with an IR. (And I follow Dorthea‘s blog, so I have at least a vague idea, of the craziness we could be getting into.) I have a feeling this is more a misunderstand of what an IR is than of what the CDI is. We have talked a lot about the CDI being a place for faculty research collections, and creating long-term classroom use collections, all of which I think the CDI is poised to accomplish, but I think that is a far cry from an IR.

I guess the recommendations are generally very positive for the CDI and I look forward to see where the discussion in the library goes from here.

Other discussions on the R2 recommendations can be found here, and here.

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3 Responses to “Library Realignment”

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