May 8, 2003 Council on the Libraries minutes

Council on Libraries
May 8, 2003
Treasure Room, 12:00-1:30 pm

Present: Jeremy Rutter (JR) (Chair), David Becker (DB), Kathryn Cottingham (KC), Richard Callahan (RC) (dep. 1:00), Robert Ditchfield (RD), Teoby Gomez (TG) (dep. 1:00), Alexandra Halasz (AH), William Hickey (WH), Douglas Irwin (DI), Richard Lucier (RL), Cyndy Pawlek (CP), Jane Quigley (JQ) (staff), Barry Scherr (BS)

Excused: Havah Armstrong-Walther, Malcolm Brown, Larry Levine, Mary Munter, Sandeep Ramesh, Stephen Taylor


The meeting was convened at 12:00.

1. Approval of Minutes of March 6 Meeting

Minutes from the last meeting (March 6, 2003) were adopted. English department vice chair Alexandra Halasz will be replacing Joy Kenseth on the Council for the remainder of the 2002-03 academic year.

2. Rauner Special Collections Library

Chair Jerry Rutter noted that three documents had been distributed in advance of the meeting: a draft Preliminary Assessment: Rauner Special Collections Library, an internal document describing important special collections for research and teaching (resulting from a discussion by current staff), and an outline of the desired qualifications for new special collections leadership.

JR and Richard Lucier held meetings on four different days with faculty who have an interest in Rauner; in addition, RL invited comments from those who were unable to attend one of the meetings. He has also met individually with all staff in special collections as well as other faculty and staff. He spoke by telephone with several ARL colleagues and special collections experts.

Discussing the Preliminary Assessment document, RL noted that it is a draft document that is intended to provide an overview of current issues and priorities at Rauner; while there is not unanimous agreement on every point, the staff as a whole has endorsed it. JR opened the discussion by asking if there were any particular questions raised by the document.

Provost Scherr asked about an issue raised during the last CoL meeting about possible fees for service to outside users of Rauner. RL responded that no action has yet been taken. Dave Becker noted the striking level of use (some 50%) by alumni, visiting scholars, and the general public - not Dartmouth's primary constituency, from his perspective. He noted further that visiting scholars usually have research funding. RL responded that fees for outside users are not at all unusual among other institutions, and that visiting scholars can require an extraordinary amount of time from the Rauner staff. Alex Halasz pointed out that issues of professional courtesy need to be considered, and that it is customary to extend privileges to scholars from other institutions. Kathryn Cottingham noted a difference between access to library facilities and requiring library staff assistance.

Cyndy Pawlek said that the fee-for-service model already exists in other parts of the library system for outside users - it is library policy to charge for extended use of reference services, for example. RL noted that in other, particularly more urban, environments, the ability of the public to freely avail itself of library staff assistance is usually much more restricted. Doug Irwin suggested that we should get a sense of what policies are in place at peer institutions. Bill Hickey (WH) also voiced concern about reciprocity with other institutions; we would not wish to take any action that might have an unintended effect on our faculty's ability to carry out research at other institutions. RL observed that in fact, Dartmouth faculty do not enjoy completely unimpeded access at other institutions; Dartmouth is unusually generous in providing access and assistance to outside scholars. KC commented on the striking level of use by the general public over the three-year period, and wondered about a fee for use by the public; RL noted that community relations and public perceptions of the College also need to be considered.

RL confirmed that it was the recommendation of the Council that this issue should be looked at more closely and that it should be one of the tasks of new leadership at Rauner to consider this. He noted that as the budget continues to tighten, it should be recalled that time given to visiting users is time taken away from primary Dartmouth users of the library. He hopes to have new leadership for special collections in place by the end of the year, so a new policy could start at the beginning of the 2004 academic year, to allow for appropriate checking that reciprocal access to other institutions' collections will not be jeopardized.

JR turned the discussion to the description of the qualities and qualifications desired in the person filling the Librarian-Scholar position, as outlined in the document. RL commented that during the recent meetings, faculty indicated that it was very important to have people in Rauner who could help them integrate special collections materials into their teaching. Rauner staff, also, felt that outreach and education efforts needed greater emphasis.

WH pointed out that lists of desired qualifications are often ideals that may not exist in any single candidate. What are the library's priorities, and where might we compromise? RL asked for the Council's input on this. DB raised the question of a "record of scholarship" - is it reasonable to expect publication in addition to the practical duties that this person will have assumed? RL answered that it is common to expect a record of publication, not to the same degree as a candidate for a departmental position, but at this level a candidate should be expected to have participated in scholarly activity including research and publication. He noted that he is encouraging greater publishing activity among all the professional librarians. DB suggested that the phrase "a solid record of publication" would be preferable.

Richard Callahan asked if proficiency in any one foreign language were more important than others. RL and CP said that though we should be flexible as to the specific language, it is the case that for our collection a western European language would be most desirable.

JR raised the issue of the stated qualification of "successful relations with alumni and development." AH and several others noted that candidates from the academic community would be unlikely to have any such fundraising or development experience. RL answered that this is not a rigid requirement, rather they are looking for an ability to relate to the alumni and the development community, much as Dartmouth faculty interact with this community through the Horizons program. BS suggested that this be listed as a desired skill, rather than experience. JR noted that the point is to recognize that the outreach skills of this person are going to be enormously important; that he or she should have the interpersonal skills needed to connect Special Collections with the larger campus.

RL commented that while the candidate might well come from academia, he or she would need to be someone with a broad interest in the collections as a whole, and a strong program leadership emphasis, rather than a scholar with a narrow interest in one aspect of the collection. As an example, the Mellon program proposal that has been discussed previously, which might begin in September 2004, would require that the head of special collections have an interest and ability with mentoring and working with the Fellows in the program.

AH raised the question of the job title, noting that "Librarian-Scholar" rather than the more customary "Curator" is used. She expressed concern about losing the term "Curator," with all that that implies about expertise with rare materials, knowledge about provenance, and other requisite knowledge that is unique to the position. RL responded that he is trying to avoid emphasizing the "Head of Rauner" aspect of the position and emphasize instead the program leadership aspect, as he believes that moving away from administrative roles allows library staff to concentrate on their work with faculty and students. RL is looking for special collections to communicate and interact more with appropriate departments within the library system-acquisitions, cataloging, especially Baker-Berry bibliographers. Collection development in Special Collections should not occur in isolation, but rather in accordance with the overall mission of the library to advance teaching and research.

AH objected that while she agreed that Rauner bibliographers should indeed be part of the larger library staff, she felt that at the level of leadership, there should be an element that is unique to a special collections library. While she supports the idea of greater integration, the position at Rauner is not identical with other library leadership positions, and it is that part that is signaled by the word "curator." A discussion followed about the importance of the term "curator." RL noted that there is a perception that Special Collections means "old," while in fact special collections could include such things as datasets, and could include some items not housed at Rauner. AH agreed that "old" is not the deciding factor, and that the definition of special collections could be enlarged. The hallmarks of a special collection are its historical uniqueness; its non-reproducibility; issues of provenance, the particular history of the individual items in the collection; and the conservation issues involved. Some suggestions were made as to how to include the curatorial concept in the description, including "building and curating the collection" and a title of "Librarian-Scholar-Curator." AH wondered what job title Harvard used to describe a comparable position, which she described as the interface between museums and faculty. JR suggested that the curatorial role may be implicit in the job responsibilities, and that perhaps no one word title would suffice. DB proposed including the relevant curatorial issues in the job description , and picking a title according to the market. RL said that the job description and duties will fully describe that curatorial aspect.

WH asked how large the potential pool of candidates might be, pointing out that each added requirement effectively narrows the pool. DB disagreed, noting that the point of the description is not just to narrow down the pool but to draw in candidates that might not otherwise consider the position. RL stated that the two things that would most recommend a candidate to him would be a commitment to integrating special collections into the teaching process and an interest in the opportunity to bring in scholar/fellows and work with them. Perhaps these themes should be made more prominent. BS observed that there might be a strong pool of candidates among faculty, perhaps even more so than among librarians. RL noted that whether a candidate has a background in academia or not, it is important that he or she understand the research and teaching process, and have
credibility as a scholar among the faculty. The job should be an attractive alternative career path for faculty. BS asked about the Ph.D. requirement, noting that there are some full faculty members without it. The phrase "terminal degree" was suggested.

JR asked council members to return to the assessment documents about Rauner Library Collection Priorities and the draft Preliminary Assessment. He noted that he was struck by the fact that no social scientists use Special Collections, though it contains items of potential interest to sociologists, geographers, and others. AH suggested corrections to the term "History of the Book," pointing out that this phrase denotes a scholarly field of study but is an inaccurate description of the collections in Rauner. The table on the Appendix page identifying manuscripts as unpublished materials is also incorrect. These corrections were noted.

RL asked if, with the appropriate modifications and extensions as discussed, there was Council support for the position outline. WH stated that he hoped the person hired would consider that he or she had a mandate to increase access, exposure, and use of Special Collections by the faculty and student body. RL agreed that that was a primary objective in recruiting new leadership.

RL noted that there was generally little faculty use of Special Collections for their own research, and that Rauner staff may believe they are building collections that support faculty research more than is in fact the case. While the Stefansson and Frost collections are truly research-level collections, the others listed probably do not attain that level. For this reason he believes that Rauner should concentrate on building broader collections that can be integrated into teaching.

The Council endorsed the future direction outlined for special collections leadership.

3. Other Business

JR stated that RL had received a letter from the chair of the History department, expressing concern that no funds remained for materials in their discipline in this fiscal year. He noted that faculty may not yet be fully aware of the budget constraints affecting the library's collections. WH noted that in the medical arena, these budget constraints are the norm rather than the exception; he asked whether this particular case reflects a planning problem due to the untoward budget year, or whether it just indicates resistance to spending limits in general? RL answered that there has always been a collections budget, with limits set by disciplinary area. These limits were often surpassed in individual areas in the past and then balanced at the end of the year. In the recent past, there have been deficits as large as $200,000 which were made up out of reserves; now there are no reserves left with which to repeat this type of action in the future. He has tried to be clear that the real problem is the 30% loss of purchasing power due to inflation in the cost of materials, much more than the current budget cuts; in fact, level funding for the collection continues.

AH asked to what extent digital content was adding to budget pressures. RL answered that funds are allocated by subject, not by format; there is no stipulation that electronic or print materials should be allocated any set amount of the budget. That said, purchasing digital formats does cause additional budgetary pressure. Robert Ditchfield noted that in the sciences, it has been usual for librarians to examine little-used materials for potential savings - managing the collection in this way has long been a necessity. RL noted that in the sciences, budget limits have been reached much more quickly as the price pressures have been more severe, and that use is a less viable factor in the humanities when building scholarly collections. AH suggested closer communication between bibliographers and departments so that there can be better understanding of faculty priorities. A letter to the faculty was proposed.

4. Next Meeting

There will be a joint meeting between the Council on Libraries and the Council on Computing, on May 22, in the Faculty Lounge in the Hopkins Center. There will be no Council on Libraries meeting on June 19.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:30pm.

Submitted by:
Jane Quigley
May 30, 2003