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COUNCIL 2003-2004 Year-end Committee Report

Committee on Libraries

Scheduled for Discussion at Council on September 29, 2004

The University Council Committee on Libraries met four times during the academic year 2003-2004. 

Specific Charges for 2003-2004

1. Monitor library resource allocation to make sure that all constituencies are well served.

Unfortunately, the committee found no resolution to a library budget that is lower than preferred. The committee reviewed and supported the library staff in their methods for prioritizing the acquisition, storage and deletion of materials. The library staff is to be commended on their sensitivity to providing balance across the various departments, schools, faculty, and learners. Overall, however, the committee believes that an inadequate acquisition budget will impede our success as a world-renowned research institution and sincerely hopes that senior administration will improve funding of the libraries.

2. Review the service quality survey data and make recommendations based on its findings.

We reviewed the library users' survey results. The number of returned surveys was impressive and the electronic methods obviously worked well. There was strong support from the respondents for the availability of electronic resources. The helpfulness of staff also received the highest marks. The lowest marks were for photocopier services, and the availability of facilities for group and team study. The results were very similar to the survey of two years ago. The committee discussed supplementing the generalities of the electronic survey with targeted focus groups, being certain to include key staff users, such as research and academic coordinators. In addition, information from the survey specific to individual libraries will be disseminated to the respective director for review.

3. Continue to work with the library staff on issues relating to digital publishing, and the acquisition of online journals.

The cost of information has climbed quickly, both for paper and electronic media. The contract with Elsevier for journals has been particularly challenging (representing more than 10% of the budget), but is symptomatic of widespread trends. To reduce costs, some academic fields of inquiry have been creating their own separate electronic journals, rather than relying on the large publishers. Some universities have elected to purchase individual titles rather than the package Elsevier offers. The committee believed that many faculty are unaware of this issue, and recommended ongoing efforts to disseminate the information. 

4. Identify alternatives to libraries as study space for those who do not require access to the libraries' collections.

Study space was a recurring theme, arising from numerous sources.  It is unclear who is truly responsible for the availability of study space.  Changes made in Van Pelt Library have increased available space and were greatly appreciated, but not sufficient to meet demand. Some individual libraries are particularly lacking in study space.  Finding additional study space particularly for group activities will need to be high priority in future initiatives.

Other Items

In addition to addressing the above, the committee reviewed several items brought to its attention through the year. 

1.  Blackboard issues created the most discussion. The use of Blackboard has expanded tremendously to 932 courses in 2004, with recent additions of 3 more schools. Some issues with Blackboard relate to previous versions, or inexperience on the part of users. A concerted effort for training and readily accessible resources is being made by the Library. A new version of Blackboard will be coming, although it is not yet certain if Penn will use it.  An ongoing issue is the length of time it takes to get individual students listed with Blackboard for a specific course, such as when they switch courses. This problem results from the multiple computer systems involved and the number of ‘hand-offs' required. The committee made several observations and suggestions about how to proceed in future years with Blackboard specifically, but also consideration of other available course support software or involvement in open source software. 

2.  The Collaboratory continues to proceed, and the committee looks forward to full implementation. The Penn Collaboratory for Learning and Teaching is a collaboration between the School of Arts and Sciences, the College, and the University Library to create a University center to further best practices in learning, teaching and course management, effective and appropriate application of new technology to the improvement of teaching and learning, and creative collaboration and research in the learning process.

3.  A special review of the Medical Center library is underway and the final report will be available for the Committee in the fall of 2004.

The Committee commends Carton Rogers for his able interim leadership while a search for a Vice Provost and Director of the Libraries is underway. The Chairs wish to thank all of the committee members for their faithful and considered input and the library staff for their excellent service to our university community.

2003-2004 Committee Members

Chair: Edward Peters (history) or Marjorie Bowman (family practice & comm. med) while Dr. Peters was on sabbatical; Faculty: Marjorie Bowman (family practice & comm. med), John H. Holmes (epidemiol/med), Max Minz (CIS), Robert E. Mittelstaedt, Jr. (mgmt), Edward Peters (history), H. Ralph Schumacher (rheum/med), David Stern (Asian & Mid Eastern st), Lynn Stringer (nursing); Graduate students:  Rocky Lee (Wharton), Mary Beth Wetli (SAS); Undergraduate students: Alice Huang (EAS'04), Adhira Parthasarathy (COL'06); PPSA: Lenore Wilkas (nursing); WPSA: Sylvie Beauvais (health care syst); Ex officio:  Paul George (dir, Biddle Law Library), H. Carton Rogers, III (interim vice provost & dir, libraries). Other guests from the library included Joseph Zucca and Sandra Kerbel.



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 5, September 28, 2004


September 28, 2004
Volume 51 Number 5


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