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COUNCIL 2004-2005 Year-End Committee Reports

Committee on Libraries

The University Council Committee on Libraries met six times during the academic year 2004-2005.

Specific Charges for 2004-2005

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

As in the past, the Committee this year found no resolution to an insufficient library budget. Within the constraints of the present budget, the Library appears to be allocating its resources very fairly and even extending its reach into areas like videos and other multimedia and providing laptops for use of patrons inside the library. Budgetary limitations on the acquisition of new materials have also been somewhat alleviated by the Library’s participation in interlibrary borrowing networks like BorrowDirect and EZ-Borrow; the Committee discussed the possibility of extending these networks into collective acquisition as well. The Committee supports the Library’s intent to begin a Capital Campaign to build an independent endowment for itself; at present, the University Library is woefully under-endowed in comparison with peer institutions. 

The Committee also considered the acquisition of paperback vs. hardcover books and current policy in monitoring their condition.

Having congratulated the Library on its resourcefulness in doing so much with so few resources, the Committee also needs to acknowledge that, at present, it does not have the capability or tools to fulfill this mandate and seriously monitor resource allocation in the Library. Aside from taking the Library’s own word that it is doing its job fairly, the Committee has no ability to confirm or disconfirm that claim. In the future, if University Council is serious about having the Committee on Libraries actually monitor resource allocation, an outside expert or other resource should be supplied to the Committee to help it do its work.

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

The last service quality survey was conducted in early 2004, so there was no new data to review. During this year, however, the Library has been in the process of analyzing and responding to the data from the last survey, which included a study of book availability in VPDLC, and increased staff presence and improved signage in the stacks.     

The Committee received one request from a patron to have an ATM/MAC machine installed inside Van Pelt.

3.  Continue to work with the library staff on issues relating to digital publishing and the availability of research and teaching databases and online journals.

As the cost of information continues to rise steeply, the Library continues to be plagued by subscription costs, particularly to journals. The Library has launched a new website, “Winning Independence at Penn” (www.library.upenn.edu/scholcomm/), as a means of educating faculty and staff about the inflation costs in higher education, and to encourage faculty to take new initiatives in publishing their own work. The Library has also launched an excellent new website called Scholarly Commons at Penn (http://repository.upenn.edu/) whose purpose is to serve as a repository of scholarship by Penn faculty and students. At present, the site is mainly devoted to scholarship in engineering and the sciences, and the Committee urged the Library to extend its range throughout the University to include all schools and departments. 

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

The relevance of this charge to this Committee was initially unclear since neither the Committee nor the University Library controls study-space outside the Library proper. Even  so, the Committee extensively discussed plans for the new Information Commons (formerly called the Collaboratory) to be located on the west side of the first floor of Van Pelt and which is to serve as a technologically rich study-area for College students to be open and staffed for extended hours.  It is hoped that the new Commons will be in operation by fall 2006. Further resources of this kind are desperately needed in the different locales of the University.

5. Investigate (i) the availability of the University’s libraries to its alumni and (ii) the adequacy of the University’s communications with its alumni concerning library availability.

The Library is moving ahead in this area with different schools taking separate initiatives. The Alumni and Friends Portal on the Library website helps to introduce alumni to resources including databases available to them. Wharton has begun its own website, FACTIVA, which lists full texts of newspapers going back 20 years, and is currently investigating costs of providing access to alumni. So, too, access to e-journals, especially medical, are under deliberation. Discussions are also underway about providing alumni with PennKey access.   

Other Items

In addition to the items discussed above, the Committee also received reports on other initiatives in the Library including the planned renovations of Special Collections and Rare Books on the sixth floor of Van Pelt.

The Committee commends Carton Rogers on his able and friendly leadership as the new Vice Provost and Director of the Libraries as well as the other Library staff who so helpfully reported to the Committee: Dr. Michael Ryan, Sandra Kerbel, Mary Steiner, Mike Halperin, and Jeanne Shuttlesworth, as well as Ira Winston.

The Chair wishes to thank all of the committee members for their faithful and considered input and the library staff generally for its excellent service to the University community as well as Eva Davis, our liaison with University Council.

2004-2005 Committee on Libraries Members

Chair:David Stern (NELC); Faculty: Marjorie  Bowman (family practice & med), Eugene Buckley (linguistics), Nancy Hirschmann (poli sci), John H. Holmes (epidemiol/med), Max Mintz (CIS), H. Ralph Schumacher (rheum/med), David Stern  (Asian & Mid Eastern st), Lynn Stringer (nursing); Graduate/professional students: Michael Buckstein, Roger Turner, Mary Beth Wetli; Undergraduate students: Emily Lanza (COL ’06), Megan Mariotti (NUR ’05); PPSA: Lenore Wilkas (nursing); WPSA: Anne Rulinski  (dermatology); Ex Officio: Paul George (dir, Biddle Law Library) , H. Carton Rogers, III (vice provost & dir, libraries)



  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 5, September 27, 2005


September 27, 2005
Volume 52 Number 5


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