Abraham Lincoln thought no one would really care about the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. He told us so in the Address itself: The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Every year, the American Library Association sponsors banned books week to draw attention to book censoring. The week of Sept 22-28 will be the 31st time the ALA has brought attention to the one of our most prized rights: the freedom to read. A highlight of each year is the listing of books that have been censored or banned in schools, libraries, and other places. ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 464 challenges in 2012, up more than 25% from the year before.
In preparation for my first trip to Cuba in 2000, I sent an email out to the library system two days before I left, asking folks if they had any old jeans, medicines and toiletries (aspirin, vitamins, toothpaste, etc.) that I could share with the Cuban people. The next day my office was jammed with clothing and medicines and some unexpected other goodies, including a wedding dress (!) and a baseball glove. It took an extra suitcase and doubling up on the clothing I wore on the plane to accommodate the outpouring of generosity from library staff.
What would it be like to live in a house without a mirror, a clock, scales, tape measures, or thermometers? What about a world without weather forecasts? How would we be able to plan for the future or gauge our own lives?
This is the role that assessment plays for institutions: holding up a mirror, measuring needs, gauging effectiveness, helping us understand our world, our users, ourselves, our progress. It is a crucial function, especially in times of rapid change, like ours.
For the past several years, we have been updating the faculty on library news at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. This letter was sent out to them last week and I wanted to share it with you. Thanks, once again, for the good work of Assessment and Communication for preparing this impressive update. I trust you are also enjoying the return of the students (and the departure of their parents!)
Subject: News for faculty (Gettysburg, Borrow Direct, and more)
Having just come off two weeks of vacation, I return to work well rested and ready to greet the new crop of freshmen arriving soon. I think about these near-adults and the opportunities before them over the next four years. And I’m reminded of my own self at 18: naïve, optimistic, in a hurry. I also think about my parents’ generation and how their young lives were abruptly changed by the onset of World War II. Next week, new students will be discussing Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor was Divine, about a family of Japanese-Americans who spent the war in an internment camp.
About a year ago, both Harvard and MIT libraries became fully participating partners in Borrow Direct. This week we will welcome the University of Chicago. The consortium currently boasts more than 50 million volumes, and during its 14-year history, more than 1.5 million items have been shared. On Thursday, August 1, Chicago holdings will begin appearing in search results in BorrowDirect. The University of Chicago’s physical volume count is at about 8.6 million volumes, 45% of which are non-English and published outside the United States.
In sharing the June update from HathiTrust, Michelle Paolillo mentioned the work she and other CUL staff have been doing in negotiating with offices around campus to provide mediated access for the visually impaired to the in-copyright books from Cornell’s holdings that are also in HathiTrust. This service will allow eligible Cornell patrons to access and use digital versions of the 2 million or so books that have been hitherto inaccessible due to copyright restrictions.
This coming Thursday and Friday, Lee and I will present updates at the All-Staff meetings. Lee will cover financial issues, including the impact of the new budget model on the Library. I’ll be reporting on our progress towards lessening our load and preparing for the future, based on recommendations that we presented at the February All-Staff meeting. One major step forward that I’d like to focus on today is the effort to adopt a uniform website architecture.
We have just posted the 2012-2013 Library Annual Report to the Provost. As I reviewed the report, I was struck again by how incredibly impressive and broad is the library’s reach.