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The Vision Thang: Barreling toward 2015

Last week I was asked to submit a written draft of our library’s Vision, like, pronto. This scared me to death, because I’ve done a lot of presenting and talking and so on, but I don’t have a Vision. (I have progressive lenses–quite reasonable at CostCo–but that’s not quite the same thing.)

But my boss said otherwise. She said she’d heard me talk about the vision and all I needed to do was write it down. And 18 hours later (two drives, a short sleep and shower, and two meetings in between), I had. It felt a little bit like those MFA assignments where after piffling for weeks if not months I put the pedal to the metal and got ‘er done–because the synthesis had happened elsewhere, slowly, over time.

The Vision is no big surprise. It is all very learning commons, flexible furniture, zoning for group study and quiet study, research lab rooms, study rooms, etc. If you follow me on Flickr, you can fill in the blanks.

Where I did go out on a limb was also no real biggy if you’ve been following trends. I wrote that by 2015 95% of our monographs (aka “books”) would be off-site in centralized mass storage.  (This is another reason I’m so keen on Navigator. I get it: centralize the books, mass our potential, and deliver scholarly monographs on demand. Smart!)

I thought this forecast was terribly daring because when I first began saying the paper-based book would be an anachronism in my lifetime (my *very long* lifetime… I hope, anyway) — circa 1998 — there were some who held my opinions askance.  But when I brought  up the whole centralized-mass-storage thing with a handful of peers (terribly unscientific, like I care), they didn’t bat an eye, and I don’t think they were pretending to be too cool for school.

(Which is interesting, because it’s not as if, sitting here right now, we have a place and a method to relocate this material, let alone retrieve it for use…)

For legacy print materials–the stuff clogging entire floors of library buildings– economics are with access, not ownership. The mechanisms will soon follow. These mechanisms won’t be free; dollar per dollar, access might not be cheaper, fully-managed, than ownership. But it will be better access, and better service.

At any rate, so my Vision is terribly mainstream, at least by my standards.Well, ok!

This put me in a reflective mood. One advantage of managing a library in a small, tuition-dependent university is that we don’t have time for the cruft. We cannot afford to be anything other than terribly efficient. So we need to constantly ask the questions: What services will we deemphasize? What will we emphasize? What do our users need? How do we know? What are the current best practices? What is the most important thing we need to be doing right now? How do we know?

We live in exciting times. I wish I always knew the answers to these questions. But I admit some joy in the quest.

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