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Notes from Elliott Shore’s Listening Tour: Colorado and Oklahoma

CSU Morgan Library

ARL executive director Elliott Shore has embarked on a “listening tour” of ARL member libraries. This is the 10th in a series of informal reports from his visits.

After a busy year of engaging in ARL’s Strategic Thinking and Design work, I had an opportunity to resume my listening tour of ARL libraries with a trip out west. I visited the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University on October 21 and 22, and visited the University of Oklahoma on November 3–4.

At the University of Colorado (CU), dean of libraries Jim Williams was a gracious host along with Leslie Reynolds, the senior associate dean of libraries and a colleague from the Frye/Leading Change Institute. We met with CIO Larry Levine, vice chancellor for research Stein Sture, provost Russell Moore, and the senior staff of the library and talked primarily about SHARE and about the TEACH Act and their implications for CU. SHARE was of particular interest to all of the senior administrators as they imagine the university moving forward in its use and reuse of data and scholarship. The setting in the foothills of the Rockies, the handsome campus with its harmonious buildings built largely in the local pink sandstone, matched the sense of purpose with which we ended the day, gathered in the main library with the senior staff, discussing how we could all move forward together.

At Colorado State University (CSU), vice president for IT and dean of libraries Patrick Burns invited me to speak to the library staff about what I had learned during my listening tour of our libraries, the ARL Strategic Thinking & Design process, and helping to develop SHARE. He asked me to discuss what I was learning from the perspective of executive director of the Association. I met with provost and executive vice president Rick Miranda and a couple of weeks later met by phone with vice president for research Alan Rudolph. We talked about CSU’s strategic plan, and the CSU administration’s concerns about the skyrocketing cost of STEM journals and what possible means we have at our disposal to combat this crisis. Colorado may be the first state where state support to higher education evaporates—at both CU and CSU, the percentage of the budget that comes from the state is now in the single digits. But it was a pleasure to be in Fort Collins, to see the glass-and-steel Study Cube addition to the Morgan Library that gives students light-filled study space 24/7, to be introduced to the way the CSU libraries use Google Liquid Galaxy to provide an immersive experience of satellite imagery of the Earth, and to learn about the libraries’ “whiz-bang technical committee” initiatives.

At the University of Oklahoma (OU), associate vice president for research and dean of libraries Rick Luce hosted me for a presentation, “19th-Century Origins Collide with the 21st Century—The Research Library Conundrum,” for the library staff and the students in a class on media in the 21st century. I also met with the senior staff of the library. I enjoyed tours of the Western History Collections and the Youngblood Energy (Geology) Library. The renovated spaces in the main library are impressive—the new Peggy V. Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center includes innovative technology-enhanced spaces for group learning, a community room for public lectures, and the Bookmark Café; the Digitization Laboratory is dedicated to high-quality digitization of OU’s scholarly research and special collections materials to enable global access. Partnering with the library is the One U Store, an all-digital campus “bookstore” that sells technology and refers customers to the library for information needs. A team from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, in Berlin, Germany, happened to be visiting the libraries as part of their work on a joint project with Oklahoma libraries, so we spent much of the day together.

It was good to get back on the road, visiting with colleagues, sharing the experiences of this extraordinary year of thinking and designing together, while looking forward to and learning how to bring ARL 2015+ into being.

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