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Notes from Elliott Shore’s Listening Tour: Florida State, U Florida, U Miami

Judy Russell, Chuck Eckman, Elliott Shore, Julia Zimmerman (left to right)
View a slideshow from this trip

ARL executive director Elliott Shore has embarked on a “listening tour” of ARL member libraries to see the innovative work ARL libraries are doing and to learn how ARL can better serve its members. This is the 11th in a series of informal reports from his visits.

On March 9–12, I traveled with the directors of the three Florida ARL libraries—Julia Zimmerman of Florida State University, Judy Russell of University of Florida, and Chuck Eckman of University of Miami—to their campuses, where we thought together about local, national, and international collaborations.

At Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee Julia Zimmerman was a gracious and welcoming host. She led us on a poignant tour of Strozier Library, where two students and one library staff member were injured by shots fired by an FSU alumnus last November. She talked about the measures the library has taken since then to improve security while maintaining openness and accessibility. We also toured the Scholars Commons in Strozier Library, which is the focus of the library’s experiments with liaising and consulting with faculty and graduate students in new ways. Julia introduced me to the FSU Heritage Museum that displays photos, ephemera, and artifacts that document the history of FSU. The museum is housed in the lovely Werkmeister Reading Room in Dodd Hall—FSU’s original library building dating from 1923. At FSU, we met with a large cross-section of the library staff as well as the library staff from Florida A&M University—a historically black university in Tallahassee—who visited FSU for the day. We talked about ARL in general as well as the specific ways that the Association is adapting to the changing research landscape, especially ARL’s new strategic Framework and the SHARE initiative.

At University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville Judy Russell hosted us on an extensive tour of the libraries. One of the highlights was the gorgeous Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica, the largest Jewish studies research collection in the southeastern US. The rare books from the Judaica collection are located in the George A. Smathers Library, where a handsome new Judaica Suite of reading rooms opened in 2014. Library staff also gave us a demonstration of the work they are doing with GIS in the Smathers Libraries InfoCommons. And we visited the Florida Academic Repository (FLARE), a cooperative storage solution for the members of the Florida State University System (SUS) Libraries and the University of Miami. FLARE provides storage of low-use library materials in an environmentally controlled, carefully inventoried, secure, high-density facility located in Gainesville and administratively hosted by UF. Materials stored at FLARE are made available for retrieval via a Florida-specific unmediated borrowing service, through traditional interlibrary loan, or by electronic delivery. Additionally at UF, we met with the senior library staff and discussed SHARE in some depth.

At University of Miami (UM) Chuck Eckman hosted us for a delightful visit with a wide range of library staff. He has had the opportunity to attract several new staff members and the UM Libraries is doing exciting work. One of the most innovative things we saw there was the One Button Studio in Richter Library, an automated video studio that enables faculty and students to walk in, insert a flash drive, record a video, and take the video with them. The One Button Studio is part of the library’s Faculty Exploratory, which is a multipurpose space to facilitate faculty interactions with technology and conversations about its use in teaching and learning. The Faculty Exploratory includes a MediaScape, where faculty can plug their own devices into a display and share screens and media, as well as informal meeting space and new technology demonstrations. Another impressive characteristic of the UM Libraries is its Cuban Heritage Collection, the largest collection of Cuban research materials outside of Cuba. At UM we met with the library staff and talked about ARL’s new System of Action. The staff imagined many ways that they might benefit from the System of Action and brainstormed ideas for several projects that would fit into the ARL Framework.

We all came away with some ideas about how the three libraries could work more closely together and how ARL could serve as a useful partner as they move forward.

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