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Notes from Elliott Shore’s Listening Tour: New Mexico and Arizona

University of New Mexico, Zimmerman Library.
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Association of Research Libraries (ARL) executive director Elliott Shore has embarked on a “listening tour” of ARL member libraries to see first-hand the innovative work the libraries are doing and to learn how the Association can better collaborate with its members. This is the 14th in a series of informal reports from his visits.

Following the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Spring 2017 Membership Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I took the opportunity of being in the Southwest to visit our nearby member libraries: University of New Mexico, University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. Richard Clement, dean of university libraries at New Mexico; Shan Sutton, dean of university libraries at Arizona; and Jim O’Donnell, university librarian at Arizona State, were gracious hosts. I spent a full day on each campus, touring and talking with library staff and administration. All three institutions were founded in the 1880s, with both states joining the Union within a few weeks of each other in 1912, and all three institutions are taking seriously the library as place.

My day at the University of New Mexico (UNM) began with a tour of Zimmerman Library, a 1938 Pueblo Revival building that was funded by the Public Works Administration and has been lovingly restored and expanded. Zimmerman is the library for humanities and social sciences and houses the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections. UNM has a deep dedication to its special collections on native peoples, on its Mexican heritage, and on the American West. Following the tour, I gave a presentation to library staff that is a variation on what I have been talking about with ARL library staff since I began my listening tour in 2013. It is a talk that merges the history of the research library with the trends in the larger society and suggests ways that this history can both hold us back and move us forward. Senior library staff—Fran Wilkinson, senior associate dean; Mark Emmons, associate dean; and Tomas Jaehn, director of special collections—joined me for lunch. In the afternoon, I enjoyed tours of the other campus libraries, the Parish Library for Business and Economics, the Fine Arts and Design Library, and the Centennial Science & Engineering Library, where I met data librarian Jon Wheeler. I also enjoyed talking with Kevin Comerford, director of the Digital Initiatives and Scholarly Communication Center. One of the great highlights of the visit was meeting UNM acting president Chaouki Abdallah and acting provost Craig White. Rick Clement and I had an excellent exchange with the two senior leaders on the role that the library is taking and can take in furthering the goals of this flagship institution.

Highlighting the library as the core of the campus, the University of Arizona (UA) is building a “student success” district that encompasses all of the student-facing partnerships centered on the Main Library and buildings flanking it. Karen Williams, UA’s new vice president for information strategy and university libraries, dropped by the library to say hello. Shan Sutton, the new dean of libraries; Karen; and I engaged in a lively exchange on the merits of close collaboration between libraries and IT. Shan gave me an overview of the student success district followed by a tour of the Main Library and the Science-Engineering Library. A wonderful highlight for me was being 3-D scanned by Michelle Halla in the expansive technology center on the main floor of the Main Library. The tiny orange replica of me was instantly recognized by my 17-year-old twins! Steve Hussman, director of special collections, and Robyn Huff-Eibl, head of access and information services, accompanied us on the tour. I met with University of Arizona Press director Kathryn Conrad and discussed participation in the AAU/ARL/AAUP Open Access Monograph Publishing Initiative. Members of the UA Libraries’ Diversity, Social Justice, and Equity Council described some of their work to me and I provided an update on ARL diversity programs. Shan Sutton; Annabelle Nuñez, associate director of the Health Sciences Library; and Kylie Rogers, assistant dean for finance and administration, hosted me for lunch, which was followed by a tour of the Health Sciences Library with Annabelle. In the afternoon I gave a presentation to library staff on ARL’s vision and goals, a few of our programs, and how UA Libraries could engage with ARL. We wrapped up the whirlwind day with a meeting of the libraries’ leadership team.

In the morning at Arizona State University (ASU), Jim O’Donnell and I began a discussion that was punctuated throughout the day as we spent it together going from one stop to the next. Jim and I have known each other for a long time, given our mutual connection to Bryn Mawr College (he co-founded the Bryn Mawr Classical Review in 1990 and I was director of libraries and a history professor there from 1997 to 2012) and his subsequent work at the University of Pennsylvania (he served as vice provost for IT at Penn from 1996 to 2002 and I was appointed CIO at Bryn Mawr in 2002). The mission of ASU is to provide access to a quality education as broadly as possible, so the university is embarking upon one of the most ambitious online offerings of any university in the United States—EdPlus—and the library is playing a role in its development. I gave my talk to library staff in the morning and enjoyed lunch with several staff members who received invitations in a first-come-first-served competition! In the afternoon I talked with Jim O’Donnell and senior library staff, and went on tours of the campus and facilities. ASU is doing something similar to University of Arizona with its massive main building, opening it up and out to reach towards the building across from it, with which it shares a solar panel “parasol.” Senior library staff hosted me for dinner on my last night in Arizona.

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