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Notes from Elliott Shore’s Listening Tour: Penn State, Rochester, Cornell, a New York Minute, Kansas, Memphis, Vanderbilt

Columbia University, Low Memorial Library

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

During the week of April 8 my listening tour of ARL libraries took me to Penn State University, Rochester, and Cornell, where I met with Barbara Dewey, Mary Ann Mavrinac (a former ARL RLLF fellow), and Anne Kenney and their respective staffs. The following week I had a “New York Minute” on April 16 and visited Columbia, NYU, and NYPL with a side-trip to NYPL’s processing center in Queens. I met with Jim Neal, Carol Mandel, and Ann Thornton and their AULs in their buildings all between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. that day. And this week I am spending time with Lorraine Haricombe at Kansas and Connie Dowell at Vanderbilt, with an appearance at the ASERL meeting in Memphis sandwiched in between.

At Penn State, I gave a presentation to staff from the entire 24-campus library system and heard how they would like to be more engaged with ARL. While there, Ellysa Stern Cahoy, the assistant head of Library Learning Services, took me and others on a tour of two digital workspaces—one in the school of education and one in the library—and discussed the differences between them.

At Rochester, I enjoyed a visit with Mary Ann Mavrinac, the AULs, and staff. An interesting suggestion arose in our conversations—that it would be helpful for regional groups of ARLs to reconvene once the Association’s strategic process is well underway so that we can discuss the principles as they emerge.

At Cornell I talked with Anne Kenney and her AULS. The assistant curator of the Hip Hop Collection, Benjamin Ortiz, took me on a fabulous tour of the newly installed exhibition. This reminded me of the days early in my career when I collected alternative press and underground materials for Temple University Libraries—the parallels were striking. Also at Cornell, I attended a meeting of the Ivy Plus Borrow Direct group, where we talked through some possibly larger-scale thoughts about how to collect non–English-language scholarly publications—we focused on Germany—if we could leverage the group’s joint purchasing power.  

For my New York Minute, I spent the morning at Columbia, where Jim Neal and his AULs gave me a thorough introduction to the innovative work they’re doing, much of it with support from outside funding. Midday I was at NYU, where I had a lively discussion with Carol Mandel and her AULs about global initiatives as well as a thoughtful conversation about statistics. The afternoon was dedicated to NYPL—Ann Thornton took us on the #7 train to NYPL’s Library Services Center in Queens, a 145,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art complex that brings together the acquisitions, processing, preservation, and distribution of library materials. The center boasts the world’s largest automated book sorter, which sorts 7,500 items per hour, doubling the library’s processing capacity. We ended the day with a reception at NYPL’s main building, attended by NYPL president Anthony Marx. Somehow we made it back downtown to the reception from Queens before our colleagues from Columbia and NYU.

Early this week I got the full Jayhawk treatment in Kansas, thanks to Lorraine Haricombe and her colleagues, who are engaged in instantiating a new organizational structure that debuts on the first of May.  I had the privilege of helping to judge the Snyder Book Collecting Contest, now in its 57th year, led by Beth Whitaker, the head of the Spencer Research Library. I also gave a short talk on “Kansas Publishing: Girard and Lawrence,” recalling my first journey to Kansas in the 1970s.

As I write this, I have just completed leading a fruitful conversation at the ASERL meeting in Memphis about how ARL and a regional consortium, of which about half of its members are ARL libraries, can work in coordinated ways. After the meeting I will be on my way to Nashville to meet with Connie Dowell at Vanderbilt.

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