Joyce Garnett, Jim Neal, Mike Ridley speak at OLA 2011 Superconference

One of the best sessions I attended at the 2011 Superconference was “Million dollar Question” in which three seasoned, strategic & savvy university librarians described their decisions when funding was significantly reduced.

Jim Neal, Columbia University VP of Information Services (which includes the Libraries):

– during fiscal year 2010 they had budget reductions of $3.4M, and lost 45 positions
– operating budget was reduced by 10% and collections by 5%
– recognizing that they are in a deeply competitive environment they are focusing on their priorities, & have added new positions to strategic areas; they have been investing in HOW collections are discoverable, using collections budget creatively
– their philosophy of quality is content PLUS functionality; you have to have the resources and get AT them
– they also undertook a systematic workflow review, a deep evaluation of their services and increased marketing
– he views collaborations as cost-avoidance programs & is building more collaborative relations with other institutions to reduce costs another $10M
– refers to this as “radical collaboration” — why are all university libraries maintaining ILS? developing digital strategies, etc? — we need Centres of Excellence in specific topics — & not start any initiatives independently but look first to “extreme sharing” among research libraries
– this drives massive re-thinking of how we manage collections and staff
– the 3 universities in Manhattan didn’t talk with each other for 100 years; now they are not only working together but sharing collections, spaces & working to sharing staff — interviewing together, hiring together – moving to collaborative staffing
– spreading collections among institutions for students
– no reference desks at all
– in his article “Raised by Wolves” he points out that 72% of professionals in libraries weren’t librarians

Mike Ridley, Chief Information Officer, University of Guelph
– the university had to reduce $46M out of a $300M budget over 4 years
– ensured their budget reflects the library’s strategies
– lost 12 positions
– the shifts they made signaled that they are doing business differently
– he believes in “the art of the possible”
– they reorganized into teams that are directed towards the strategic goals
– they stopped do things so they could concentrate on the new things they should be doing

Joyce Garnett, University Librarian, University of Western Ontario

– feels that it is wrong that more than 50% of a library’s budget is focused on acquisitions, since that means LESS than 50% is focused on staff
– “the university gets the library it deserves”

An amazing session; I wish I could have written faster to get better notes to share with you. And, more than anything, I wish the room had been packed; THIS is the type of session people needed to be at, listening…….and reflecting.