From the Director

Expanding services for faculty in a changing environment

Brenda L. Johnson

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)

Today’s scholarly environment presents an increasing array of challenges and opportunities for faculty and graduate students. New funding agency requirements call on researchers to present advance plans for openly sharing and preserving their data.  Researchers are seeking ways to obtain data in new formats, to visualize information in new ways, and to rescue and share data for new purposes.  Across disciplines, researchers are constantly challenged to find and adopt new tools and techniques. The Library is meeting this challenge by launching new initiatives, developing cutting-edge skills among our librarians, and bringing on new staff members who can assist researchers in this changing scholarly environment.

Stacie Williams

Stacie Williams, Center for Digital Scholarship Director

The Library’s new Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) will be an umbrella for many of these services, facilitating the analysis of complex data, the visualization of theoretical relationships, the preservation of core research, and the sharing of research results. Stacie Williams, who joined the Library in August as the inaugural CDS Director, brings experience working with researchers in her previous position managing the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship at Case Western Reserve University. Williams is working with subject librarians and faculty to identify priorities for establishing new spaces, technical infrastructure, and services that meet research and teaching needs.  Following are some of the key areas in which initiatives are already underway.

Data preservation and sharing

Nora Mattern

Nora Mattern, Scholarly Communications Librarian

The Library is expanding Knowledge@UChicago, the University’s digital institutional research repository, to better support the needs of data preservation. Led by new Scholarly Communications Librarian Nora Mattern, the Library is migrating Knowledge@UChicago to a new platform that was initially developed at CERN to support high energy physics. The new Knowledge@UChicago will launch in January and will provide funder-compliant solutions for researchers to share and preserve their code, data, and research results.  Mattern also provides consultations on good data management practices, writing data management plans, and copyright.

The Library is also partnering with the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC) to host a Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow in Energy Economics Data Curation, Ana Trisovic. Trisovic is focusing on the particular challenges EPIC faculty face in collecting and preserving energy data, which is often available only from private industry or difficult-to-use government websites. She will be building a clearinghouse for EPIC’s data to facilitate discovery and reuse, as well as developing solutions for preserving and sharing the code that researchers use to analyze their data. Trisovic will use the skills she gained earning a PhD in Computer Science and her experience developing similar preservation solutions at CERN, applying them to the field of energy economics.

Data acquisition and use

Kristin Martin

Kristin Martin, Director of Technical Services

The challenge of acquiring data for research is shared by many disciplines. For example, the Library subscribes to thousands of electronic books and journals, but researchers interested in data mining these texts cannot easily do so using the vendor’s PDFs, which are intended for individual reading. Kristin Martin, the Library’s Director of Technical Services, excels at working with publishers to provide alternative access that is optimized for data mining.  The Library’s subject specialists can work with faculty across the disciplines and with Martin to seek such alternative access.

Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth Foster, Social Sciences Data Librarian

Elizabeth Foster, the Library’s new Social Sciences Data Librarian, can take this one step further, not only helping researchers find and acquire relevant data, but also helping them transform that data, for example, by formatting it to match the requirements of a particular tool.  Foster will offer workshops and will be developing data analysis consultation services, with a focus on using R and Stata.

Geospatial analysis

Cecilia Smith

Cecilia Smith, GIS and Maps Librarian

Faculty in many disciplines are exploring the ways spatial and temporal analysis and visualization can be used to gain new insights into their data. Cecilia Smith, the Library’s new GIS and Maps Librarian, can consult on the use of GIS information and geospatial tools to analyze and visualize trends in data from mapping the shifts in the border of the Roman Empire over time, to plotting the incidence of traffic accidents in relation to red light cameras, to mapping the impact of environmental factors on health outcomes, and more.  Read “Opening a GIS Hub at Crerar Library” for more information.

At-risk data and data rescue

Sarah G. Wenzel

Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for the Literatures of Europe and the Americas

Researchers interested in documenting historical trends are often stymied when early data are in analog formats not conducive to data analysis.  Heritage data–such as weather data and astronomical observations–are often the only evidence remaining of ephemeral or disappearing phenomena.  The Library is currently partnering with the Humanities Division to ensure that the UChicago Digital Media Archive’s linguistic and ethnomusicology recordings made by former faculty are converted from fragile magnetic tape to a digital form that can be used by researchers today. We are also working with the Ivy Plus Libraries on a web archiving project. Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for the Literatures of Europe and the Americas, co-developed a proposal with a colleague at Columbia University to create a digital archive of comics and artists’ websites.  Currently, more than 150 websites are being actively archived by this project and can be found at

The expert and talented staff members of the Library are committed to expanding services that meet faculty needs in this changing environment. We look forward to working with you and encourage you to visit our Center for Digital Scholarship web page and to contact your subject specialist, Stacie Williams, or Elisabeth Long, Associate University Librarian for Information Technology and Digital Scholarship, to discuss your research needs.

Launching a Center for Digital Scholarship at the Library

The Changing Nature of Scholarship

The advent of digital technology has opened up new horizons that have inspired scholars to transform the nature of their scholarship. From the rapid analysis of a human genome to the sharing of social science data sets to data mining vast quantities of text—scholars are continually developing new digital approaches to creating, analyzing, and sharing their research.

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)

While digital scholarship activity among the University of Chicago faculty is growing, this new kind of scholarship comes with a challenge. Researchers must master a dizzying array of computational tools and techniques, they must think about how to manage their data in ways that can be used by other researchers, and they must find solutions for archiving and sharing their data that meet the increasingly stringent requirements of funding agencies. As faculty and students increasingly incorporate computational and algorithmic methods (e.g., text mining, network analysis, GIS and geo-spatial mapping, image analysis, data analysis) into their research process, they are looking for partners to provide the technical and human resources necessary to support their research activities, foster innovation, and facilitate cross-divisional collaboration.

Digital scholarship encompasses all parts of this new life cycle of digital research, from the changing ways in which scholars collect and analyze data to their increased interest in new techniques for preserving and sharing that data. The Library is a natural hub for the exchange of ideas and the home of a great deal of expertise on archiving and sharing information. Accordingly, we are preparing to enhance our offerings and collaborations with faculty in each segment of this life cycle.

Envisioning a Center for Digital Scholarship at the University of Chicago Library

Faculty tell us that “a substantial barrier to the adoption of computational and digital methods at the University of Chicago has been the isolation of faculty members from colleagues who are experimenting with similar techniques. . . . A physical space designated for such inquiry could help bridge this knowledge gap by providing an environment in which to explore the application of these techniques, receive hands-on training through tutorials or workshops, and benefit from informal collaboration with colleagues in other disciplines.”

To meet this need, I am pleased to announce that we are beginning the work of launching a Center for Digital Scholarship at the Library, which will become a new nexus for intellectual energy and growth, providing a space that will support state-of-the-art technologies and services that facilitate the exploration of new methodologies, the analysis of complex data, the visualization of theoretical relationships, and the sharing of research results.

Establishing such a transformative center at the Library will require identifying high priority needs and thinking creatively about how to resource those needs. Thanks to the generosity of Robert, AM’64, and Carolyn Nelson, AM’64, PhD’67, we will soon be able to hire a Director for the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) who will develop a strategic vision, begin to build services, and coordinate with existing library staff. Our new CDS Director will jumpstart the process and position us to pursue additional funding to support a full suite of services. I am grateful to the Nelsons for their early support of the Library’s digital scholarship initiatives.

We are now beginning a search for this Director and look forward to having this position filled in the coming months. As the Center develops over time, we expect that we will be able to facilitate a wide range of activities. Possibilities fall into three categories.

  • Scholarly Exploration and Collaboration. A combination of intellectual programming (symposia to host international scholars, tutorials, brown-bag presentations, workshops, faculty lectures), services (project consultation, data archiving), and technology (scanning equipment, workstations equipped with GIS and other specialized software) will make the Center a hub that brings faculty, students, and scholars together in ways that spark interactions and facilitate cross-divisional collaborations.­
  • Graduate and Undergraduate Training.  Faculty turn to the Library as a partner to supplement classroom instruction with workshops, targeted training, and onsite training by embedded librarians who can teach the skills necessary for students to succeed. In addition to supporting initiatives across campus to develop courses and programs that integrate new computational methods and theories into a wide range of disciplines, the Library has partnered with UChicagoGrad to provide fundamental digital scholarship skills needed by graduate students to become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government.
  • OCHRE database screenshot

    The OCHRE database allows users to view photographs of artifacts (here, Ras Shamra tablets) alongside associated machine-readable data such as descriptions, epigraphs, interpretive information, transliterations, and translations.

    Project Incubation and Execution. The Center for Digital Scholarship will provide services, such as project consultations, data acquisition and conversion, workshops in tools and techniques, and core technical infrastructure.  Researchers would benefit from guidance on strategies for organizing and executing digital project work and from assistance by staff with the experience and networks that can facilitate project components that are new to the researcher. Examples of such projects are the Library’s collaboration with Chicago Booth’s Richard Hornbeck on the location and digitization of 19th-century manufacturing data and with the Oriental Institute’s David Schloen on the OCHRE database system.

I look forward to being joined by the new Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship, who will collaborate with colleagues within the Library and across campus to develop a vision for the Center and plan for the rollout of services critical to digital research and teaching projects of many kinds.


Advancing digital scholarship

Researchers across the University of Chicago and their collaborators around the world are engaging in a rapidly expanding range of digital research and teaching projects.  The Library has already worked with faculty members on digital projects ranging from the management of archeological information from the site of ancient Ashkelon to the search for and discovery of the Higgs boson. We would like to invite additional faculty members to think of us as partners in digital scholarship and to contact us to discuss how we can collaborate to identify, obtain, disseminate, and preserve digital data.

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian (Photo by John Zich)

Earlier this year, we released Library Strategic Directions, 2016-2019: Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact [PDF].  In it, we defined five directions that will guide the library’s efforts as we continue critical commitments and assume new roles that are vital to research, innovation, and learning at UChicago.  One of those directions focuses on advancing digital scholarship.  The Library is committed to increasing the scholarly impact of the University by building robust services and technology infrastructures to support emerging modes of research, innovation, and scholarship.

What does that mean for faculty and students at the University of Chicago?

A hub for digital scholarship

The Library will be a hub for digital scholarship by providing faculty and students with tools and services that strengthen the impact and visibility of their research and creative endeavors.

Today’s researchers and funders are increasingly interested in transparency, accessibility, and the reproducibility of data sources.  The Library can help you to save and publicly share data in ways that meet these growing demands.  Our new digital repository service for the campus community, Knowledge@UChicago (, is our first major step in that direction.  Built in partnership with IT Services and the Research Computing Center, Knowledge@UChicago can now accept finished research products and small data sets for archiving and sharing. We are currently developing Knowledge@UChicago into a more robust system and are eager to hear from researchers to ensure that we develop functionality that meets your needs.  I encourage you to read more about Knowledge@UChicago and to contact Amy Buckland ( to discuss ways that this digital repository can serve you now and in the future.

Services for the life cycle of research data

The Library will develop an array of services to support the life cycle of research data from assistance with writing a data plan to managing, sharing, and preserving data.

ATLAS cavern at CERN Large Hadron Collider

View of the ATLAS cavern taken during technical stop. ATLAS is one of two general-purpose detectors at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Librarians from UChicago and Notre Dame are collaborating with physicists to explore key issues that must be solved to preserve LHC data, software, and algorithms. (CERN-EX-1209198-02, courtesy of CERN).

The end of a digital project is not the only time librarians can assist you.  The Library is supporting faculty needs for research data management services through programs that include workshops on granting agency requirements and best practices for describing and managing research data.

The Library can be a particularly good partner for faculty involved in cross-disciplinary and inter-institutional projects. Librarians are skilled in determining how to make data interoperable, so that the data you have collected for one purpose can be reused by other researchers asking different questions or can be aggregated with colleagues’ data to reveal a larger picture.  The Library can also work with inter-institutional projects to determine sustainable long-term solutions for sharing and preserving their publications and data, engaging library partners as appropriate.

We are already working in this area.  For example, as part of the Data and Software for Open Science project, librarians from UChicago and Notre Dame are collaborating with physicists from around the world who are working with data produced by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Together, we are exploring the key issues that must be solved to provide preservation solutions not just for the high energy physics data, but also the software and algorithms associated with that data.

Elisabeth Long and colleagues ( can consult with you as you begin to write a data management plan or at various stages of your research as you consider sustainable data management practices, inter-operability, and long-term access and preservation.

Advancing open scholarship

The Library will take a leadership role in advancing open scholarship at the University by supporting and promoting open access, open data, open educational resources, and other forms of openness in the scholarly and research environment.

In addition to developing Knowledge@UChicago to support sharing of UChicago research, the Library has long supported open scholarship by digitizing items in our collections and making them freely available online.  The recently completed Goodspeed Manuscript project is one of many examples.  We also collaborate with libraries around the world on open access projects such as the South Asia Materials Project’s Open Archives Initiative.

If you are interested in making your research or course materials openly available, starting an open access journal, or working with the Library to make resources openly available, please contact Amy Buckland (

Looking to the future

In the coming years, the Library seeks to make its digital scholarship services increasingly robust, ensuring students and faculty have access to spaces, technologies, and consultation services that support their exploration of new methodologies, analysis of complex data, and sharing of their research and creative endeavors through new publishing models.

There are many ways we can pursue this goal.  I look forward to learning more about how we can collaborate with you on digital scholarship.


Library Strategic Directions, 2016-2019

I am pleased to share with you today this statement of our Library Strategic Directions for 2016-2019: Inquiry, Innovation, and Impact.

These Strategic Directions have been developed through a planning process that began in 2015 and will inform the Library’s activities for the next three years.

Cover of Library Strategic Directions, 2016-2019


The Library as a hub: Connecting people and ideas

With the autumn quarter of my first year at the University well underway, I have developed an understanding of the enduring relevance of the University of Chicago Library’s mission.

We begin with the University’s motto — Crescat scientia; vita excolatur — and embody it by providing comprehensive resources and services to support the research, teaching, and learning needs of the University community. Put another way: we serve as a hub that connects people and ideas.

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian. (Photo by John Zich)

Brenda L. Johnson, Library Director and University Librarian. (Photo by John Zich)

Over the years, we have developed six primary approaches to providing these comprehensive resources and services to the University that remain relevant today. We work to understand our users; build collections and tools; promote access and discovery; ensure preservation; collaborate with faculty, students, and University staff, as well as librarians and technologists from around the world; and develop expertise and an innovative spirit in our Library staff.

Building collections remains a vital, ongoing part of our mission, and our special collections offer faculty and students opportunities to do original research and learn from rare and unique primary sources. As we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the University of Chicago this year, new materials have been donated to the University Archives, and many have visited to explore our shared history. In addition, recently received volumes from the Nineteenth-Century English Poetry Collection of Dr. Gerald N. Wachs, generously donated by Deborah Wachs Barnes, Sharon Wachs Hirsch, Judith Pieprz, and Joel Wachs, AB’92, together with funding for a special exhibition, an accompanying catalogue, and additional essential Library support, comprise a campaign leadership gift that expands our distinctive collections and promotes their discovery.

We also process our collections so that they can be easily discovered and accessed. We are grateful to Bob and Carolyn Nelson for their support for the processing of the Saul Bellow Papers, which began this summer and will facilitate research into the life and works of this Nobel Prize-winning author.

Even as these critical Library activities continue, new ones are being undertaken. Faculty and students in every field are taking advantage of technological advancements to pursue new lines of inquiry using new tools and techniques. Interdisciplinary work is more important than ever. The output of research and scholarship looks different today than it did in the past. Creativity, collaborative learning, and hands-on learning are increasingly prized by students and faculty alike.

How can the Library build better bridges between its resources and the University community? How can we promote and ease the transition to new ways of learning? How can the Library become a partner in the research process in the future?

Our fall issue of Libra and the Library News site share a few of the steps we are taking in moving toward this future. I am particularly pleased to announce the launch of the Library’s new residency program, which is designed to bring some of the brightest new graduates of today’s library and information schools and other graduate programs to Chicago to help us launch or expand new programs. Our first new resident, Kaitlin Springmier, the Resident Librarian for Online Learning, is supported by generous gifts from Preston Torbert and Diana Hunt King.

The Library is supporting graduate students’ education and professional development in additional ways. This summer, we offered four unique internships that provided hands-on experience and mentors for PhD students interested in developing new perspectives on scholarship.

The renovation of Regenstein’s A Level will soon create a new environment that encourages interdisciplinary scholarly collaboration through the provision of resources, technology, and spaces. The first phase of the renovation is underway this fall. Additional enhancements are being planned for a later time when funding becomes available.

And the launch of a new multi-institutional Chicago Collections portal will help scholars, students, and members of the public to more easily research the history of Chicago in increasingly interconnected virtual spaces.

By engaging in both traditional and new activities that connect researchers and students with ideas, the Library continuously renews its commitment to supporting the research, teaching, and learning needs of the University of Chicago in a rapidly changing scholarly environment.

New Library Director and University Librarian arrives on campus

Brenda Johnson

Brenda Johnson

Dear University of Chicago Faculty, Students and Staff,

As I begin my second week on campus, I would like to say how very happy I am to have arrived at the University of Chicago. The warm welcome I have received from so many of you in the last few days has made me feel immediately at home.

The University of Chicago’s status as one of the world’s premier academic and research institutions and its Library’s role in fueling intellectual inquiry and a transformative education are well known internationally. As the year unfolds, I look forward to learning much more about your work; about the ways you rely on the Library to support your research, teaching and study; and about the ways you see your needs evolving as you break new scholarly ground or advance in your education.

It will be my great pleasure to meet many more of you and to discuss these matters with you in the coming months.

With warm regards,

Brenda L. Johnson
Library Director and University Librarian
The University of Chicago Library

Brenda Johnson named Library Director and University Librarian

Brenda L. Johnson, an internationally respected leader in the field of library science, has been appointed Library Director and University Librarian, Provost Eric Isaacs announced Oct. 16. Her five-year term begins Jan. 1, 2015.

“The Library plays a key role in the life of faculty and students at the University of Chicago,” Isaacs said. “Brenda’s expertise in supporting both physical collections and the proliferation of digital resources, along with her history of collaboration and innovative thinking, make her an outstanding leader for this important enterprise.”

Brenda Johnson

Brenda Johnson

Johnson currently serves as Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries at Indiana University, Bloomington—a position she has held since 2010. She succeeds Judith Nadler, who retired in June after nearly five decades of service to UChicago.

Before coming to Indiana University, Johnson was University Librarian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She spent more than 20 years at the University of Michigan, where she served as Associate University Librarian for Public Services, a position with responsibility over that institution’s 19 libraries.

She is active in the national and international library community through service and leadership on a variety of executive boards and committees, such as the board of governors of HathiTrust, the board of directors of CLOCKSS (a digital repository for web-based scholarly publications), the Committee on Institutional Cooperation Library Directors Group, the board of directors of Kuali OLE (Open Library Environment), and the Association of Research Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Steering Committee.

Johnson has become a nationally and internationally recognized voice on topics such as the rapid pace of change in information discovery and dissemination, the development of multi-institution “collective collections,” and research and learning environments, as well as the need for library transformation that fosters scholarly engagement and support. Her recent international speaking engagements have taken her to London, Shanghai, Kyushu and Yokohama, Japan.

“The University of Chicago Library is a unique and influential institution among academic libraries,” Johnson said. “I am truly honored by the opportunity to lead it through a time of transformation for all libraries, and eager to collaborate with faculty, students and staff to ensure its vitality in the years to come.”

Diane Lauderdale, professor of Health Studies, is chair of the Library’s faculty board and chaired the search committee that recommended Johnson for the position of Library Director.

“Brenda Johnson is an experienced library director and well-respected leader in the international academic library community,” Lauderdale said. “She will bring to the University of Chicago a deep understanding of collections, public and technical services and new technologies. We have an outstanding collection and staff here, but like all university libraries, face challenging decisions in the next few years about our physical and digital collections. The search committee felt confident that Brenda had the experience, insight and vision to lead our library to an even higher level of excellence.”

At a time of change for libraries nationwide, the University of Chicago Library has flourished as a center of intellectual inquiry recognized throughout academia and a dynamic learning environment for UChicago students. With its 11.9 million volumes, noted collections in a broad range of fields, including global resources and commitment to keeping its collection on campus, the Library has become a destination for scholars and a model for other institutions worldwide.  

The Joseph Regenstein Library and the adjoining Joe and Rika Mansueto Library are located in the heart of the Hyde Park campus—a testament to the Library’s continued importance to scholarly and campus life at the University, Isaacs said.

The Mansueto Library is the most recent addition to the library system. Mansueto houses cutting-edge facilities for book preservation and digitization, as well as a high-density underground storage system with the capacity to hold 3.5 million volume equivalents. The library was designed to fulfill scholars’ needs for easy access to print resources at a time when many other research universities are moving their collections to off-site storage.

The library is named in honor of Joe Mansueto, AB’78, MBA’80, and Rika Yoshida, AB’91, who gave a $25 million gift to the University in 2008. Architect Helmut Jahn designed the facility’s iconic glass dome, which encloses a light-filled reading room and an underground storage system that descends 50 feet below ground.

Alice Schreyer, Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections, has been leading the Library on an interim basis since Nadler’s retirement. She will continue in that role until Johnson’s arrival.

A University of Chicago news release

Preparing for crossroads

The historic mission of libraries—to build collections and make them available to users now and in the future—is just one aspect of our Library’s mission today.

Judith Nadler in the Mansueto Library Grand Reading Room

Judith Nadler, Director and University Librarian

Libraries have successfully served generations of users, making only incremental changes in an environment with stable expectations. Today, technology introduces change at a pace that was infeasible before. New technologies, changing approaches to learning and research, and dynamic user expectations raise important questions and call for informed decisions about the choices we make.

How can we respond to the expectation of broad access to exponentially growing physical and electronic collections when we have limited budgets for acquisitions?

We must explore ways to complement our local collections with collections we collaboratively build with trusted peers. Achieving the proper balance between local depth and collective breadth will be crucial to our users’ present and future information needs. We must be prepared to make these decisions wisely as options arise. With the support of a generous donation from the Rhoades Foundation through the cooperation of Julius Lewis, we are exploring possibilities with our Ivy League colleagues through the Borrow Direct program.

How can we broker ubiquitous and easy access to information that we do not locally control?

We must invest in the development of forward-looking, linked discovery tools built for easy discovery and access in an increasingly complex resource environment. Toward this goal, we are currently working to develop a community source, interoperable library software system, Kuali OLE, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, that will allow flexibility in the choice of discovery tools.

How can we ensure long-term availability of our resources in their different forms and media?

In collaboration with peers, we must invest in the development of shared solutions for a national preservation eco-system, much of which is still in the exploratory stages. Partnering in these developments in their early stages ensures synergy and the ability to integrate local solutions into the eco-system. A generous endowment established by Dr. Albert Somit supports a preservation internship for young librarians. 

How can we harness the power of new technologies to support new approaches to research employing a wide range of media?

New approaches can be developed through interdisciplinary and, sometimes, international collaborations among faculty, librarians, and technologists. A generous gift from Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer to the University is now enabling eighteen ambitious research projects tackling complex questions through cross-disciplinary collaboration via the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society. In one, faculty and library staff are collaborating with technologists to explore how the methods of “big science” might elucidate and facilitate the humanistic understanding of music, speech, and other audio expressions via the Audio Cultures of India project. 

How can we maximize the impact of library spaces in support of user needs for study, teaching, and research? 

We must build a spatial environment that provides seamless integration of study, teaching, and research with Library resources and services. We must mine the information from our user surveys and invest in flexible solutions that meet the needs of our faculty and students. A generous gift from John Blew supports research and teaching with rare materials in a group study in the Special Collections Research Center while joint investment by the Library, College, and Computer Science Department is enabling the creation of an enhanced instructional laboratory in the John Crerar Library that supports the needs of a growing program.

How can we equip library staff to help users identify and locate information, undertake research, and synthesize and create knowledge? 

We must invest in the ongoing development of an excellent staff, conversant in emerging technologies and creative in applying their transformational power in support of study, teaching, and research.  

We would like to keep you—the members of the University community—informed about these changes and the role you can—and do—play in preparing us to navigate crossroads. Toward that end, we have redesigned and expanded our newsletter, Libra, so that it not only provides news about how the Library supports research, teaching, and learning at the University but also thanks and recognizes those who join us in making this investment.

To make a difference

When I embarked the Viking Legend this summer on a Danube tour from Budapest to Passau, I was looking forward to revisiting cultures and places I once called my home. Beyond phone and email, I was resolved not to make this a working vacation. The memories, the landscape, and the people seemed conducive to my resolve.

But—not for long. Through walking tours, lectures, and formal and informal presentations we learned from and about each other, and soon I was tempted to talk about the Library.

How do you engage people from different backgrounds, ages, and stages in life in issues that are close to your heart but not necessarily to theirs? How do you capture and sustain their interest in exploring the ways in which the Library can make a difference at a University that is already great? How do you convey that much is needed to enable the Library to make an even greater difference?

I let numbers tell my story as I pointed to the Library fact sheet on my iPad.

The University of Chicago Library is the 9th largest research library in North America; it provides 10.7 million volumes in print and electronic form, 48,252 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, and 107.6 TB of University electronic archives and research data. These figures impressed my new-found friends. But more impressive were numbers that convey the magnitude of services we offer: 333,630 volumes circulated to 14,414 unique individuals; 12,359 Scan & Deliver requests; 5.6 million successful responses to full-text article requests; 21,248 questions to reference librarians; 4,000+ attendees at training sessions.

Our rich and distinctive collections reflect a history of generous budgets to support their strength, but we are falling behind in sustaining this strength with current budgets. The exponential growth of electronic resources raises the expectation and demand for more such resources at a time when traditional and electronic resources coexist and compete for limited budgets. Technology brings exciting changes for collections and services, and by not taking advantage of their full potential we are falling behind in serving our users. Teaching and training in the use of collections in an increasingly complex research environment presume staff time and expertise beyond what we can afford.

And I let pictures color my story: a breathtaking and awe-inspiring rendering of the Mansueto Library filled the screen; an underground storage capacity to accommodate collection growth of 3,500,000 printed volumes; a conservation laboratory for physical repair and a digitization laboratory to digitize collections for preservation and access; a soaring glass dome embracing the magnificent space to create the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library—a structure of programmatic and architectural vision of the future.

The spaces and programs of the Mansueto Library enable the expansion and easy retrieval of collections, their preservation for future generations of users, and their digitization for access around the world. Our services support the education of the brightest of students and attract and retain the greatest of faculty, but these services must be sustained and expanded to new initiatives, if we are to continue to excel.

And in the resounding applause there was recognition for what a great Library can do for an already great University.

Expanding opportunities within limited budgets will require that tough choices be made. We will make these choices informed by impact and guided by the principle that the more we invest in what matters, the greater the difference we can make.

Reorganization to enhance Library services

Judith Nadler in Mansueto Library Grand Reading Room

Judith Nadler in Mansueto Library (Photo by Jason Smith)

As 2012 begins, I am implementing major changes in the Library’s organization that will strengthen the Library’s ability to provide traditional services, while enabling us to take on new roles at the University and provide new services to our community. 

Programmatic changes on campus and recent turnover in key Library positions have provided impetus for organizational change. New University appointments in Information Technology and Research Computing offer opportunities for exciting collaborations between the Library and other units on campus.

After careful consultation with Library staff through the work of Task Forces on Collections, Services, and Scholarly Communication, I am now putting into place a new structure that will enable us to fulfill the following strategic programmatic goals:

  • Establish a unified vision and voice for:
    • Collection Services,
    • User Services,
    • Digital Services,
    • collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences to parallel those for the Sciences and for Law.

To achieve these goals, the following newly defined positions were established as of January 1, 2012:

  • The Associate University Librarian for Collection Services provides vision, leadership, and coordination for collections and related services across disciplines and formats. James Mouw, who was most recently Assistant Director for Technical and Electronic Services and Interim Assistant Director for Collections, has been appointed to this position.
  • The Associate University Librarian for User Services provides vision, leadership, and coordination for access services, reference, instruction, and outreach. James Vaughan, who was most recently Assistant Director for Access and Facilities Services, has been appointed to this position.
  • The Associate University Librarian for Digital Services provides vision, leadership, and coordination for the Library’s growing digital programs and services. Elisabeth Long, who was most recently Co-Director of the Digital Library Development Center, has been appointed to this position. Charles Blair, previously Co-Director of the Digital Library Development Center, has been appointed Director of the Digital Library Development Center.
  • The Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special Collections provides vision, leadership, and coordination for general and special collections in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Alice Schreyer, who was most recently Director of the Special Collections Research Center, has been appointed to this position. Daniel Meyer, previously Associate Director, Special Collections Research Center and University Archivist, has been appointed Director, Special Collections Research Center, and University Archivist.
  • The Director for Administrative Services provides vision, leadership, and administration for Library facilities services as well as budget and personnel. Denise Weintraub, who was most recently Assistant Director for Library Administration, has been appointed to this position.

The Library’s decision-making and planning structures have been strengthened by the creation of a new decision-making body, the Director’s Council, which will provide counsel and coordinated vision for the Library. In addition to the Library Director, members of the Director’s Council are the three newly defined Associate University Librarians mentioned above. A redefined Library Administrative Committee (AdCom) is comprised of the Library Director; the three Associate University Librarians; the Law Librarian (Associate Dean for Library and Information Services, Law); the Co-Directors of the Science Libraries; the Assistant University Librarian for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Special Collections; the Director for Administrative Services; and the Information Technology Management team: Charles Blair and Frances McNamara, who is Director of Integrated Library Systems & Administrative & Desktop Computing.

The organizational chart will help readers visualize the new organization. This chart is a mix of formal organizational structure and functional areas of responsibility and does not include all of the details of departmental unit organization. 

I look forward to working with Library staff within this new organization to achieve a number of goals: to enable new and evolving roles for the Library while recognizing and strengthening the Library’s traditional roles; to build a human infrastructure that has the skills and vision to move the organization forward through promotion of existing talent and hiring of new talent; to prepare us to hire staff in key areas that underpin our goals for the future; and to ensure a communications structure that promotes decentralized input and facilitates informed decision making and implementation. I encourage you to contact me or any of the Library staff members I have identified with any questions about the reorganization.