Letters from ALCTS

mary case, alcts president 2009-10

From the President

Mary Case, ALCTS President 2009–2010

A Vision of our Future

As I write this, it is hard to believe that my term as ALCTS President is almost over. It has gone very quickly. The primary goal this past year was to come to agreement on a plan to reshape our organization. While we have not made quite as much progress as we had hoped, we have developed scenarios on which we are currently seeking member response. This drive to restructure ALCTS comes from a vision held by the Executive Committee that ALCTS needs to be a relevant, responsive, nimble, and transparent organization so its members can focus less on navigating ALCTS and more on the issues of our profession that deserve our attention. As this my last column, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on our profession and the role of ALCTS in helping to shape it.

One of the very important roles of a professional organization is to help create the future of its discipline. For me, that means having a collective sense of where we want to go given what we see and anticipate in our environment (ok—the vision thing!). This seems especially critical to me in the current context of constrained resources where we are being forced to make decisions on almost a daily basis of what we can and cannot continue to do. I firmly believe that if we do not have at least a sense of what is ahead and where we want to go, even how we articulate the choices may be inadequate. We need to be purposeful and we need to be strategic to ensure that the limited resources we have are used to create the future we want rather than find ourselves with a future we do not like created for us by others.

So how might a vision of our future look like? As I have heard from colleagues and have been mulling it over, I believe libraries must begin thinking of themselves as part of a single global system. Our collections and expertise should be coordinated within our local and regional consortia and with other consortia and systems throughout the world. Information is a global industry and research and scholarship are increasingly global enterprises. Only by leveraging our resources, it seems will we be able to ensure the greatest breadth and depth of coverage of mainstream published works, data, the grey literature, and the vast amount of information on the web.

There are many pieces of this vision already being explored. The efforts to create 24/7 online reference services are certainly one of them. The ability to contact subject or language experts across town or across the globe with a touch of a button would take this a step further. Distributed print repositories are also a piece of the vision under active discussion in the community for the past several years. Research has been done on how many copies of a work need to be saved to minimize the risk of the work being lost forever. There have been agreements developed to articulate the commitments that would make it feasible and comfortable for other libraries to discard their print copy. Auditing standards have been developed so we will know when a digital repository is likely to be able to retain digitized files far into the future. While print repositories are an important piece of the puzzle, they are intended to deal with the innumerable multiple copies of works that we have all already purchased over the years and are now trying to find a way to store or discard. What if we focused our efforts on the front end of the process—that is, on the building of our collections to begin with? And not just around the margins as we have tried to do over the years, but a serious collaboration that minimized the number of copies of a printed work in a region in conjunction with efficient scanning (scanning of tables of contents, the index, or first chapter) and delivery services. That could potentially help leverage our dollars and expand our ability to collect more.

I am delighted to see a CMDS program at Annual addressing this issue (Cooperative Collection Development: We Really Mean It This Time, Saturday, June 26, 4-5:30 p.m., WCC, 146C). This is the work of ALCTS. These are our members helping to understand and shape our future.

And what about the shared expertise needed to provide access to all the information resources out there? A CCS Task Force on Cooperative Cataloging has been spending time this spring analyzing the recent R2 report commissioned by the Library of Congress on the marketplace for MARC records. The task force will be soon providing recommendations on what ALCTS might do to further discussions on this topic within the community. This is the work of ALCTS. These are our members helping to understand and shape our future.

These are just two examples of the many, many efforts, programs, initiatives underway that are the heart of ALCTS. Our members’ efforts need to be focused on the future, on the issues that matter—not on how to get something done within the organization. That should be easy.

I want to thank you all for the opportunity to serve as President this past year. It has been a real honor and privilege to meet and work with so many wonderful members passionate about this organization and the personal and professional development of its members. The Board has been a delight—responsive and thoughtful. I could not have asked for a better role model—Dina Giambi has more energy and enthusiasm for ALCTS than anyone I have ever met! And this year would not have been possible or as enjoyable without the astute and caring guidance and wit of Charles Wilt and the steady support of ALCTS staff Julie Reese and Christine Taylor. And I know ALCTS will be in good hands after Annual with Cynthia Whitaker at the helm and Betsy Simpson as Vice President.

My sincere thanks to all.

Contact Mary Case (marycase@uic.edu).