MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXII No. 3
January / February 2010
Our "Inescapable Network:"
Haiti, the Diversity Initiative, and MLK
Report on the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity: Excerpts and Commentary
The Haiti Challenge: Are We Doing Enough?
Responding to the Earthquake:
A Workshop, Lecture Series, and More
Building a Network of Organizations
in the Haitian Diaspora
Short- and Long-Term Responses
to the Tragedy in Haiti
The Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity:
A Personal View (Bailyn)
The Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity:
A Personal View (Hammond)
Counting Faculty and Students
Reflections on MIT's Layoff Process
HR and MIT's Layoff Process
The Demand for MIT Graduates
Toward a Personalized Graduate Curriculum
2010 MIT Briefing Book Available Online
NRC Doctoral Rankings:
The Weighting Game
Planning for the Future of the MIT Libraries
Stellar LMS Evaluation FAQ
Teaching this spring? You should know . . .
Percent Underrepresented Minority (URM) Hires, 1991-2009
Printable Version

Planning for the Future of the MIT Libraries

Ann Wolpert

In the summer of 2008, the MIT Libraries initiated a strategic planning process to consider how best to provide library services for the future at MIT. It was clear that forces of change, internal and external to MIT, needed to be addressed. We had observed that growth in the use of networked resources was outpacing growth in door counts and physical circulation at the same time as research and learning at MIT were becoming increasingly mobile and less location dependent. The MIT Libraries had to be prepared to respond to MIT’s rising emphasis on interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international collaborations in both education and research, and we needed to strike the right balance between the resources we were dedicating to our important physical collections, and the resources we deployed to support the digital library environment.

The document “MIT Libraries: Achieving a Desired Future State for 2015” summarizes the findings of that effort, and points to progress as well as gaps. It is gratifying that students and faculty have become such avid users of our network-based resources and services, and we are committed to making sure the MIT Libraries can support this growing demand.

But it was also obvious that the dominant organizing principle for the MIT Libraries, once defined by physical libraries with disciplinary-focused print collections, was increasingly misaligned with usage data trends. These trends were pointing us in the direction of an organizing principle that would be defined more by Libraries-wide services and online systems than by traditionally structured, stand-alone libraries.

As our planning process progressed during calendar year 2009, our thinking was also informed by the extensive surveys of faculty, students, and research staff, which we had conducted in 2005 and 2008. Feedback from these surveys, when combined with actual usage data collected by the Libraries, serves to guide decisions concerning the organization and operations of the Libraries going forward. The granularity of the survey data is sufficient to provide a vivid appreciation for the disciplinary differences in patterns of library use, and these differences will be taken into account as planning advances.

Also central to the Libraries deliberations are the needs to 1) attract and retain the highest quality Libraries staff, 2) continue support for the most heavily used physical facilities and collections, and 3) sustain the digital information resources and systems on which so many faculty and students depend. Both digital and physical library services have their passionate advocates among the faculty – sometimes within the same department – and the Libraries are well aware of the importance faculty in all disciplines place on a robust, easy to use, and reliable set of networked library resources and services. Members of the Faculty Committee on the Library System have generously contributed their thoughts and insights to the process as well.

The need to accommodate FY2011 budget reductions has now accelerated our planning. Many university research libraries in the United States are also coming to grips with reduced funding levels. The MIT Libraries will face special challenges, however, given their relatively modest size, the exceptionally high prices of many science and engineering journals and databases, and the physical constraints of our library facilities.

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We are very fortunate that the strategic planning work begun back in calendar year 2008 is now available to inform our approach to budget reductions, and that there is a standing committee of the faculty dedicated to Libraries issues. In the coming months we anticipate taking multiple steps to respond to our reduced budget in the context of our future directions. Actions will most likely include some combination of 1) a reorganization of staff operations, 2) a new approach to collections acquisition and management, and 3) reconsidered hours of operation. As planning progresses the Faculty Committee on the Library System will remain actively involved, as is their mission and role.

A chief goal in planning for FY2011 will be to implement the necessary organizational changes in a manner that respects the relationship between faculty and the librarians who understand and support their disciplines. Conceptually, the Libraries will be working toward a library system that is based on the following principles:

  • Delivering services and information resources most needed by faculty and students
  • Continued emphasis on strong subject expertise within the Libraries’ staff
  • Maintenance of formal liaison relationships between the Libraries and faculty in departments, labs, and centers
  • A unified staff, providing service through a distributed network of contemporary facilities
  • A focus on shared online systems and facilities, emphasizing function rather than traditional geography
  • A balanced approach to collections and collecting that includes access as well as ownership.

The Faculty Committee on the Library System will monitor the process by which the Libraries make these challenging decisions in the year ahead, and the Libraries will, as always, communicate with faculty and the MIT community as decisions are made. Meanwhile, faculty are urged to send comments and questions to Ann Wolpert, Director of Libraries,

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