Some UC projects: thinking systematically

October 23, 2010, 2:46 pm

One of the intriguing things about my job is working within the University of California. I’d always heard great things about the UC and so I was excited to become a part of the system. Of course, my second month here they cut my pay, but we’ve moved on.


In the past I’ve worked within some large consortiums in Florida, Georgia, and the D.C. Metro area. Since day one they corrected me letting me know that the UC campuses were not a consortium, but rather, a system: ten campuses + the California Digital Library.


These are transformative times in the library-land and the UC is really starting to think differently about itself and how it operates. There is a short and interesting paper that touches on the direction that our collections are heading: The University of California Library Collection: Content for the 21st Century and Beyond

And something a bit more practical is this ongoing initiative: Next-Generation Technical Services.


Both of these are radical efforts attempting to rethink how collections are developed and cared for, and the role that staff at various campuses will play. The mix of prolonged financial troubles and advantageous technology enable us to explore the benefits of working together in new ways. That is, if we can get away from the mindset of this is my collection and that is your collection, and move to a genuinely shared position.


I’m being too abstract, here are two examples:


UC Home pages

I’ve been working the past several months with a great group of librarians across the UC on a homepage project. This group was inspired by Donald Barclay (UL at UC Merced) and charged to recommend common elements, nomenclature, and design/layout for the ten UC Library home pages. The basic idea being that it would be best practices to include the same core stuff in the same basic areas across all our home pages. We spent a lot of time talking and debating these matters and we’re in the final editing stage of our report. (Note: I’ve discovered the UC is great are producing reports!) I know that a lot of web folks out there read my blog, so once we can go public with that paper, I’ll post it.


Backing up though, the big picture concept here is to imagine ten years down the road. All of our websites are on one system and share a similar template—and not only that, but are hosted together (with some redundancy of course)—this would greatly reduce expenses and could lead to some breakthrough access and discovery tools.


This is the type of mindset I am talking about and the transition that is slowly starting to happen.  How might we better share collections (not just via ILL but really share them) – share staff, share technology, etc. Barclay encouraged us to think big—one idea he floated was the concept of one library website for all ten schools which could be customized based on user credentials.


UC Digital Libraries

Another taskforce that I’m on that just got started is looking at the concept of the UC Digital Library as opposed to the UCSB or UCLA Digital Library. We’re picking up where one task force left off – and they’ve done an amazing job getting this rolling: their report.


The gist of what we’re doing is finding a way that the individual efforts of ten libraries can be pooled into one interface. This would allow each campus to maintain it’s own digital library identity, but enable a unified location / interface where digital assets can be searched and accessed. So for example, instead of going to UCLA’s website and looking for digitalized maps, you could go to the UC Digital Library Collection (which would be optimized for Google and other search tools too) and look for digital maps across the system… getting ones from Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Irvine, etc. Now apply this to other formats: audio, video, manuscripts, born-digital items, etc. Together we can form a stronger and more impressive digital library. We just need to find a way to cooperate, which can be challenging when people are invested in local solutions.


Some of the things were working through are copyright restrictions and rights management, the digital delivery experience, collection building policy and strategy, technology recommendations, and a ton of other stuff. It’s ambitious!


Obviously this isn’t my wheelhouse area, but I’ve been reading tons of reports and papers on digital libraries lately, trying to get up to speed. But this fits back into the theme of working for the UC Libraries as opposed to working at one library that is a member of the UC.


There are a number of projects like this that are hatching and it is interesting being able to help propel this forward. 

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