On January 29th we shared news reports about the UC Berkeley Library $7 million in additional funding.
Yesterday, University Librarian Tom Leonard wrote an op/ed for The Daily Californian titled, “‘Fahrenheit 451′ would be more costly today” where he shares a few thoughts about the library, its users, and some of the new services that were rolling out while the Commission on the Future of the UC Berkeley Library was working on there report.
Two years ago, after the collapse of state funding at the university, librarians at UC Berkeley outlined choices facing the campus. These were unsettling, changing the way smaller libraries were to work and accelerating the shift already underway from paper to digital materials. The library also proposed to use its talented staff in new ways, consolidating their work.
As we shared our thinking, our users made trenchant points but often talked past one another. They were indeed close observers, but they often lived different library lives. Many serious users have less reason to walk into a library every semester, as they find more of what they need in the online publications we license. Other learners and researchers are library habitues, able to point out that an over reliance on the digital is holding them back. And, these users observe, libraries are crowded on their deadlines. It is not surprising that on a campus where many libraries borrow from the architecture of temples (Doe Library has Athena in a war helmet), changing the look and feel of libraries led many users to stand their ground.
The faculty Commission on the Future of the UC Berkeley Library Report, released last semester, looks deeply into the different communities that use research librarians for different purposes. It also brought the re-envisioning of libraries at the University of Michigan and Harvard into the conversation, showing that disruptive changes are being made without the prompt of a budget crisis. Scholarly communication itself, the faculty noted, needed a stronger hand from libraries and faculty working together — or else the research record could disappear and new knowledge would be lost: a modern version of “Fahrenheit 451.”