Library task force will look at digital content, collaboration

by Lauren Budd | 11/16/14 6:58pm

A task force is exploring expanding the library’s resources by collaborating with other universities and digitizing selected content. Announced by Provost Carolyn Dever earlier this term, the task force will evaluate institutional needs and aspirations for research and teaching, and optimize library funds to meet students’ needs.

“We must consider, in the context of the next twenty years, what kinds of collections a research library should provide to its institutional stakeholders to adequately support ongoing and emerging programmatic needs,” Dever wrote in an email to faculty and staff.

Associate librarian for information resources Elizabeth Kirk said the task force will explore where the library should spend its money and how best to develop its collections.

Student and faculty requests, both for specific titles and in general topic areas, largely drive library spending, she said.

The task force will also oversee digitizing some of the library’s collections and explore digital publishing platforms.

English and women’s and gender studies professor Ivy Schweitzer, for instance, was awarded a $250,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, which will extend through January, in 2010 to digitize letters from Samson Occom. These letters were originally housed in Baker-Berry Library and Rauner Special Collections Library.

The Class of 1946 donated $44,430 in 2011 to digitally preserve delicate films in the library’s collection from the 1920s to the 1950s at Dartmouth.

One challenge with digitizing is long-term preservation of digital collections, associate librarian for information management David Seaman said.

“We know how to preserve physical materials, but once you move into electronic materials, on the one hand they’re much more shareable, but those computer files need a lot of looking after, they go out of date quickly, they need constant restoring and backing up.”

A variety of challenges face the task force as it determines how to allocate funds.

“Information is not free, information costs a lot of money. It cost this institution over $10 million last year, and it’s going to cost us over $11 million this year,” Kirk said, adding that even though the Internet has made information more accessible, it is not without cost.

Online journal costs rise every year, Kirk said, disadvantaging the arts and humanities, which generally use more book-based resources. This problem is not exclusive to Dartmouth, she said, noting that as journal rates rise, libraries buy fewer books.

“Funding is always a challenge,” Seaman said. “Our ambitions will always outstrip our resources.”

BorrowDirect, a library resource-sharing tool among Ivy League institutions and three additional schools that comprises more than 60 million volumes, allows librarians to communicate and determine what resources to purchase, Kirk said.

“We’re all going to have dictionaries, we’re all going to have the core texts, but for the things that have fewer users, and for those fewer users they’re really important, we’re going to make sure we have those,” she said. “It’s easier to work deliberately together to make sure we have them as a group.”

BorrowDirect Plus, an agreement launched last month, offers Dartmouth students, faculty and staff visiting partner libraries free access to its materials and direct borrowing privileges.