The Future of the DeWitt Wallace Library – planning for community discussions

Please note: This posting originally appeared as a LibGuide on Sept. 16, 2016.  We are now transitioning to a WordPress Site so both versions will appear temporarily.


In our Annual Report for 2015-16, in the Words from the Director section, I mentioned that we would be planning to host a series of conversations in the library to talk about the future of the library. It is our hope to engage our community members in conversations about our spaces, our collections, and our services.  I want to provide a brief context for these discussions.

During the summer, a group of us in the library read Reimaging the Academic Library by David W. Lewis.  The book addressed many issues related to how academic libraries are changing.  Topics included: how the book itself is changing, the impact of the economics of information, changes in the scholarly record, and how digitization is affecting scholarly publishing.  The book included a number of recommendations on what librarians could and should be doing to prepare for the future. These recommendations, coupled with selected readings,  provide a possible framework for  community conversations. What follows is some additional information on the proposed discussion topics.


In June of 2013, we shared a Vision for 2020 document envisioning the future of library spaces.  This document was written prior to the move of Media Services back into the library.   We have been able to make some incremental changes including the renovation of 309 to create the Barbara B. Davis SPACE which is already seeing high use during the weekdays.  This report in combination with the spring 2016  RPC report on spaces are documents I would encourage community members to read as preparation for conversations about our spaces.  The RPC report encouraged us to think about “redesigning library space” and discussed the need for the library to develop “creation spaces” which was also touched on in our Vision for 2020.  I’d like to hear the voices of all community members — students, faculty, staff, as well as our neighbors who use our spaces.


This summer we completed the first phase of our Collection Management Project.  We still have our Moodlegroup site available where you will find the project announcement that appeared in September 2013.  Our goal was to reduce the size of the collection by 90,000 volumes in order to create space for new materials, as well as to reduce the overall size of the collection.   Over the past few years, our print journal collection has also been reduced based on the number of titles that have been digitized by JSTOR which now includes over 2,000 journals in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Our collections are changing as we transition to more electronic and fewer print-based monographs. Last year we started a membership in the Center for Research Libraries which has greatly expanded our access to primary resources and we have seen a lot of interest in their resources.  Also, last year I shared information on the Lever Press, an open access press for monographs which was launched in January. The Editorial Board met this summer and has started to review potential publications.  We remain committed to open access initiatives and because our budget remains flat, we are looking at how best to support these initiatives including Lever Press, Knowledge Unlatched, Open Book Publishers, as well as supporting faculty and student publishing in open access journals.  We are developing a policy this fall to share with our advisory committee in order to apply a systematic strategy on how we can best use our limited budget to support these initiatives.

One area that is growing is our special collections and archives.  We are in the process of acquiring a major collection of papers from Louise Walker McCannel.  While Louise walker McCannel was co-founder of the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, her papers that we are curating will focus on her activism in the Twin Cities:

“Walker McCannel served on the board for the Minnesota Association for Mental Health, chaired the Interfaith Fair Housing Project that pushed for desegregation in housing, helped launch the Minneapolis Urban Coalition, and served on the board of The Way, a nonprofit group that worked to empower the North Side community.”

We need space in the library to not only process and house these papers, but also a learning-teaching space so that students may have hands on access to these papers and develop an appreciation and understanding of the processes involved in curating these types of primary documents.

Another area that continues to grow is our MCSG textbook reserve program.  This very popular program provides copies for the most expensive textbooks that are required for courses on campus.  While we are pleased to partner with MCSG on this program, we also are looking at ways to help implement open access textbooks on campus, which falls under our ever-expanding Digital Services and Projects program.

Digital Services and Projects

Last spring we held a workshop on open access textbooks.  We had a lively session with 16 very engaged faculty participants.  As a result of the high level of interest we are developing a small program to provide stipends for faculty who wish to adopt, adapt, or create an open textbook for their courses.  We know interest is increasing in this area and earlier this month we received the news that “the Open Textbook Library, of which we are a member,  saw it’s 1 millionth visit on Friday.”[September 2, 2016]  One of the challenges we hope to address this year is how to make discovery of open textbooks easier.  It is an ongoing discussion at a variety of levels, but it is a critical issue that needs a solution more sooner than later.readershipmap20160915.jpg

Our open access publishing takes place in our Digital Commons.  We currently have 5019 papers and have seen our downloads increase to 1,850,239 (as of September 15, 2016.)  As demonstrated in our readership map  (in real time) and the readership map for the past 30 days (above) we have international reach for our items that have been downloaded. The fact is that our publications are being used by a broad international audience and we see this as one of our services that helps promote the college in very positive ways.  Our most recent addition this summer was to work with John Kim to publish, Rupture of the Virtual in our DigitalCommons as our second open access monograph.  His work is now featured along with the work by Sears Eldredge, Captive Audiences/Captive Performers. We’re also especially pleased by the publicity that Duchess Harris has recently received on her Human Computers Project which is also housed in our DigitalCommons.

We see these services as just one means of supporting the faculty and student scholarship.  Our Digital Commons serves to promote and disseminate the work that is done on campus, but also serves as a means of preserving the work that is done by our community.  Preservation of other projects on campus is another growth area.  We know that as the Digital Liberal Arts continue to expand on this campus, these are the types of projects that we want to support, preserve, and publish and we want to make sure we have the appropriate resources and spaces to enable the creation of these types of new scholarship and projects.

Future Conversations: coming together in the Barbara B. Davis SPACE (Scholarship, Partnership, and Community Engagement)

Certainly, there is so much more to the library spaces, collections, and services than what is included above.  We have a vibrant instruction program, our virtual space on the campus website with our collection of databases, equipment checkouts, essential interlibrary loan services, as well as campus activities that take place in our Harmon Room.  We also provide a secure place for students to study. We know that we serve a diverse community with an equally diverse set of needs.  We need and want to hear from all our community members about future directions we should be considering, so I hope you will review the documents I shared at the beginning of this post and think about what you would like us to consider as we start the conversations to plan future directions for the library.  I will look forward to hearing from you when we start the conversations.



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