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I don’t always blog my ASERL (Association of Southeast Research Libraries) meetings but this one had lots of interesting information in which people might be interested.

The meeting started with a round robin introduction and 1 minute summary of the local budget situation at each library.The range of responses varied from warnings like ours at Wake Forest to a 17% cut at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.About half of the directors who had budget cuts on their campus were being protected from the full impact in the library.North Carolina, in general, fared much better than some other states like Georgia and Alabama. Private institutions were more cushioned by their endowment than state schools who were feeling the impact more immediately.

A collaborative digitization project called “Intellectual Underpinnings of the American Civil War” was proposed and positively received by the membership.It is designed to be as broad and inclusive as possible – basically anything published or created between the years of 1850-1865 that could be construed in any way as relating to the war. It is hoped that every ASERL library will contribute to the project, with the goal of having 5,000 digital objects in place by 2011, not coincidentally the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil War. Sharon and Susan have already begun to think of what we have to contribute. There is a call out for members of the Technical Committee who will work with the technical specs and metadata.

Mary Giunta from Columbia University was an invited guest to talk about how their library had departed from the traditional notion of an Information Commons and is in the process of setting up three subject-based Digital Centers in the Social Sciences, Humanities, and Science/Technology. Notably, they sent their entire government documents and microform collections to remote storage in order to create space for the Social Sciences center. The emphasis is more on graduate student and faculty research processes, rather than on undergraduates.

I was particularly interested in a report by Lynne O’Brien on the OLE (Open Library Environment) project at Duke. Their goal is to design and build an open source integrated library system specifically designed for academic libraries.This is a goal shared by ZSR, so it makes sense for us to follow their work closely and join in as appropriate.The reasons they gave on why they thought an open source solution was necessary included: 1) current ILS products are woefully inadequate, 2) with industry consolidation, there are few commercial choices left, 3) the need for system interaction with other enterprise systems (Banner, Blackboard, etc), and 4) the desire to control one’s own destiny (though my husband says that is an oxymoron since destiny is by definition uncontrollable, but I digress).Since Duke put out the call, MANY libraries have shown interest and a small group is actively working on it with many more (like us) lurking and waiting in the wings.There is a strong commitment to avoid building a new system around old, legacy print processes.OLE’s guiding principles are as follows: provide for a wide range of resources; a system built, owned, and governed by the library community; a system developed using SOA (service-oriented-architecture) implemented with Web services; a system able to adapt and integrate with other enterprise systems (unlike other current open source systems like Evergreen and Koha which were not designed to meet the broader needs of academic research libraries).The vision is for a flexible, adaptable, community-developed software framework that will support core business practices.

They will be holding a series of regional workshops in the next few months (Erik, Lauren C. and Mary Beth will attend a two day session in Durham December 15-16).They will complete the design document by July 09, and Mellon has already invited them to submit another grant to build the designed system (when Mellon invites you to submit a grant, it pretty much means you will get it).Their goal is to have a working system by mid-2011, with a lot of work in between. They are looking for additional partners to join working groups on scope, workflow, project planning, governance, communications, connections, and also volunteers to test the system.This is a welcome and valuable addition to the library community and Susan, Erik and I will be working to figure out how to best incorporate this initiative into our plans for the future.

A secondary discussion took place as to whether Kudzu, the highly successful document delivery system sponsored by ASERL, should link with OLE to design and build an open source document delivery system independent from, but linking to, OCLC and ILLiad.40% of Kudzu transactions are initiated and filled within ASERL.Savings of $400,000 in OCLC transaction fees could be achieved under such a system.ASERL directors wanted more information before committing to such a development.

HBCU Exchange Experiences:the five libraries that participated in this year’s exchange program between HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) librarians and ASERL institutions shared their experiences.The benefits of networking and sharing best practice information were similar to ZSR’s experience with Iyanna Sims of North Carolina A&T twoyears ago.A third round of exchange is foreseen for the summer of 2010.

SOLINET merger with PALINET:Kate Nevins from SOLINET reported on the status of the merger. I am on SOLINET’s Joint Coordinating Board and have been privy to all the fascinating details of the merger, but I have been mostly sworn to silence up until now. I am happy to report what Kate told the ASERL group:both the SOLINET and PALINET Boards have voted for the merger and both organizations are preparing for a membership vote some time after the first of the year. The new (still unnamed) organization will be headquartered in Atlanta with a field office in Philadelphia, but the new organization will be chartered in Pennsylvania.Kate will serve as CEO for the first 18 months, with Kathy Wilt of PALINET in charge of research and innovation.After 18 months, the new Board will decide on continuing leadership.The new Board will initially be composed of 6 current SOLINET members, 6 current PALINET members and 3 non-librarians.One third of the Board will be replaced each year until there is a totally new Board, based on type of library.The membership vote will be electronic, but must be followed by an onsite meeting to comply with current bylaws.The merger has been a fascinating process, full of political intrigue, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. The reasons for the merger are forward looking and compelling:1) a changing environment for OCLC networks; 2) desired new service models independent of geography, balanced by local touch where geography is important; 3) increased capacity for innovation in services; 4) access to Palinet services that SOLINET doesn’t have; 5) increased leverage with vendors; 6) cost control through consolidation.

Collaborative Federal Depository:Judy Russell (former Superintendent of Documents and current Dean of Libraries at the University of Florida) presented a Center of Excellence proposal to provide a new model of depository service for the Government Printing Office to consider.The program would identify which regional depositories have the strongest collections in given agencies and then can move materials from selective depositories into regional depositories to create complete collections. They are asking a two year commitment: $1000/regional, $750/selective. (ZSR is a selective depository) I admit to playing devil’s advocate on this issue as it seems a low priority/low demand issue when budgets are so tight.I asked why should we invest in an outdated model to move unused print materials around rather than digitize them.Judy said that GPO has issued an RFP for a “no-cost-to-the-government” proposal to digitize pre-1976 legacy collections.The Law Library Microform Consortium put in a proposal jointly with the Internet Archive along with one other unknown bidder.We should know the outcome in the spring.

The Education Committee is planning a summer summit on information literacy 2.0 with the HBCU group and is looking for names for a planning committee. George Mason University issued a proposal on a training program for liaison librarians.There might be a possibility of working with the HBCU Alliance to get it into their Mellon grant. This topic is of great interest to us here at ZSR.

SCOAP3: an international coalition of physics scholars is looking for “non-binding, revenue-neutral” support to achieve open access for seven High Energy Physics journals. We should investigate this issue and possibly sign the proposal.

Association of Research Libraries: Charles Lowery, Interim Executive Director, gave a brief presentation on ARL’s emphases in their strategic plan: scholarly communication, public policy governing information issues, and the research process, as well as the enabling capabilities of diversity and assessment.Regional consortia like ASERL, CIC, BLC, NERL, and GWLA add an operational element to the higher end initiatives of ARL.

The last presentation of the meeting was the University of Tennessee’s Newfound Press.It was described as a digital scholarly publishing demonstration. It was founded in 2005 with the purpose of taking control of publishing, and lowering the cost of scholarship.Goals are to increase access to scholarly works and collaborate with faculty on new forms of communication. The editorial board consists of UT faculty who provide peer review.Their output includes books, one e-journal, conference proceedings, and multimedia. They have a business plan for 2008-11, and hope to stay in business long after that.This is a creative and practical way to be proactive in the scholarly communications process and is something we might hope to emulate some day at Wake Forest.

The next ASERL meeting will be held at the end of April in Williamsburg. Whew.