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I haven’t attended ALA Midwinter in several years. This year, I am co-chairing the Cyber Zed Shed Committee for the 2013 ACRL Conference, so my attendance was required. In addition, our peer University Libraries Group (ULG) agreed to meet in Dallas on the day before Midwinter started so that made the trip doubly worthwhile.

ULG was held on the campus of Southern Methodist University, where I travel several times a year because of my membership on their Libraries Executive Board. I took an early flight on Thursday and was lucky enough to be picked up at the airport and driven to SMU by one of my ULG colleagues. It was a great meeting – concise, fast-moving and very worthwhile, mostly because they are the libraries most like ZSR. Institutions represented were: William and Mary, Tulsa, Texas Christian, Loyola Chicago, Northeastern, Baylor, Marquette, Lehigh, Denver, Carnegie Mellon, DePaul and Southern Methodist. Here are the things we talked about:

Digital repositories: a good number in the group used Digital Commons from BE Press (which they say is great for digital publishing but not so great for preservation), others, like us, used DSpace. All were looking for ways to bring in more content and many were worrying about how to plan for storage costs for data files and videos. One good idea on engaging faculty was for the library to sponsor a journal editors seminar for faculty on campus who have professional editing responsibilities. A ULG subgroup on digital repositories may emerge from the high level of interest in this topic.

Storage policies: a number of libraries were participating in shared print repositories. In addition to our ASERL project, others were involved with WEST, Boston Library Consortium, and a Pennsylvania group. The discussion evolved from cooperative journal storage to monographs and the Hathi Trust. Baylor had already joined and several others were considering, including us at Wake Forest, Carnegie Mellon, and Northeastern.

IT staffing: one person asked how IT in the library was managed. There were as many models as there were institutions present. I said that we at WF valued our independence to do what we felt we needed to do. Some were struggling in their relationship to campus IT and some (Lehigh, Tulsa and Baylor) were in organizations where the library and IT were merged, with the library reporting to IT. (No comment) In the discussion, Lehigh talked about their July 2013 implementation of Kuali 1.0, which was encouraging to hear. I had feared that Kuali was dead but they appear to be marching along. Lehigh is working on the digital collections piece.

Tablets: everyone is doing something. Some, like us, circulate to library patrons. Others bought them only for administrators 🙁 Loyola uses them with their reference staff to walk around and offer help.

Student advisory councils: About half the group had some kind of student advisory council, most were looking for ways to engage their students more. I said that we had been approached by an enthusiastic group of students who wanted to form an Ambassadors group, and they marveled at that. SMU puts out a call every fall and then meets monthly, including behind-the-scenes tours of the library for the interested students. Some cultivated these students hoping they would eventually be a source for a young development group.

Facilities: most of the discussion centered around the University of Denver, where they completely gutted their existing building, moving the entire collection into storage and relocating all staff. Services are being carried out from a “ballroom.” They will reopen in a year (very aggressive construction schedule) with only 50% of the collection being returned. This led to protests and picketing on the part of both faculty and students, but it has since settled down. We hope to visit the newly renovated library at a future meeting. Loyola Chicago is 4 years into its spectacular commons space and is still enjoying it.

After a tour of the elegant Bridwell Theology Library at SMU, we went to dinner where one of my colleagues dumped an entire glass of wine in my lap. Yowsa! I squirmed the rest of the evening and took advantage of the express dry cleaning service at the hotel the next morning. I was held hostage in my room until about 11, when I got my pants back and set off for the 6th Floor Museum in the Texas School Book Depository building. Anyone who was alive on November 22, 1963 will understand what an emotional experience that was.

My Friday afternoon session was the ACRL Leadership Council, where I ran into some old friends and former colleagues and listened to an explanation of the ACRL Budget (I spent 4 years on the Budget and Finance Committee a long time ago) and the new controversy over the restructuring and elimination of some ACRL Committees. Horrors!

Since Susan is my roommate, she persuaded me and Mary Beth to join her in the ALA Fun Run, resurrected after 8 silent years. The bad part was getting up at 5:15. The good part was brisk exercise in the cold sunshine!

I went to a session on introverts (who, me?) which was slightly disappointing before joining almost all ZSR-ites (missing Carolyn and Wanda) at the EBSCO luncheon.

Random observations so far: Midwinter seems very empty. I don’t know what the announced attendance is, but it seems way, way down. On the other hand, the people who are here are being thoughtfully cared for at both ends of the age spectrum, as super-organized librarians provided both a “New Mothers’ Room” and “scooter parking” outside major ballrooms.

More later…