Instead of “just the facts,” I’ve put in some of my thinking about us for the sessions I selected to cover in my post.

On Demand Pre-recorded Sessions

“Beyond Picture Perfect Diversity: How to Create a Sense of Inclusion” by executive coach Dima Ghawi, who is based in Louisiana.

The coach covered recognizing that organizations (individuals too) are at different points in the progression path towards inclusion (from having occasional training sessions, to realizing it takes more than that, to ongoing wholesale investment). She recommended: assessing where the organization is on that progression; executive buy-in and budget for the work; and creating a safe culture. She suggested creating group spaces, or affinity groups, such as: emerging professionals, men’s and women’s groups, generational groups (Gen X, Millennials), etc. and inviting the allies to join. (I feel I’ve seen an increase in this at the University over time.) She also suggested formal mentorship programs. She asked if diversity is included in your organization’s values and actively discussed.

This echoed a lot of the information I’ve heard through various workshops here on campus over the past couple of years. I made a connection that the RIDE framework seems to be a workable way to follow numerous recommendations that she made. This session also helped me step back for a moment and take a longer term view, seeing Wake Forest University’s investment over the last few years with actions such as: developing the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and funding those positions; concertedly rolling out the RIDE framework across the entire University; speaking about hidden history and making efforts to be intentional with naming. I could see our organization’s movement on that path towards inclusion. It makes me hopeful (in ways that former President Barack Obama and  Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian, talked about in the closing session, a nice bookend to this session being my opener for the conference).

Dima Ghawi hoped that if you had only one takeaway from her session, it would be these three words: curiosity (about ourselves and others), courage (to speak up, not be afraid, and be allies), and commitment (to the work of inclusion for the rest of our lives).

“Collection Budget Reductions! Strategic approaches to problem solving the [bleep!] out of this mess” by University of Minnesota Libraries’ Kate McCready, Interim AUL for Content & Collections, and Sunshine Carter, Director of Collection Strategy and eResource Management

The speakers believed that their steps will work for libraries that are not R1. As big as they are though, their structure oversees the collection budget for the professional programs (e.g. medicine) and special collections and archives, whereas at Wake Forest, those are separate. They have over 50 liaison librarians.

About half of their collection budget is in a “central budget” that is for continuing resources in various subject areas which cannot easily be assigned to specific subject areas. We have uncategorized large aggregated databases too naturally (think EBSCO and ProQuest), but I don’t know the percentage of our budget for that off the top of my head. They said that their current structure of a steering committee composed of the collection administrators and  5 area collection coordinators (e.g. Arts & Humanities, multiple categories of sciences, like heath, agriculture, etc.), did not work well with the pandemic budget cuts and the speed and flexibility needed to handle it with the timing necessary. They had the same experience as we did with needing to hold off in spending in FY 2020, as the financial hardships were cropping up for universities, and knowing that the budget would likely be reduced for FY 2021. They stopped purchasing print materials at the end of FY 2020 like we did and had to proceed cautiously through FY 2021.

Continuing resources is 85% of their collections budget, so knowing what and how to hold back was tricky and decisions had to be made very quickly. The crux of the problem is that serial cancellations must be done many months ahead of having the actual budget figure. Ultimately they decided to assume a worst-case scenario and cancelled about 500 print titles like we did. Just like us, they experienced anxiety, fear, and sadness with the changes. One intriguing item listed on a slide that did not get covered verbally was to cancel abstracts and indexes “with adequate Primo coverage.” Another intriguing item was that they expanded their use of the EBA model for ebook purchasing and it expanded their ebook offerings for six publishers from 3000 titles to 95,000 titles, but no elaboration was offered.

They were able to spend on course materials and research, whereas we had a directive from the University to limit to course materials for almost half of FY 2021. Like us, they used values (e.g. protecting diversity) and metrics (usage statistics) to identify low use and high cost-per-use titles to inform decision-making. They also focused on faculty requests and reduced liaison selection. They reduced spending on monographs as well as serials. And obviously we both focused on buying electronic resources instead of physical materials. Negotiating lower inflation rates with publishers was another strategy in common between us. They decided to cut more than the targeted amount to free up funds to reallocate to ebook and e-resource backfile purchases. Our end result was similar because of being restricted in spending to support research during the first part of the year and then being allowed to spend the funds later in the year.

I documented a lot of our experience starting at 6 months into the pandemic, to be published as a forthcoming Reality Check column in Technicalities.

Core Interest Group Discussions

A Core ebook interest group discussion focused on how libraries can have the same vibrancy with ebook collections that we have historically experienced with print. Several attendees reported shifting away from funding print to funding ebooks, although one public library in Philadelphia was doing the opposite because branches needed physical materials more for their constituents. Lots of discussion about Overdrive usage going up and that a high number of holds is a concern (holds = $) and libraries were reducing the number of holds permitted as a mitigating measure. Discussion covered the work of ALA’s Joint Digital Content Working Group, fair pricing and workable lending models, legislation (including the lawsuit against the Internet Archive regarding the controlled digital lending it provided as emergency access in the pandemic), and accessibility. Participants who work at NYPL and at DPLA contributed to conversation about the NYPL split from Lyrasis regarding SimplyE.

A Core Linked Data (LD) interest group discussion covered topics such as how linked data can benefit researchers and the readiness of library system vendors to help us move towards a linked data environment. An example given was how a Google search for Maya Angelou produces about 10,900,000 results, many of which probably are not about her as an author, and how linked data can address this kind of problem. An author knowledge graph feature (like the box about a person or place that comes up from a Google search) can be enabled in Primo by individual institutions and Alma has the ability to express MARC as Bibframe, but without the actual linking.  There are  more Alma possibilities with LD. For comparison, here is where OCLC is with LD. And here is a slide presentation that gives an overview of where some leading libraries are as of 2020.

The discussion started with a reference to a 2001 article, “The Semantic Web” by the famous Tim Berners-Lee et al. Many thanks to Thomas Dowling for pointing me (live during the discussion) to an article assessing the status in 2018, “Whatever Happened to the Semantic Web?” I got this from it: “Pages on the web would be meaningful to software programs—they would have semantics—allowing programs to interact with the web the same way that people do. Programs could exchange data across the Semantic Web without having to be explicitly engineered to talk to each other.” It also stated that the vision described in 2001 had not yet been met. I’m still excited about the promise of linked data, but I now cynically think I will be retired before libraries and their patrons reap significant benefits!

The Core Collection Evaluation and Assessment Interest Group showed that a lot of librarians are thinking like we are about more diversity in the collection, a greater shift to e-resources, collecting physical items like books and DVDs and CDs where that is still the best (only) way to provide them. I had a chance to put in a plug for an article Carol wrote about DDA ebook purchasing several years ago and explained my philosophy on the EBA purchasing model being like a store-specific gift card. I don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars with one publisher when I might need to spend it across 25 or more publishers. DDA is more like a Visa or Mastercard gift card, enabling purchases with many publishers. If publishers lowered their entry price on the EBA model, I would reconsider.

Virtual ALA Annual Conference

Initially I was wondering if I would get the same level of benefits out of this virtual conference and while nothing came close to those hallway conversations with people you know have good ideas and experience with the issues we face, I was pleasantly surprised about how much I was able to learn. There are definitely pros and cons both ways: for example, the travel! and the travel! Thanks also to Carolyn McCallum for a useful face-to-face debrief conversation of the kind you have with your ALA roommate.