SHARES Update at ALA Annual

Friday, June 27

Anaheim Marriott
Newport Beach/Rancho Las Palmas Room
6:00–8:00 p.m.


During the SHARES Roundtable at the ALA Annual meetings in Anaheim, California, one of the discussion topics was the near-term evolution of ILL/DD operations and the role the unit will play in supporting patron activity and the mission of the library. As a pre-meeting exercise, attendees and non-attendees alike were asked to consider some of the profound changes taking place in other areas of the library environment and to try and capture the effects those changes are having on ILL/DD.

Attendees were encouraged to print and complete the attached worksheet (.pdf: 14K/2 pp.) as a pre-meeting exercise. This could be done by sketching out thoughts on the plane on the way to Anaheim. Non-attendees could send Dennis Massie their thoughts as e-mails. All thoughts received by end of business on Thursday, June 26 were used during the discussion on Friday, June 27.


We read and hear constantly about the drastic changes taking place throughout the library world, brought on by pressures such as the transition from a mostly print world to a mostly digital world; by the 98% of patrons who begin their search for information outside the library; by the emergence of the social networking phenomenon; and by the increasing need for libraries to use their prime real estate for purposes other than warehousing print volumes. Catalogers are being asked if all that metadata is really necessary in a world where a single open text search box rules. Reference librarians are being asked if staffed public service desks are really necessary. Collections officers are being asked if we all still need to be buying, storing and preserving the same print titles. IT folks are being asked if anyone really thinks the OPAC or the library Web site is where the discovery action is. Archivists and special collections officers are being asked to reverse years of practice and do whatever fast and dirty things are necessary to bring their materials out of the shadows and into the light on the collection level. Up is down, cold is hot, and you can't keep 'em down on the farm once they've seen Google Books.

Meanwhile, ILL/DD is often discussed in glowing terms as the great library success of the last decade. ILL/DD is one place where the end user is put first, where institutions collaborate profoundly, where new technologies and new models have had a major impact on fulfillment rates and turnaround times, and where patron expectations heightened by use of the Internet are actually met by library staff. ILL/DD success has made it not only possible but easy to imagine the holdings of every library everywhere as a kind of collective collection, accessible to anyone who can walk into or log into a library.

ILL/DD administrators and practitioners know that there is still much to be done to perfect resource sharing operations.We also know that a library is very much like an organism or ecosystem, and that anything that affects one small part of the whole also affects every part. How are the huge changes being wrought throughout the library affecting the resource sharing unit? Can ILL/DD continue to improve and evolve to successfully meet the demands of patrons and of library administrators? What are those demands likely to be 3-5 years from now? Where will the pressures come from? What can we do now to prepare to meet them?

The Exercise

We found out some interesting and surprising things by examining the upheavals in mission and practice that other parts of the library are experiencing and noting how those changes are likely to affect ILL/DD operations. The same could be said for examining changes and pressures external to the library, such as consortia and vendors, and even external to the library environment entirely, such as Google, Amazon, the social networking phenomenon, copyright legislation and new technologies.

The attached worksheet (.pdf: 14K/2 pp.) was designed as an instrument for walking through this kind of examination. The first column, Influences, was meant as a place to record other places besides ILL/DD where change is taking place. At the bottom of the grid, some sample influences were listed and divided into three categories: Library departments, library issues, and issues external to libraries. The second column, labeled "pressure point/change trend for Influence," was meant as a place to record how the Influence itself is changing. The third column was a place to note how the changes in the Influence will affect ILL/DD operations.

Because these labels might have been a bit confusing, an example was provided. Using "space issues" as the Influence, the pressure on libraries to move print collections offsite in order to reclaim space for other, more social use was noted in the second column. In the third column, the major effects this trend will have on ILL/DD operations were listed.

SHARES participants were encouraged to try to examine at least five influences, fill out the rest of a two-sided worksheet (.pdf: 14K/2 pp.) and choose at least one influence from each category. Participants could feel free to invent new influences or categories that weren't currently included.

All comments and suggestions were welcome. At the end of our discussion in Anaheim, we had an interesting picture of where the resource sharing business is headed. (A recap is forthcoming.)