Sierra Valley Library Network Meeting/Speaker
By Fred Batt, Associate Dean, Library Administration

I attended the recent Administrative Council meeting of Sierra Valley Library Network (SVLN). This is the network within the Library of California that includes CSUS and UC Davis as well as an array of academic, public, special and school libraries in multiple counties. This network began with a planning meeting in March 1999. It was incorporated in January 2001 and the initial Council meeting was in March 2001. It has been involved in activities such as offering grants, providing Z39.50 to libraries, offering group purchases of electronic databases (CSUS benefited by getting our NewsBank subscriptions subsidized by SVLN), conducting technology needs assessments, offering delivery to libraries (including school libraries) among other projects. Their money dried up when the Library of California project was no longer funded during recent statewide budget reductions. It is not a pretty picture. Funding will soon run out and the Board of Directors needs to make a recommendation as to whether or not SVLN can somehow be sustainable. Should SVLN simply hibernate? Or disband?

Meanwhile, CSUS, UC Davis, etc. are also part of the libraries that are being serviced by Mountain-Valley Library System (MVLS). MVLS is still above water, supported by State and local funds and with a healthy budget reserve. I am also on their Administrative Council.

The speaker at the SVLN meeting was R. Bruce Miller, Library Director at the new University of California, Merced. He is in the enviable and challenging position to actually plan a library from the ground up --- a clean slate. Of course he started with access to the 34 million volume UC collections as well as the UC Digital Library! Miller was able to focus on access and rapid delivery. Ownership became secondary. He found that the traditional boundaries are somewhat erased, e.g., he is not only a library director but also a museum director, i.e., he manages information objects.

His library offers 24/7 online access to dorms, offices and elsewhere. Ad hoc instruction is made available on-demand in the classrooms (remember the whole campus is new and will be completely wired/wireless). Online reference is offered. But what about the library as “place?” They decided to co-mingle student services and the library. The forthcoming building (Fall 2005) will offer a myriad of spaces to meet, study and collaborate. Some areas will be noisy and busy. Some will be quiet, contemplative. Furniture will be quite varied. (This sounds like the direction that we are also aiming in our renovation as well as pre-renovation projects.)

In the interim, they are providing services for initial faculty researchers by acquiring and implementing library information systems. UC Davis is serving as a surrogate for circulation and UCLA offers temporary proxy services. They are going with Innovative Interfaces Millennium (envision trying to get this into place with a staff of five!). They are using RFID (radio frequency identification) to facilitate security, inventory and self-check. As for books, they received an excessive number of books as gifts (maintaining about 11,000) and have set up a Yankee Book Peddler approval plan. Books will arrive completely shelf ready. The library is also being very aggressive with digitization projects, e.g., Million Books Project ), a Japanese Art project , Mercedian (digitization of an internment camp newsletter), a Chinese seal project, Japanese medicine wood block prints and other endeavors.

The library will actually have no permanent “library only” computers as well as no permanent computers in instruction labs (except for one cutting edge instruction room tied to a gift). Streaming video will be an important tool. There will be no OPAC terminals but laptops will be loaned. Plasma and LED panel video and data display will be part of the mix. In lieu of a map collection, a large plotter will be used along with web resources. There will be no specialized computer furniture --- instead they will implement “ad hoc computer and instruction rooms.” The library will be constructed in a manner where you can see outside from everywhere in the building. In fact, they are taking the concept of a “library without walls” quite literally --- some walls will rise like a garage door.