It’s Still Blue Skies at the U.Maine Library (part 2)

Since I posted Part 1 of my blog in mid-May, there have been some important  administrative changes that bear on the funding of the U.Maine Fogler  Library for the coming years. First, the resignation of President Ferguson to become the head of Ball State in Muncie, Indiana, has meant the pending departure of a second key administrator who strongly supported the library, following the earlier departure of Vice President for Finance Janet Waldron, always a steadfast library supporter. They will both be missed by all library patrons.

Thanks to their support, part of the first floor reference area has been redeveloped into three separate rooms for use by the Writing Center, the Tutor Program, and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Assessment. Existing facilities elsewhere on campus for the first two remain open, but in the library’s reconfiguration all three programs all three are now centrally located and available for both individual and small group appointments. The Center is also available for faculty workshops.

Under President Ferguson’s Blue Sky Plan, U.Maine was to become the nation’s foremost “student centered” public university. Such a claim is, of course, subject to dispute, but more important is the reality of Fogler Library at least becoming ever more student centered. Even in summer, with far fewer students on campus than during the regular academic year, Fogler Library has lots of students–and faculty and staff–utilizing its resources. So much, to repeat, for those once common visions of deserted libraries in our high-tech culture.

Less visible, however, but no less important, has been the creation of the Digital Commons. This project allows for faculty, staff, graduate students, and some undergraduates to have their research papers and publications digitized and made available to a limitless number of readers. The original plan was to have a Digital Commons for each of the seven System campuses. Each campus librarian and some System administrators pushed for funding by the System.

Guess what? The System refused to spend a nickel on the project. Why? I suspect that because this enterprise was purely intellectual in nature–the latest version of the centuries-old dissemination of knowledge for its own sake–it was held in contempt by the powers that be as a waste of precious dollars. Better to spend millions on consultants for more serious matters than spreading the fruits of faculty and student research throughout the world. Better to waste over $100,000 for an unneeded report on recruiting international students that admittedly was superseded by signed agreements well before the 37–page report was finished. But who’s counting? At least these expenditures were not, God forbid, for faculty or students.

Thankfully for Orono, then Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Sue Hunter came to the rescue by securing internal funding for the U.Maine Digital Commons from various sources on campus. The Digital Commons began to be set up in fall 2011. The initial content was added in 2012. It has since become a very popular means of elevating U.Maine’s research to an unprecedented degree. Happily, the University of Southern Maine has been able to establish its own Digital Commons, the source of funding for which I don’t know. The five smaller campuses, alas, remain bereft of this asset. Throughout the state of Maine there are now eight additional Digital Commons up and running.

Consequently, the pending return of current System Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs  Hunter to the Interim Presidency of U.Maine is a very reassuring development for those of us who use and care about Fogler Library.

Welcome back, Sue!