Q:  In the near future the library will be moving out of the physical space it now occupies. I know there’s been much thought and discussion about such a huge relocation. What do you see as the chief reasons for the move?

A:  I can think of two reasons. First, given the library model of the future, the actual building, wasn’t needed. The collection’s online, the databases are online and the librarian now comes to you. The second reason, the more practical reason is simply---the physical space. The library is very expensive to maintain.  If we no longer take up the actual space and don’t have to pay for that space, we can use that money for better purposes.   There was a period when we tried to get people to come to the library so they could get exposed to the books and we provided them with study space, and reading space. We got quite wrapped up in the idea of getting patrons in the door. But that was then, and this is now. Does it make sense for students to come to the library, or does it make more sense for students to have places of study in the building with their classroom? Students like to be in environments where they can do multiple things. Most people’s concept of a library is ---the personal service. We felt it was important for patrons to have the actual services of a real human being.  Individual help.  Because the technology allows us to do it, we decided we could offer individualized service. Having a real relationship with a real librarian seems to make a difference. You can now have a librarian work with you. This led to the development of the Informationists.    

 

Q:   Everyone who works at Welch is well aware that our pride and joy is the online collection. Are you proud of the strides we’ve made with respect to the growth of the collection?

A:  I would say we’ve worked very hard over the years to find out what’s needed, and then to go get these materials. We’ve worked very hard to stretch our budget---Certainly the growth of the collection is partly the result of publishers, virtually everything is online, and this has happened faster in medicine than in other fields. 

Q:  How did the growth of the collection factor into the decision to leave the library?

 

A:  The electronic collection grew, the physical collection shrunk.  The physical collection can shrink further because we have many older volumes that are now available electronically. The challenge was whether users wanted to come to the library to get it, or have it on their computer, right there in the office. 

Q:  Are you pleased with the strides Welch is making in implementing such a new model of operations? 

A:  Yes.  The challenge of the collection is mostly related to the budget but also finding out what people need. It’s the job of the library Director to see what we can do next, and then, what we can do after that.

There’s also something else that’s worth mentioning………….I’m not unaware that these transitions represent very big changes for the people who work at the library. So the human element, the emotional aspects---I’d put those right up there on the list of major challenges. I think what we started with was a vague idea that people could do other jobs.  We merged the circulation desk---it’s now the Welch Service Center desk---it used to be the circulation/reference. That desk now handles circulation, along with some reference questions and it serves as a referral desk for questions that are relayed to our Informationists. That move worked, so we moved on to “well, what other changes can be made with other jobs?”  Now, this isn’t a perfect system. We’ve tried to do it as gradually and as gently as possible. Part of this is adapting jobs to the work load. That’s the kind of thing you have to do sometimes. Go from where you were, to where you need to be next. I’d be the first one to admit that this kind of transition is very hard to do. For many people there’s a great comfort in doing the same thing. But if that thing is no longer needed, then what?

Q:  What progress do you see in the immediate future regarding the transitions the library is faced with?  

A:  We’re going to have a busy summer because we’re moving a lot of the collection to recycling, and people see that as a very big deal. It does mean a lot of work, because things have to be identified and we have to be sure the right items go to the right places. What needs to be weeded out, what needs to be saved.  I was talking to some faculty in the School of Public Health. When I finished presenting, one of the faculty blurted out, “you’re taking away my library!” and before I could respond another person said, “but you don’t go there”.  As we get closer and closer to things happening we’ll, of course, go back and repeat just what led us to our decisions, and what we see as the future. That faculty member who thought we were taking away his library was referring to the physical place.

 


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