ProQuest Day Open speech: Towards a more qualitative, innovative and balanced growth

Posted on 七月 11th, 2018 in 感悟 by jzwu

Thank you so much for the invitation. I bet no one in this room could know ProQuest earlier than me. 33 years ago, I attended the IFLA Chicago conference and had a chance to visit UMI in Ann Arbor. I was very much impressed by the company’s services, and also the weight it gave to the research community. When I went back home, I had written a professional report which I had mentioned my impressions on UMI. I told my colleagues that UMI was not just a company, but also a research base, since it was a must-have databank for all research institutions. Today, I am happy to see that ProQuest has kept the same spirit, which is “service first”. Yes, a good company should be “service centered”, while a bad company is “sales centered”.
I had worked in a public library for a long time, until I became an academic librarian recently, in January 2018. These two types of libraries are very different. It seems to me that the distance between the university library and the users are closer and you are able to see immediate effect of your service. While in a public library, the user is something like a conceptual term. As a city librarian, I can make any decisions on my own. However, in a university library, my role is only a housekeeper of the collection.
I found today’s meeting slogan quite meaningful. “Empower Your Library with Better Research, Better Learning & Better Insights” surely stirs up my feeling and can reflect my thinking these days. If I am not able to provide professors and students with good research and good learning supports, I cannot be a good librarian. In this slogan, the word “better” is emphasized. Not only with better research and learning, but also with better insights, meaning that we have to look ahead. To look ahead, we need to stand firm. That would be my worry because “good” is not so easy. I am also fond of the word “insights”, meaning that we should have our own vision and clairvoyance. Library is now in transition and that is why we should have a better understanding of where we will go and what we will achieve. Here I want to use three “more” to correspond with your three “better”: more qualitative, more innovative and more balanced growth.
First of all, more qualitative. We are in a social movement of quality development. In the past years we have been striving hard in order to catch up with the world standards and some of our quantitative scores are no less favorable that of the West. Our building is larger, collection is bigger and circulation is busier, in one word, we have first-class facilities and hard wares. But what about the quality and efficiency, what about return on investment (ROI)? For such a long time, very few had cared about any of this. At the end of the last century, there was a movement of performance measurement in the library field. And since the beginning of this century, the image and value of the library were being questioned. What is the brand of a library and what is the real value in library services? The librarianship is facing a transition globally. From book centered to knowledge centered, the whole paradigm is changing. Although paradigm shift is a bitter process, we must follow the times to change.
The second is more innovative. As you may not know, library is one of the most traditional professions in the world. It is basically an archiving organization. People in the library field are used to work lonely and in a quiet place. There are evidences showing that librarians or library scholars are less active when it comes to cooperation with other disciplines and professions. In this e-society generation, everything is connected. As an information institution, libraries must bear the responsibilities of information organizations and service provider. Therefore, librarians should get rid of conservative behaviors and reach out to the society. Today the image and skills of librarians are changing. Librarians can make use of their professions, for instance, knowledge management and information skill, to serve our stakeholders. As an example, the UM Library used some tools to measure academic value of selected subjects of UM, and compiled newsletters with forefront information for managements. We are also developing digital humanities with our faculty members.
Last, but not the least, is more balanced. When I first arrived in UM in January this year, it was the budget season. My boss asked me to prepare a proposal for next year’s budget and to do a benchmarking study on library budget. This benchmarking study had provided me with information that I did not know before as a librarian in a public library. To my surprise, the proportion of budget that the UM library use for e-resource subscription is as high as 92%, and the figures were similar for the past few years. I also noticed that many academic libraries had similar situation. This means we have less money to build up our physical collections. The study also showed that the percentage of library budget in universities has been declining since the last 50 years, from 5% to 2-3%. I suppose there are two reasons for this. First, the library collection becomes less important to the university’s strategic resources. In old days, when you name three resources in a university, library collection is surely one of them. But today, in addition to supporting learning and research, universities are also taking up a new mission, which is knowledge transfer and cooperation. The so-called the third mission needs a lot of money. The second reason for such tendency is that in an e-society, e-resources are preferable and easily accessible. However, we still need books and other resources. In my library, I believe the budget for e-resources vs. physical resources should be kept a balance with the ratio at least at 8:2. Therefore, I had proposed for an additional budget for books next year. I would like to take this opportunity to call for your help and advice in the readjusting practice in the university libraries. Publishers and libraries have a shared mission: we are all knowledge providers. Therefore, we should work together to find better solutions for our clients.
At last, I would like to thank you again for your long-term, continuous support and guidance. Wish you all the best and have a successful seminar! Thank you.


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我有幸参与了多次世博论坛。2005年首届世博论坛在上海花园饭店举行,我做了一个有关文化遗产的发言。印象最深的一次是2007年的第四届世博论坛,我主持了一个分论坛。夏邦杰先生提出了一个很好的建议,即不要完全仿照日本爱知世博会的全拆型(here today gone tomorrow)的模式,一定要建几个永久性的标志性场馆。当时,我也将此意见反映给上海世博局领导,希望能重视他的意见。虽然后来确定一轴四馆不完全与夏邦杰先生的建议有关,但他的意见为我们正确决策还是起了一定作用的。





Posted on 六月 11th, 2018 in 感悟 by jzwu



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