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A Case Study of the Reorganization of the Libraries at Oxford University UISK, Charles University Prague 9 March 2006. Academic Libraries are Experimenting with New Structures. Centralized or decentralized Many new types of positions Still usually hierarchical structure

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A Case Study of the Reorganization of the Libraries at Oxford UniversityUISK, Charles UniversityPrague9 March 2006

academic libraries are experimenting with new structures
Academic Libraries are Experimenting with New Structures
  • Centralized or decentralized
  • Many new types of positions
  • Still usually hierarchical structure
  • Different Configurations—mergers with computer centers or public libraries
bodleian library is the largest and best known library at oxford
Bodleian Library is the largest and best known library at Oxford

Over the past nine years it and most of the other libraries at Oxford have been undergoing a process of integration and reorganization

this restructuring mirrors that done in many other types of organizations as a result of
This restructuring mirrors that done in many other types of organizations as a result of:
  • Reduced budgets
  • Increased use of automation
  • Changing expectations of users
  • Increasing importance of digital materials
began to study the integration process in january 1997
Began to study the integration process in January 1997.
  • Made six trips to Oxford and interviewed most of the key players
  • Read documents including public documents, committee minutes, and memos
  • Used email to communicate between visits
  • Outsider to process-provided objectivity
  • Limitations
oxford today
Oxford Today
  • 39 colleges
  • 16,000 students
  • 25% of students are international
  • 130 nationalities represented
oxford university
Oxford University
  • The University and the colleges work together. The colleges
    • Admit their own students
    • Provide the bulk of the instruction
    • Provide living and dining spaces
    • Provide common rooms and sports facilities
    • And each has its own library
the university
The University
  • Provides the framework within which the college teaching takes place. The university
    • Determines the content of the courses
    • Sets examinations
    • Awards degrees
    • Provides a wide range of resources for teaching and learning such as laboratories, museums and libraries.
oxford libraries past and present
Oxford Libraries—Past and Present
  • Many College Libraries are older than the University’s libraries
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The Beginning of a Central University Library

In the 1430s, Duke Humfrey endowed the university with his collection of books and gave money for a room to be built above the Divinity School.

bodley provided the library with
Bodley provided the library with:
  • Books
  • An endowment
  • A large number of benefactors
  • Its first librarian, Thomas James
  • An agreement with the Stationers’ Company in 1610 making it the first deposit library in Great Britain
  • A set of rules that still affect the library
before the reorganization the oxford library system was made up of over 100 autonomous libraries
Before the reorganization the Oxford library system was made up of over 100 autonomous libraries:
  • The Bodleian and its dependent libraries
  • The 39 College Libraries
  • The Departmental Libraries
  • The Faculty Libraries
  • The Ashmolean, Taylorean, etc.
why the need to change
Why the need to change?

Oxford had an extremely rich and diverse library service provided by over one hundred libraries

  • Too many autonomous libraries
  • Too little space
  • Too much duplication
  • Many small library were expensive to maintain
  • Need for pan-university services such as preservation, automation, staff development and information technology
  • University itself is trying to streamline
the need for integration had been apparent for a long time
The need for integration had been apparent for a long time:
  • Shackleton Report (1966)
  • Nicholas Report (1987)
  • Thomas Report ( 1995)
  • Kenny Report (1995)
the challenge confronting the libraries was
The Challenge Confronting the Libraries was:

How can a group of libraries, most all with long-standing histories and traditions, be integrated into a single system? How can the appropriate balance between the past and the present be achieved?

the libraries were tied together by their shared cataloging system
The libraries were tied together by their shared cataloging system
  • OLIS brought in a union catalog, central authority control, and training
  • People in diverse libraries across the university became accustomed to working together on committees, etc.
  • Automation began to break down the isolation among the Oxford libraries
rivalry between the bodleian and other libraries on campus based on
Rivalry between the Bodleian and other libraries on campus based on:
  • Size
  • Prestige
  • Different funding authorities and governing bodies
  • Different populations of users
  • Different attitudes towards service to users
    • Circulation
    • Photocopying
as a result of the thomas and kenney reports
As a result of the Thomas and Kenney Reports

The job description for the post set up clearly the expectations for the new librarian

“Following Consultation after publication of the various reports, the University has decided to establish the new, very senior library appointment and to charge its holder with the task, amongst other duties, of submitting within three years details proposals for creating an integrated library system for the University under the direction of the new officer.”

( From position advertisement of Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian: Further Particulars)

reg carr is hired as director of university library services and bodley s librarian
Reg Carr is hired as Director of University Library Services and Bodley’s Librarian

Arrived in Oxford in January 1997.

Came from University of Leeds where he had been library director for 10 years

hired with the mandate remit to bring a plan for an integrated library within three years
Hired with the mandate “remit” to bring a plan for an integrated library within three years
  • Advantages
  • Disadvantages
what libraries were to be included in the integrated system
What libraries were to be included in the “integrated system?”
  • The Bodleian and its dependents
  • The faculty libraries
  • The Ashmolean, Taylorean,
  • Not included were:
    • The college libraries
    • The departmental libraries
steps on the way to an integrated library
Steps on the way to an integrated library
  • Framework for the Millennium (1998)
  • Bodleian Library Staff Newsletter became the Oxford University Staff Newsletter and then Outline.
  • On February 8, 2000, Congregation approved the Library’s Committee proposals for integration
  • Integration formally began in Autumn of 2000—Libraries Committee replaced by Curators of the University Libraries.
the path toward integration
The Path toward Integration
  • Very difficult
  • Problems with communication—what employees wanted to hear was impossible to say
  • Problems with participation in planning
  • Organizational inertia—both in the University and the Libraries
a new type of director
A new type of director
  • The “invisible” director-Wasn’t seen in the canteen or around the library
  • Tensions between internal and external management duties
  • President of RLG—many trips to the US for RLG meetings and to fund-raise
  • Criticized for
  • Not being a scholar
  • Being an outsider
  • Being too much of a modern manager
    • “Users” instead of “readers”
    • “ Human Resources” instead of “staff”
difficulty of change for the staff
Difficulty of change for the staff
  • Great loyalty to their own “part” of the library
  • Suspicion that other “parts” were being listened to more
  • Dealing with a “legacy” system that had been in place for hundreds of years
  • Oxford as a university has not been receptive to change
  • Many had never worked elsewhere—cosmopolitan vs. locals
how is success be measured
How is success be measured?

According to the Thomas report of 1995 the guiding principle of the integration is: "any changes that might be proposed must have as their prime justification the improvement of the overall service provided to users of Oxford's libraries. Altering existing arrangements solely for the sake of administrative tidiness cannot be justified if it results in a less satisfactory service."

is it better for the libraries users
Is it better for the Libraries’ Users?

Hard to judge because the integration effort was accompanied by a general cutback in funding across the university

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Difficult to tease out the impact of integration from other confounding factors in measuring satisfaction for users.
some costly missteps affected the integration process
Some costly missteps affected the integration process
  • Automated Stack System inoperable at first
  • Visitor’s Centre Plan--”The Oxford Theme Park” – created huge opposition and diverted attention from the integration plan
  • Lack of space has forced library units to move to outlying areas
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A review process was built into the original planning and the report of the review committee was issued in 2003

What were the results?

the review found overwhelming positive support for the principle of integration
The review found overwhelming positive support for the principle of integration

Service to readers has improved

  • Opening of some libraries on Sundays before exams
  • Common photocopying card
  • Much appreciated automated stack request
  • Closer involvement with users
  • Greater availability of electronic resources
however the integration process has not been without its difficulties
However, “the integration process has not been without its difficulties. ”
  • Individual libraries had been used to being “independent”
  • Staff resistance to change
  • Pressures that have arisen from “wider organisational and financial contexts”
  • But further integration is recommended
impact on library staff
Impact on Library Staff
  • Change is difficult
  • Morale is low
  • Fewer numbers mean more work to be done
  • Many key staff members have either retired or gone to other positions
there was more optimism on my last visit
There was more optimism on my last visit
  • Less animosity towards the director
  • More flexibility in staffing
  • More libraries have joined and all of the departmental will be part of system within next few year
  • Plans to consolidate some of the smaller units
  • More acceptance of the unified system
  • Discussion of renaming the system the Bodleian Oxford University Library system
the transformed libraries at oxford
The Transformed Libraries at Oxford
  • OULS is now is largest integrated library system in the UK and among the largest of any in the world
  • 38 libraries, and its holding of more than 11 million printed items.
  • A staff of over 660 and an annual budget of more than 25 million pounds.
  • Although there are still 42 departments maintaining their own libraries outside of OULS, the libraries within the system represent more 96% of the university’s budget for libraries..
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Almost seven hundred years after the founding of the first library intended for the entire University, Oxford now has a centralized system of libraries that should position it well to meet the information needs of its faculty and students
what next
What Next?
  • Long range effects of this process are still not known although the outlook appears to be good
  • New staff members will arrive
  • How long will the memory of the “integration” process remain?
  • Next phase of research