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How many reference librarians is enough?

This perfectly reasonable question turns out to be unanswerable, if by answer we mean a number, or even a formula. The best I can offer is this: if we assume that reference librarians primarily provide student academic support, then the library should look for guidance to the University’s undergraduate market niche.

Ground floor collaborative space, #2

The ground floor collaborative space needs a name, and names require money.

Next generation search at Atkins

The Library has decided to migrate from its current search infrastructure to a new one, an OCLC product called WMS. You can take a look at a current WMS installation here. We expect the 49er version to be in production by August, 2013.

Pork Belly Collections

Throughout the history of higher education, library collections have been an important source of competitive advantage. This is natural given that collections support determined what kind of academic work was possible at an institution. But it also flowed from the nature of collection building, which consists of expensive piecework of the most demanding sort. It’s not surprising that prestige accrued to the institutions that committed themselves to this work long ago.

The Academic Library’s Existential Threat

The biggest threat to the academic library is the low expectations of their communities. Sometimes these expectations are oriented in a positive direction, based on fondly-remembered book and quiet places, the smells and grand spaces. The alternative is negative, the casual assumption that libraries have nothing more to offer in a digital age. Both are outdated to the point of toxicity: nostalgia and dismissiveness turn out to be two sides of a very bad coin.

Why can’t they be more like the library?

Academic libraries in the US operate according to an academic support model that is so old and so pervasive that it has become like water to fish: nobody notices it, least of all those who practice it. But given the current feverish interest in academic performance, it may be time to ask whether every academic support unit shouldn’t look more like the library.

Is Collections Funding a Black Hole?

There is no amount of money that a research library is not prepared to spend on collections. More is always better, even if the increments of benefit get progressively smaller as expenditures go up. The problem is that even declining benefits can be excellent investments. How to know?
The answer is easy at UNC Charlotte: there is no black hole.

Search Infrastructure

Last week, John Doe and Dave Jones, two brilliant UNCC graduate students presented a proposal for a digital product for our library. Their presentation began with a series of photos of the library’s search process, with the caption “The search process is not a pretty sight.” Ouch! It hurts to hear blunt truths like this, but the pain is a healthy reminder of the urgency we all feel in making search better.


If you were to judge only from the steady stream of books that will be filling up the Library’s new book shelves in the coming year, you might miss a truly epochal change about to take place. Over the next few weeks, Atkins will begin receiving some of its current scholarly books in electronic format only. These books will come to us through Project Muse, which distributes high quality work from a long list of academic presses.

Collections Funding

Sometimes it’s great just to be good.  Collection funding in the fiscal year just completed was just ordinary: almost $4 million spent between serials (82%, $3.3M) and books (18%, $.7M).
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