Friday, November 09, 2012

Conference notes LAC 2012: Plenary I (Simons Keynote)

Plenary I: Keynote.
Date: October 29, 2012, 10:45am
Speaker: John Simmons, Provost, University of Virginia (UVa)
Topic: "Dollars and Sense: the New Financial Realities of Higher Education."

(As before, any personal impressions or additions I will put in parenthesis. Otherwise, these are my notes as I heard them)

The three topics of the lecture:
  1. the challenges facing public higher education. 
  2. the University of Virginia finding faculty. 
  3. what it means for libraries in general. 
(Simmons mentioned an October issue of The Economist for October 2012 he recently received shortly before this lecture. He did not give specific date, but based on the speech, I am guessing he refers to this special report on technology. I did check the TOC's for the print issues of the month, and none seemed to have anything on technology or higher education related to his speech).

Simmons referred to Time magazine's October 29, 2012 issue (vol. 180.18) on the topic of "Reinventing College."

Factoid: 1/4 of financial aid goes to for-profits, but those schools have the major dropout rates.

(Again, see Generation on a Tightrope for further reading on the topic of disconnect between college administrators and lay people).

  • (Again. This is also consistent with Lombardi's keynote): The core of a good university is its faculty. Faculty feel they need access to all knowledge in their field. Research schools compete for the same pool of new faculty to hire. UVa authorized 57 faculty searches this year. 
    • This means universities need to rethink strategic plans. Previous plans have been about where we've been and what we've done versus implementation. 
    • Mentioned the book The Strategist. (as often happens in these lectures, speakers just toss out a title with little to no details. I am not going to comment further on the irony of a speaker in a librarian conference not providing a proper citation. Based on context and title, I am thinking he referred to Cohen's book here. If anyone knows different, feel free to comment). 
  • The library comes in for the role of providing access to online resources (databases, etc.). UVa library has partnerships with their information services people via various laboratories. Also, there is assistance with digital literacy, which goes with online education.  However, online education is not a replacement. UVa sees technology as a way to deliver information, then use face to face time for application, so on (flipped classrooms maybe? Reminds me we had a presentation on just that topic a couple of weeks back. I have to find my notes on that). 
    • Suggested for us to check out "recent" Washington Post articles on UVa. (No, he did not specify which ones. I am thinking this was a self-pat on the back).
    • Suggested for us to read, or reread, Huxley's Brave New World.
  • What this all means: 
    • The library will always play a role. However, students and faculty may not realize how much they rely on the library: online access, digital labs, etc. Many initiatives are funded by the library.
    • Access and preservation fall to the library. 
  • What libraries need to do:  
    • Align priorities with their institution's strategic goals. 
    • Show faculty what you do. 
    • Ask what can you let go to pursue new opportunities. (Implied is that you then let go whatever it is you identified).
    • Focus on users and their needs. 
    • Provide leadership and teaching opportunities (this, I would have loved to hear more about). 
    • Collaborate with others on and off campus. 
  • Students as "traditioned innovators." Librarians then have the role of enabling this: understanding of the past and how to bring it in to innovate. 
From the Q&A:

  • How to get involved in "budget battles" (at least internally) and not neglect your constituencies? (this also comes from Lombardi's speech). 
    • Librarians do need to have a voice with planners, budget people, so on. (Yes, that was about the extent of the answer. Kind of vague and general). 
  • Need to correct the perception that faculty meetings are not congenial. Collaborations are often found around campus. The library needs to create opportunities so the provost and other administrators can engage with the library, so they can see how they do need to support the library and thus support campus scholarship. 
  • Any administrator needs to know his/her landscape and know the areas of excellence for his campus (i.e. don't try to be an R-1 if that is not what you are). 

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