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Campus libraries seek a more perfect union

| 21 April 2004

UC Berkeley library patrons often assume that all of the campus’s archives and library collections are part of a single library system with a common catalog, common policies, and a common source of funding. But as a new task-force report discusses, there are more sectors to the Berkeley library system than meet the eye. There is also room for improving communication and cooperation among them, in the interest of serving the needs of students, faculty, and other library patrons.

As the report explains, the entity known as The Library consists of Doe, Bancroft, Moffitt, and 17 major branch libraries across the campus (such as the engineering and music libraries). Ten more “affiliated libraries,” administratively decentralized and physically dispersed, receive much of their funding from specific departments, professional schools, or organized research units, in such fields as agricultural economics, governmental studies, and law. (Departmental collections with no trained librarian on staff are yet another species of campus library.)

Seven librarians from The Library and the Affiliated Libraries formed a task force last fall to look at relationships between the two sectors — what works, and what needs improvement. Their report covers areas of mutual concern: collections, communication, public services, external funding, on-line catalogs, academic and non-academic staff career development and advancement, public relations and outreach, special projects, and administrative structure. The public services section, for example, discusses the fact that the campus’s GLADIS/Pathfinder catalog does not contain full records or circulation information for all books held in all campus libraries — although library patrons often assume it does. The task force highlights potential confusion for patrons, and recommends that campus libraries work toward fully integrating the catalog system.

Some of the report’s 24 recommendations, like the one just mentioned, are long-term action items, while others are “quick and easy” to implement, says task force member Linda Vida, director of the affiliated Water Resources Center Archives. As an indirect result of task-force efforts, Vida has just been elected to a two-year term as chair of The Affiliated Libraries Administrative Group (TALAG).

The creation of a formal leadership structure for the affiliated libraries is an “historic” development, says Lillian Castillo-Speed, head of the Ethnic Studies Library in the affiliated system and task force co-chair (along with Associate University Librarian Isabel Stirling from The Library). TALAG has been a loose association for years, says Castillo-Speed: “We come together at moments of crisis, then don’t see each other for months.” TALAG, under Vida’s leadership, intends to meet regularly, create an enhanced Web presence, and work for improved collaboration among the campus library sectors.