"IU Bloomington Libraries:  Leading the Way to the Future"

Excellence in Academic Libraries Award Celebration
Wells Library Lobby
April 1, 2010

IU’s sixteenth President Myles Brand once said, “The work of the university is to safeguard and transmit the knowledge of the past while simultaneously leading the way to the future… We simply cannot do that work without our libraries.”1

Today, as we celebrate Indiana University’s outstanding libraries—and the IU Bloomington libraries in particular—we also recognize the vital and changing role our libraries play in preserving and transmitting knowledge.

IU’s first President Andrew Wylie made clear the importance of the university’s library when, within months of accepting his position, he commenced a trip East to collect books for the IU collection. In reporting the success of the trip, the university trustees noted that “the College has a library of 235 volumes, so assorted as to embrace history, geography, belles lettres, and treatises on chemistry and mental and moral philosophy.” 2 (By way of comparison, I have about 245 books on the bookshelves in my Bryan Hall office alone!)

Since those early years, the library, like the university, has continued to safeguard and transmit the knowledge of the past as it has grown in size and complexity. It has grown from those initial 235 to a collection that includes nearly 8 million books in over 900 languages. It has evolved from what we might consider a traditional library into a 21st century library where students, faculty, and visitors from around the world have access to some of the most advanced digital resources, including nearly 700 databases, over 60,000 electronic journals, and over 800,000 electronic books, as well as locally developed digital content. Clearly, the role of the library as a physical repository of knowledge has been utterly transformed in the digital age and will continue to be so transformed.

But libraries are no longer measured by the number of books on their shelves or the number of terabytes on their servers. They are now measured by the services they provide and the information they make available.

The Information Commons, for example, just across the lobby, offers students access to a technology-infused learning center every hour of every day. I must add that my wife Laurie and I were coming home from the airport very early one Saturday morning, and decided to stop here at the library on our way home. It must have been about 2:30 in the morning, and the Information Commons was nearly fifty percent full. This, of course, speaks volumes about the diligence of our students here at IU. Among the first of its kind, it remains a model for libraries across the country.

IU was also a leader in the creation of the HathiTrust3, a shared digital library that currently includes 5.6 million fully searchable volumes. And IU’s groundbreaking Digital Library Program, established over a decade ago, has helped IU maintain our national leadership in digital library development in a host of different areas. Each of these examples, and many others I could name, demonstrate the partnerships our libraries have forged with units across campus and the especially strong partnership between our libraries and University Information Technology Services or UITS.

These projects also reinforce the history of strong leadership that has guided our libraries over the years. Let me recognize, in particular, Pat Steele and Carolyn Walters, both of whom served as interim dean of University Libraries and helped continue the libraries’ great progress over the course of about five years.

Such leadership, which continues in the capable hands of Dean Brenda Johnson, is only part of the story. IU librarians and library staff members are truly the rest of the story, providing the knowledge and expertise to guide library patrons towards their many and varied goals. You are the reason library patrons, projects, and partnerships have succeeded over the years. In fact, you are the reason we are here today.

The Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries recognizes your dedication and achievement in supporting Indiana University education and research and in making IU Bloomington Libraries a national leader.

This award suggests the high standards towards which we strive as an institution: standards that lead the nation.

I cannot think of a better way to welcome Dean Johnson to Indiana University and to the great challenges and opportunities of her new position.

We are deeply proud of this achievement and grateful to the librarians and library staff members who made this possible.

Congratulations, and thank you all very much.

Source Notes

  1. “Mellon Grant Will Fund IU Library’s Preservation Activities.” Press Release. Indiana University Office of Communications and Marketing. 3 April 2001. http://newsinfo.iu.edu/OCM/releases/libpreserve.htm
  2. Banta, David Demaree. “History of Indiana University.” Indiana University, 1820-1920: Centennial Memorial Volume. Bloomington: IU P, 1921. Page 63. http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924032541355#page/n65/mode/2up
  3. For more information, please visit the HathiTrust’s Web site at http://www.hathitrust.org/.