The Olive Tree
This fall was a busy one for members of the Presidential Task Force on Libraries as they prepared the report that would serve as the foundation on which UMaine builds its case to lawmakers and Maine citizens this legislative session about the need for investment in the state's largest library.
According to Task Force Chair George Jacobson, "The task force report will help explain to the legislature and state how the University would invest the state's money, why such an investment in Fogler Library is important, and how it fits into the new educational and research initiatives for Maine. We need a serious investment to be competitive in education and research as a library and a state."
Decisions made about Fogler Library will not only determine its
ability to meet campus information needs, but will affect the nature of
information accessibility throughout the state, Jacobson says. Through
investment in a statewide resource, Fogler will provide digital access
and expanded collections not only for other libraries but for research
organizations and corporations.
As an outgrowth of the R&D initiative that passed in the last legislative session, Fogler was designated as the state's science and technology library. This session, the Maine legislature is expected to take up the University of Maine System's request for $61 million to help fund nine capital construction projects in the next two years. Of that legislative request, $17 million is earmarked for
construction of an addition to Fogler. A capital construction priority on campus for several years, the library addition project is sited on the south side of Fogler and would cost a total of $25 million.
The last major capital improvements to Fogler occurred in 1977 with the construction of the first addition. A 1997 bond issue included money to improve safety and handicapped access to Fogler.
"When I first came here in 1979, the third floor of the library was empty. Now it is packed," says Jacobson. "Some of the study areas are being squeezed. The library is out of space for new acquisitions. User space is not adequate and we are not prepared to take advantage of technologies that should be available for students and faculty. The plan is to build a structure that not only increases storage and studying space, but one that is attractive and efficient to use, as adaptable to the technological future as we can make it."
In addition to addressing inadequate space in the library, the task force is also focusing on collections. During the budget cuts of the 1990's, the library's acquisitions budget was protected. However, in the past decade, the number of academic publications increased and costs of journal subscriptions skyrocketed.
"What is most striking is that Fogler has not ordered a new academic journal since 1991 because of budget constraints," Jacobson says. "In the past decade, new academic and research disciplines have emerged. We need a good representation of journals in these emerging fields, especially when the areas are R&D priorities."
Acquisition and access to the latest academic and research journals will advance with the creation of a digital library. In 1998, a digital library project initiated by University Library Directors positioned System Libraries to create digital collections and services, and to provide access to them through a common gateway called Mariner.
An estimated $2.7 million is now needed for full implementation of a digital library. As a digital library, Fogler will continue to have hard copies of books and many journals. But increasingly, electronic versions of journals will be available, allowing library users to not only access issues, but use links to related resources on the Web.
"With investment, we can offer a resource that is available to the state in a way we've never been able to do before," Jacobson says. "After visiting with other university libraries that have recently been built or upgraded with new technology, we discovered that Fogler is more advanced technologically, given its budget, than we ever imagined. Not many libraries have been brought into the computer age much better. That is a tribute to Elaine Albright (Dean of Cultural Affairs and Libraries).
Jacobson is still quick to remind, "However, when visualizing the development of technology in libraries in the next few years, it's clear that we are only at the beginning."