A few months ago, I called a special full-day meeting of the University Library Council. I felt that, as a group, we were due to step back from immediate concerns and review our priorities, individually as well as collectively. Common problems are the most salient for the ULC as a group. But our solutions to common problems are obviously informed by distinctly different situations within the individual faculties. In calling our retreat, I hoped to achieve two outcomes. The first was an increased mutual awareness of each of our situations. The second was a set of agenda items for the ULC for the coming years.
In advance of the retreat, each ULC member wrote and distributed a presentation on individual goals and common issues. Topics overall tended in the direction of common problems, though the individual/collective distinction was by no means absolute. Certain issues reverberated through all of the presentations. These included:
Topics that might easily have been coveredwith world enough and timeincluded the role of Harvard's libraries in distance learning, long-term staffing issues, improved delivery systems, copyright questions, library security, and the role of the libraries on the future campus in Allston.
While the ULC retreat did not result in any extraordinary news or any groundbreaking decisions, it has helped us to review our most common assumptions and to establish an agenda for the future. Some of our agenda items will continue to be the ones listed above, as well as:
Month by month, the ULC meets on pressing matters that, in recent years, have ranged from Harvard's next-generation integrated library system (the Aleph system that will go online on July 8) to human resource questions raised by the University. We continue to progress, to use a term coined years ago by University Librarian Keyes Metcalf, through "coordinated decentralization." Our retreat helped to establish the context in which we can take coordinated, decentralized action: we defined the common issues that Harvard's libraries face, and that we will address to benefit Harvard now and in the generations to come.