April 19, 2018

Newsmaker Interview: Brian Schottlaender, 2010 ALA Melvil Dewey Medal Award Winner

By Josh Hadro and Norman Oder

UCSD university librarian recognized for HathiTrust and the Google Book Search project efforts

Go back to the
Academic Newswire
for more stories
  • Surviving a hate incident
  • The impact of the Google settlement
  • The future of cataloging

Every year, the Melvil Dewey Award is given by the American Library Association (ALA) as a "citation of achievement for recent creative leadership of high order, particularly in those fields in which Melvil Dewey was actively interested: library management, library training, cataloging and classification, and the tools and techniques of librarianship."

Brian Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), is this year’s recipient, and will be honored at a session during the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Among his many accomplishments, he is being commended for spearheading library participation in initiatives like the HathiTrust and the Google Book Search project, as well as "rationalizing" the libary’s collections in a time of transition to digital materials. (He’s also a speaker for today’s Symposium on Economics of Sustaining Digital Information).

But Schottlaender has had to contend with decidedly non-digital and grave issues as well: his library recently became the subject of scrutiny after a noose was found on a bookcase, one of a series of a series of racially charged incidents on campus.

LJ‘s Academic Newsire recently caught up with Schottlaender to ask him about the library’s efforts to diffuse the situation, as well as his other endeavors at UCSD.

LJAN: How did you arrive at the library’s response to the noose incident?
BS: First, let me say that the single most important thing an organization can do in a time of crisis and a heightened level of concern such as this is to communicate calmly and effectively with its clientele to let them know you are doing all you can to maintain a safe and hate-free climate. Our response really started with that commitment. 

Specifically, there was both a library response to the incident and a student response, which I was only too happy to support. For the Libraries’ part, we increased security coverage and the frequency of our regular security sweeps in order to ensure the safety of our clientele. A group of students, meanwhile, decided to “take back the library” by covering all the tables on the floor where the noose was found with dethorned roses. It was a lovely and appropriate response which, again, I was only too happy to support.

Do you have any qualms about the pending Google settlement? Do you think there are sufficient safeguards for nonpartner libraries?

My biggest qualm about the pending GBS settlement is that it won’t be approved, or that, by the time it is, it will be so watered down that it won’t do us much good. Discovery’s great; delivery’s a game changer. On behalf of the first university in Southern California to partner with Google in its effort to create a global digital library, I think the partner libraries can and will advocate on behalf of the non-partner libraries. A supportive non-partner library director has observed that irrespective of its eventual price, the institutional license will cost less than its alternative. I agree.

How would operations at the library change if the library had an institutional subscription?

The biggest change would likely be the expedited rationalization of our published print holdings. That is, the realization of the promise of digital delivery at the network level would give us an entirely new dimension within which to assess what published print holdings we need to retain on-site.
How does the HathiTrust fit in with the goals set out for UCSD as a research institution?

In two ways: First, HathiTrust helps UC San Diego meet its obligation and commitment to archive and preserve the intellectual assets in which it has invested. This will greatly facilitate their use by future generations of scholars and students. We at the UCSD Libraries work hard to be innovative leaders in the development, management, and delivery of digital resources and services to support the university’s world-class research and instruction; our involvement in HathiTrust exemplifies this.

Second, and more long-term, the HathiTrust corpus has incredible potential as a research object in and of itself. The ability to apply various data mining (and other computing) techniques to a corpus of the size and nature of the HathiTrust has incredible promise for linguistic, textual, and other sorts of research.  

How do you, as a university librarian, weigh severe budget issues like those of the UC system with long-term needs of a research institution serving a wide variety of faculty and students?

Both the strategic and the budgetary planning we do (and we do both) is aimed, first and foremost, at supporting the campus’s teaching, research, and patient care goals. Rather than simply retrenching, we are gathering input from our constituent groups as to where they think we should be putting our emphases as our budget is reduced. Our objective is to strategically build to and on our strengths and to evaluate critically collections and services that appear to no longer be constituent priorities.  
As someone with an extensive background in cataloging—you’ve served Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS)do you think cataloging, and catalogers, have a much-as-before future?

In a word, no, I do not think that that future is likely to be “much-as-before.” I anticipate that the resources allocated to the cataloging of “commonly held” print materials will be increasingly re-directed to the cataloging of [special collections] materials not commonly held, and to the provision of metadata for digital information resources. 

I think that that’s likely because I expect 1) far less duplication of commonly-held print materials between libraries and 2) greater automation of the cataloging routines needed to manage those materials.

Read more Newswire stories:

At Symposium on Sustaining Digital Information, a Call for Libraries To Step Up

Newsmaker Interview: Brian Schottlaender, 2010 ALA Melvil Dewey Medal Award Winner

U. of Waterloo Map Library Simplifies Approach To Attract More Users

Now that It’s the 21st Century… | From the Bell Tower

Remix Pedagogy, Libraries, and the Georgia State Case | Peer to Peer Review

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