Future Organisation of University Libraries - (1) to No 4391



<br /> Oxford University Gazette: University Libraries (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Future organisation of university libraries

Verbatim report of proceedings in Congregation

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4391

Monday, 19 February 1996



Contents of the supplement:

To Gazette No.
4391 (22 February 1996)

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The verbatim report of the debate in Congregation on 6 February 1996
on the
general resolution concerning the future organisation of university
libraries
(see Gazette, pp. 584–6) is set out below.

The general resolution read as follows:

That this House endorse the establishment by Council of a new post
of Director
of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian with effect
from 1
January 1997, the holder of which shall be charged with:

(1) bringing forward within three years for consideration by
Congregation
proposals for the creation of an integrated library service that will
facilitate the following major objectives:

(a) the distribution of resources within the service to
meet
users' needs most effectively;

(b) the improvement of the Bodleian's capacity to respond
to the
needs of users in the University;

(c) the maintenance and development of, and provision of
access
to, Oxford's historic collections as an international research
resource;

(d) the provision of university-wide services such as
library
automation and electronic media, preservation, and staff development;

(e) the fostering of the qualities of responsiveness, and
of
flexibility in provision;

(2) responsibility for preparation of the draft budget for the
allocation
to individual libraries and services of funds currently distributed
through
the Libraries Board;

(3) overall executive responsibility for automated library
services in the
University;

(4) responsibility for carrying forward programmes for the
preservation of
collections in the University's libraries and for the provision of
training
and professional development for library staff;

and instruct Council to bring forward legislation suspending the
present
functions of the Libraries Board and the Curators of the Bodleian
Library from
1 January 1997 and establishing in their place a Libraries Committee,
a
Bodleian users' committee, and an advisory committee of professional
librarians as described in the explanatory note to this general
resolution
until such time as alternative arrangements are approved by
Congregation.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement


VERBATIM REPORT


DR P.A. SLACK (Exeter College; Chairman of
the
General Board)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, debate about Oxford's libraries is probably as
old as the
University itself, and inevitably so, since they underpin the whole
of our
academic activity. The debate has often in the past been, to say the
least,
heated; and history suggests that the debate has not always been
productive. I
was reminded recently of the wise advice given a century ago by the
then
Bodley's Librarian, Edward Nicholson—advice which, it has to be
said, he
never followed himself. `Before doing anything new' in Oxford,
Nicholson
warned his successors, they must try to `realise and give full weight
to all
objections to it'.

In framing the general resolution which I now move on Council's
behalf,
Council has tried to give full weight to the diverse opinions within
the
University about the strengths and weaknesses of the library service.
It is
not, therefore, a resolution which concludes the present phase
of
debate about
Oxford's libraries. It is designed to set up a better machinery than
we have
at present for carrying that debate forward in a properly informed
way; and it
is designed at the same time to address some immediate problems. It
represents
what Council, after consultation, thinks can be done now—and
indeed must
be done now—to meet urgent and generally recognised needs, and
to
facilitate constructive planning for the future.

Recent events have amply underlined the impossibility of leaving
things
as they are. The stresses are too obvious. They have come broadly
from two
directions: one has been the impact of new technology which has
brought
increasing demands from users; the other has been a decline in the
real value
of the funding available for books and other library materials. The
system has
coped remarkably well under these pressures, thanks largely to the
dedication
of librarians and library staff. But it would be difficult to argue
that the
system has been ideally equipped to meet the challenges facing it;
and the
problems which have arisen in maintaining the level of services and
acquisitions, whether in the Bodleian or elsewhere, pose a real
threat to the
quality of our research and teaching. A recent report to the General
Board
from the Law Faculty Board, for example, was at pains to spell out
the damage
which might be done by inadequate library facilities to future
research in
Law, and it concluded that `The situation is deplorable and calls for
a
fundamental review of the funding and modus operandi of
libraries in
Oxford.'

Members of Congregation will be aware that that fundamental
review has
begun over the past year. It was prompted partly by the conclusions
of the
Working Party on Information Strategy, chaired by the Warden of
Wadham, which
argued that there was a need for a University Librarian, in order to
achieve
more effective management of resources and better co-ordination of
common
services, including library automation. Review was prompted also by
early
notice of the forthcoming retirements of Bodley's Librarian, the
Deputy
Librarian, and the Librarian of the Taylor Institution, which led
Council to
appoint the Working Party on Senior Library Posts, chaired by the
President of
Corpus. That working party also concluded by recommending the
appointment of a
University Librarian; he or she should have executive authority over
an
integrated library system and be responsible to a single body, a
Library
Board. It was forced to this conclusion by the fact that—if I
may quote
its report—`almost all the oral and written evidence we have
taken has
identified respects in which the status quo needs to be
improved ...
There
will in our view have to be changes.'

The general resolution now before Congregation does not
incorporate all
the changes proposed by the President's working party, and it is
important to
stress that at the outset. In particular, the resolution does not
propose any
particular model for an integrated library structure, whether that
outlined by
Sir Keith Thomas's group or the more developed alternative presented
by the
advisory group chaired by the Warden of Rhodes House. The
consultation which
has taken place over the Thomas Report and then more recently on the
Kenny
Report has shown the many difficulties which lie in the way of
reaching
agreement on the degree of integration, and on the details
of
reorganisation. The two reports showed the kind of reorganisation
which might
be possible, but it was evident that much more discussion and
consultation
would be needed before any detailed plan could be acceptable. There
were
understandable and widely shared fears that a more integrated
structure might
threaten the responsiveness and flexibility of faculty libraries on
the one
hand, and the coherence and international reputation of the Bodleian
and its
collections on the other. There were also unresolved questions about
the
position of departmental libraries, which vary greatly in character,
and there
were particular complexities of management to be taken into account
in the
case of libraries serving the medical community. It was clear that
there was a
spectrum of possibilities, between a co-ordinated library
system in a
relatively loose federal structure at one extreme, and a fully
integrated
library system, with a single management structure, at the other
extreme. It
was not clear where, along that spectrum, the University should
pause.

There was nevertheless a consensus among the majority of those
consulted
that there was a need for a senior librarian with sufficient
authority to
address those inadequacies in present arrangements which could
immediately be
identified; and there was a large body of opinion which thought that
that
person should have a remit to develop proposals for the most
desirable
structure for the whole service—proposals which would ultimately
have to
be approved by Congregation. Council and the General Board are
convinced that
that is both an essential and the only practicable way forward, and I
was glad
to find a recent editorial in the Oxford Magazine in
substantial
agreement. As its Editor says, `it is hard not to agree that there
should be a
single Director to oversee Oxford's complex library scene', and it
should be
the Director's job, once in post, to propose any changes for the
future.

Congregation is therefore asked to approve, first, the
establishment from
1 January 1997 of a new single post of Director of University Library
Services
and Bodley's Librarian. He or she will be charged with bringing
forward
proposals for the creation of an integrated library service, having
regard, as
the resolution says, to the need to develop the existing qualities of
responsiveness and flexibility across the system as a whole, to
improve its
capacity to respond to the University's requirements, and to develop
its
collections as an international research resource. The Director will
have
three years in which to fulfil that remit: neither so short a period
as to
produce hasty, unconsidered solutions, nor so long as to leave the
University
with a prolonged period of uncertainty about the direction in which
it should
be moving. Meanwhile, the Director should have overall executive
responsibility in areas where it is generally agreed that greater
co-ordination is required: in preparation of the budget for what are
at
present Libraries Board libraries, including the Bodleian, in
managing library
automation, and in the oversight of staff training and development
and the
preservation and conservation of library materials. It is also
intended that
the Director should have access to Council and General Board papers,
and be
able to put the libraries' case directly to those bodies when that is
required.

If the Director is to achieve these goals, Council is agreed
that one
further change is immediately needed, though this would be an interim
measure,
pending decision by Congregation on arrangements for the longer term.
The new
Director will need the support of a single influential body, above
and behind
him. Congregation is therefore asked, secondly, to instruct Council
to bring
forward legislation suspending the present Libraries Board and the
Bodleian
Curators, and replacing them with a single Libraries Committee, a
committee
which would report jointly to Council and the General Board and have
direct
access to the Resources Committee. This Libraries Committee might
well not be
permanent. It might in due course, and in conjunction with the plans
developed
by the new Director, be replaced by some different body or bodies.
But Council
and the General Board are in no doubt that if the Director is to do
the job
which it is generally agreed he must do, he cannot be subject to two
masters—Libraries Board and Bodleian Curators. That would be a
recipe for
continuing tension, and it would perpetuate a situation in which the
library
sector is unable to speak with a single powerful voice.

The suspension of the Libraries Board and of the Bodleian
Curators will
have two consequences which require attention. It may be that a
Libraries
Committee with the composition proposed in the explanatory note will
contain
fewer librarians than the present Libraries Board. But the committee
will need
access to a broad span of professional advice. It is therefore
proposed that
it should have an advisory committee of professional librarians,
representative of departmental and college libraries as well as the
Bodleian
and faculty libraries. The advisory committee's composition and terms
of
reference are being framed with the advice of the present Libraries
Board, and
any points made in this debate will be taken into account in drawing
them up.
Once the general resolution is approved, they will be embodied in the
consequential legislation which Council will bring forward.

The suspension of the Curators of the Bodleian similarly
involves a loss
and presents a more difficult problem. As the explanatory note
recognises,
there will be a need for a Bodleian `users' committee'—though
that may
not be the most appropriate title for it. One of its purposes would
be to
discharge any functions of the curators which were not transferred,
as most of
them would be, to the new Libraries Committee. Members of
Congregation will
appreciate that the definition of its terms of reference requires
careful
thought. The Libraries Board and the curators are being asked to
prepare
proposals, and, subject again to any points made in this debate,
these will be
incorporated in the legislation which Council will bring forward once
the
general resolution is approved.

These new committees are presented, as I have said, as
interim
arrangements. They will no doubt be altered in the light of plans
developed by
the new Director and the new Libraries Committee. But they are
presented as a
structure which will facilitate and not hamper proper attention to
the library
needs of the whole University; and they reflect a recognition that
any
proposals for further and permanent change in the future will need to
have the
full support of library users and of librarians if they are to be
accepted by
Congregation.

For the present, however, the proposals before Congregation
involve no
greater changes than those I have described. I should stress
that they
leave wholly unchanged the various formal arrangements by means of
which
Libraries Board libraries, other than the Bodleian, are responsive to
their
users and responsible to them; the independence that those libraries
at
present enjoy is not affected. It may be that the new Director will
produce
plans for change, but, as I have indicated, there will be full
consultation
about them, and they will have to be submitted to Congregation, and
be approved
by Congregation, before they can be implemented.

I should like to
underline
this point, since there may be some misunderstanding about it, to
judge by a
circular which I have seen from the Chairman of the Modern Languages
Faculty
to all members of his faculty. The circular says that if Congregation
approves
this resolution, it will be `committing itself to the integration of
the
Taylorian Library ... into a university-wide system run by an
administrator
who ... may well have other priorities than serving the research and
scholarship of the members of this University'. Mr Vice-Chancellor,
Congregation,
in agreeing to this resolution, would not be committing itself to any
such
thing. Any proposals for integration are matters for the future, to
be
developed by the Director over the next three years and then brought
to
Congregation; and Council's brief for the Director refers
specifically to the
needs of the University, to the importance of all library collections
as a
research resource, and to the need to foster the qualities of
responsiveness
and flexibility which we all value. Council and the General Board
fully
recognise the force of the arguments which have been put forward for
the
success of particular libraries and the advantages which spring from
their
sense of individual identity. Faculties, and for that matter
departments,
which are rightly proud of their libraries and the resources invested
in them,
should not feel threatened by the proposals now before Congregation.

Finally, Mr Vice-Chancellor, I should say something about costs.
Fears
have been expressed in the course of consultation that the additional
costs of
these proposals might mean a reduction in the limited funds available
for the
purchase of books and other library materials. The post of Director
will of
course have to have an appropriate salary attached to it; the
Director will
require secretarial support; and there will be a need for additional
resources
for the Bodleian Library since the Director will be unable to
undertake all
the responsibilities there at present assumed by Bodley's Librarian.
The
estimates which have been made, however, do not suggest that the
extra
recurrent costs will be excessive; and it has been agreed that they
should be
borne centrally and should not be `top-sliced' from the grant now
made to the
Libraries Board. There will be no adverse consequences for library
budgets.
The costs seem to Council and the General Board a small price to pay,
and a
price which the whole University should willingly pay, for a more
effective
and efficient library service.

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I have perhaps spoken for too long. But
these are
important matters, properly of concern to every member of the
University. I
hope members of Congregation will agree on the need for change, and
welcome
the present proposals. They take advantage of an opportunity
immediately to
give the library sector some greater coherence and a more powerful
voice in
the University; and they provide a mechanism for the formulation of
proposals
to promote the interests of libraries, and hence of the University as
a whole,
in the future.

Once the general resolution is approved, Council will establish
the new
post; it will set up a committee to appoint the first Director, that
is a
specially nominated body headed by yourself, Mr Vice-Chancellor; and
it will
bring forward legislation suspending the Libraries Board and Bodleian
Curators
and instituting the new committees as soon as it can be prepared. I
hope that
Congregation will give its whole-hearted approval.

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I beg leave to move the general resolution.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement



DR D.E. OLLESON (Merton College)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, in seconding the general resolution I too speak
on behalf
of Council, not formally in my capacity as Chairman of the Libraries
Board.
But anyone who has tangled with the complexities of library provision
in
Oxford must come to today's debate in the light of that experience.

As the Oxford Magazine earlier this term observed,
the
Libraries Board has long advocated an integrated library
system—or, in
the words of today's explanatory note, `at the very least, a highly
co-ordinated' one. The board has on occasions been suspected of
attempting
surreptitiously to impose one—as if you could ever get away with
that
sort of thing in Oxford.

We should start, however, not with systems but with the
inescapable fact
that library resources, in Oxford and everywhere else, are under
pressure, to
the extent that in some areas, at least, provision is already in
decline. Cuts
in government funding to universities have inevitably worked their
way down to
library level. Last year, in over half the libraries under the aegis
of the
Libraries Board, spending on acquisitions actually fell. In
Michaelmas Term
everyone was rightly alarmed at the letter from Bodley's Librarian
outlining
the severe cuts that were being imposed on all parts of the Bodleian.
And
there is worse to come. The progressive erosion of the HEFCE
recurrent grant
and the savage reduction in capital funding—of over 50 per cent
over three
years—will both have their effect.

It is small consolation to know that by anyone else's standards
we are
comparatively well off. Oxford continues to devote proportionately
more of its
resources to its libraries than any other British university. But
even that is
a double-edged sword. As the Chairman of the General Board has
observed, the
University's investment in automation makes our collections ever more
visible
to the outside world, and it is clear that the huge rises in the use
of the
Bodleian, in particular, are significantly the result of scholars
from other
universities having to turn to Oxford's libraries where formerly they
would
have found what they what they needed in their own.

For our own self-protection we must ensure that our library
resources are
deployed and managed in the most effective way. And it has to be said
that the
fragmentation of our current system (with over 100 separate libraries
across
the University), whatever its attractions in some respects, in others
makes
that difficult to achieve. Largely, again, as a result of automation,
patterns
of library use have changed—and continue to change rapidly. New
issues
constantly arise concerning the services that readers expect
libraries to
offer, and we have to address them, not library by library but across
the
University at large.

Precisely what shape an `integrated library system' might
eventually take
is difficult to foresee, and it is this structural question that has
aroused
the most misgivings in responses to the Thomas Report and, more
particularly,
to the managerial model put forward in the succeeding Kenny
proposals. In any
event, it has become clear that it would be premature to try to
define now any
managerial structure. Developments will need to grow from within, not
by the
implementation of a blue-print arbitrarily determined in advance. The
first
essential step must be the identification of someone charged with the
responsibility of overseeing that process of growth and with
sufficient
authority to get on with the job.

That is the substance of the general resolution. It was also the
chief
thrust behind both the Thomas and the Kenny Reports. The main sense
of
direction is clear. In responding to the Thomas Report, the Libraries
Board
agreed to support wholeheartedly those central objectives, subject
only to
certain understandings. Some of them concerned details of
implementation and
nomenclature, which are no longer the subject of today's debate.
There were,
however, three general matters on which reassurance was sought. The
first was
a concern shared by almost all respondents, that any changes should
benefit
library users and should not result in any loss of the responsiveness
at
present enjoyed by readers. The second was closely related to it,
seeking
acknowledgement that in any future organisation there would continue
to be a
large measure of delegated powers: the day-to-day operation of
individual
libraries—and also local priorities—can only realistically
be
handled at local level; for purely practical reasons the faculty
libraries,
for example, need to retain functions and identities of their own.
The third
was a matter that has not been raised by other respondents but one to
which
the Libraries Board attaches great importance, namely that pursuit of
the
central objectives does not assume the adoption of a `common stock'
policy,
amalgamating material received by legal deposit and loan collections.

On all these matters reassurance has been readily given. There
is now the
opportunity to accelerate the development of a better-co-ordinated
and more
effective network, which even in straitened circumstances will
protect the
standards of library provision to which we aspire. It is an
opportunity that
we cannot afford to miss.

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I beg leave to second the general
resolution.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement



DR P.A. MACKRIDGE (St Cross College;
Chairman of the
Modern Languages Faculty)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, when the question of library provision for Modern
Languages was discussed by the Modern Languages Faculty at its
meeting of 21
November 1994 (i.e. seven months before the publication of the
Thomas
Report),
two motions were proposed and voted upon. The motions and the results
of the
voting were as follows:

`(1)The faculty sees no reason to change its previous commitment

to
separate, and separately administered, libraries on the main
Taylorian site.'

Carried: 19 for; 1 against; 4 abstentions.

`(2)The faculty believes that it has as yet received no clear
indications of advantages to come from further integration of the
Taylorian
Library with the Bodleian, but remains open to further discussion.'

Carried, nem. con.

After the publication of the Thomas Report, the Oxford
Magazine
(Fourth-Week issue, Michaelmas Term 1995) published a
letter
from seven of the library staff of the Taylorian, who include five
members of
the faculty, expressing their anxiety about the changes proposed in
the Thomas
Report and pointing out that all the advantages of the present
system, as
listed in the report, concern the library's readers, while all the
advantages
claimed for the proposed new system are of a managerial nature.

The Kenny Report went a further step down the line towards
integration.
Furthermore, the Kenny Report designated the present post of the
Librarian of
the Taylor Institution as the one which could be restructured to head
the
Humanities Division. The report also envisaged that ultimately the
pre-1850
printed books would be housed separately from those dating from 1850
and
after.

Although the Kenny Report was published too late to allow it to
be
included on the agenda for the Michaelmas Term 1995 meeting of the
Modern
Languages Faculty, a straw vote was taken on the following motion:

`The faculty reaffirms its support for the motions passed at the

faculty
meeting of 21 November 1994.'

That motion was carried nem. con.

In the explanatory note prefaced to the text of today's general
resolution in the Gazette, Council envisages that the
Director of
Library Services `would have sufficient authority to address those
features of
the present arrangements for library provision which the Thomas
Report
identified as being generally acknowledged to be unsatisfactory'. I
would like
to remind you that the Thomas Committee listed the following
advantages of the
present Taylorian Library and its annexes:

(a) open access to stock;

(b) lending facilities;

(c) requisite reader and subject-specific services
on-site;

(d) other services such as self-service photocopying;

(e) devolved management allowing a rapid response to
teaching
and research needs; and

(f) faculty input to the management of the library.

(To the advantages mentioned above one could add the presence of a
Librarian who is a renowned scholar in the field of the European
book.)

The Thomas Committee did not identify a single feature of
the
Taylorian
Library that was `generally acknowledged to be unsatisfactory'.
You will
recall that the Editor of the Oxford Magazine, who is a
member of
the Modern Languages Faculty and who very much regrets being unable
to be here
today to voice his dissent from the general resolution, wrote in his
editorial
in the Noughth-Week issue of this term that anyone reading the Thomas
Report
would think that Modern Languages `is still enjoying the Golden Age';
he goes
on to state that the Thomas Report justifies change merely `by
assertions of
the need for change'. Can we not let well alone (`well'
meaning the
Taylorian
Library, at least) while the Bodleian sorts out its own problems?

Together with a number of other members of the Modern Languages
Faculty,
I am anxious to ensure that the Taylor Institution Library is
safeguarded as a
unitary collection and managed and run by expert staff.

We very much fear that, once the Director of Library Services is
appointed and makes his or her proposals for the creation of an
integrated
library service, we are going to be faced with the prospect of a
huge,
unwieldy, and unresponsive library system run by managers who are
removed from
their readers and staffed by librarians who are not
specialists in
the area of
study to which their books pertain. There is already a high degree of
co-ordination, through the on-line catalogue and through
inter-library
committees, regarding ordering and cataloguing. But, invaluable as it
is,
universally available information in electronic form is no substitute
for the
experience, expertise, knowledge, and wisdom of specialised
library
staff
who
are allocated to specific subject collections.

Today's general resolution entails the integration of the other
university libraries into the Bodleian system, seemingly on the
grounds that
the present arrangement gives the appearance of administrative
untidiness.

Mr Howells, who is the librarian in charge of the Slavonic and
Greek
sections of the Taylorian, is, I believe, going to speak at some time
later,
and I would end by saying that, had Mr Howells and I been well-versed
in the
ways of Congregation, as we are not, we would have given notice that
we would
be opposing today's general resolution. Unfortunately, we failed to
do so by
the deadline of noon on Monday last week. Nevertheless, we are
organising a
`twelve-member resolution' relating specifically to the Taylor
Institution
Library and the Modern Languages Faculty Library; the text of this
resolution
will be handed in by noon next Monday so that it can be debated at
the 5 March
meeting of Congregation.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement



DR W.E. PARRY (Oriel College)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, the Bodleian Curators give their full support to
the
resolution. They have thought for many years that the university
libraries
needed somehow to become more integrated, and they are glad that
Council and
the General Board have seized the present opportunity, brought about
by the
retirement of Bodley's Librarian, to appoint a University Librarian,
one of
whose major jobs will be to prepare detailed plans to achieve such
integration. They see many advantages to Bodley itself, as well as to
the
library system as a whole, in the replacement of Bodley's present
uncomfortable dual management (by the curators and the Libraries
Board) by a
single library committee. They think that there is little support in
the
University for the wholesale destruction of the present identities
of the
various parts of our library services, and welcome the suggestions in
the
explanatory note in the Gazette that the integration
should be
rather a federation of those parts, not reducing local flexibility,
but,
through their integration, helping the whole library system through
the harsh
economic times we must expect and ensuring an efficient response to
new
developments in information provision and to their readers' needs.

They believe that there are many difficult questions of detail
still to
be sorted out, even for the interim three-year period. The rather
general
proposals in the resolution about two new committees, one of Bodleian
users
and one of professional librarians, might, if these committees were
given much
power, replace the present complicated management system by one which
would be
truly baroque. They hope that Council and the General Board will be
flexible
in discussions about the purposes, powers, and reporting structures
of these
committees.

And they are sad, of course, to be supporting a resolution which
will
suspend and is expected eventually to abolish their existence, thus
acting
like so many turkeys voting for Christmas. While supporting their own
abolition in this way, they believe, passionately, that the
University must
ensure that their main curatorial statutory duty should be passed on
and
treated most seriously both by the interim committee and by whatever
body
eventually replaces it. That main duty, Mr Vice-Chancellor, is that
of
maintaining the library not only as a university library but also as
an
institution of national and international importance.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement



DR J. STEVENSON (Worcester College)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I speak with no particular vested interest in
favour of
the resolution. I have come to this conclusion from experiences I
have had
working with the Bodleian over the last five years on one of the
major
projects of British bibliography, the construction of a total
bibliography of
all writings on British history. During that time, myself and the
other
researchers I employed ran into many of the cruel difficulties that I
know
beset the Bodleian and library system in Oxford. Surely it must be
time for us
to take a strategic overview, proceeding with caution, as I believe
the
resolution suggests that we should: this is the time, I think, for us
to
protect our most precious resource as we move into the next century
with all
the possibilities that that holds for new kinds of library provision,
new
accesses of technology, new ways of using books and of exploring
knowledge. We
have an enormous and our most precious resource. Those of us who use
it in the
various ways must be aware that there are many difficulties and that
these
difficulties might only increase in the future. If we are to protect
that
resource for generations to come, surely it makes sense to adopt a
rational
approach, to have some way of overlooking and overseeing what we need
to do to
protect that resource. Clearly there may be fears of parts of the
library
system that their particular interest might be ignored or neglected
in the
future, but it seems to me those safeguards have been indicated by
those who
propose the resolution. I think we cannot allow a system which has
`just
growed' to continue just to grow in the future. I think we must take
a
rational approach to its provision and to the protection of our most
precious
resource.

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MR D.L.L. HOWELLS (Jesus College)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, first of all, I should like to offer you my
grateful
thanks because we are here today, thanks to your indulgence, to
comment on the
general resolution of Council. We cannot vote on it because the
notice of
opposition signed by the Chairman of the Modern Languages Faculty and
myself
reached you twenty-four hours too late. You were good enough to
consult your
officials, but their opinion was that you were bound by statute. Some
might
think that members of Congregation deserve the opportunity to vote on
this
resolution. Some might even argue that it is a denial of the
democratic
principle—that we are being disenfranchised on a technicality.

For the changes implicit in the general resolution, and made
explicit in
the Thomas and Kenny Committee Reports which the resolution seeks to
implement, are truly visionary. They propose the most fundamental and
revolutionary changes to the library system in the entire history of
this
University. The resolution before this House mentions only the
appointment of
the Director of University Library Services, but the Kenny Report
names no
fewer than eight further senior appointments—an Assistant
Director, a
Head of Administrative Division, a Head of Technical Services, a Head
of
Reader Services, a Head of Special Collections, a Head of Humanities,
a Head
of Social Sciences, a Head of Science/Medicine. It is reasonable to
assume
that each of these administrators will require his or her deputy
administrator, and, of course, they will need secretarial support. We
can
easily envisage the creation of twenty or even thirty additional
posts. One
can only hope that the cost implications of these reports and the
general
resolution have been thoroughly investigated. We must beware of
following in
the footsteps of the National Health Service, with reading-rooms
being closed,
readers' seats empty, and library assistants being made redundant for
the sake
of this battalion of managers—our bureaucratic `tail'.

We learnt from The Oxford Times a couple of weeks
ago that
Bodley's book-buying fund had been reduced by £100,000. We know
that the
University is facing the imposition of savage cuts in coming years,
as Dr
Olleson has pointed out. The Labour front-bench spokesman for
education has
indicated that restoration of university cuts will not be a priority
of an
incoming Labour Government. The University is therefore facing a
period of
financial difficulties that will very likely go on for years. Is this
really
then a `window of opportunity'? I suggest that there has hardly been
a more
unpropitious time for the visionary measures now proposed.

Council presents the present arrangement of Oxford libraries as
a kind of
anarchic multiplicity, where each library pursues its own
irresponsible policy,
that needs to be brought into proper order—`integrated' is the
word they
use. In order to bring this about, they propose to appoint a Director
of
University Library Services, who will be called `Bodley's Librarian',
and be
paid more than Bodley's present librarian. But he will not have time
to see to
the daily running of the Bodleian because his brief is to `integrate'
the
other libraries in the system. He will be a sort of `good shepherd'
who, with
his assistant shepherds, whom I have already mentioned, is to bring
the `lost
and strayed sheep'—people like myself—into the integrated
fold.

What is the present state of the library system? Leaving aside
the
college libraries, which are not really part of the equation, my
understanding
is that there are three types of libraries in Oxford: departmental,
faculty,
and research libraries. Departmental libraries are particularly
associated
with the scientific field, and consist of anything from a couple of
shelves of
books at the end of a laboratory to a roomful. Neither the Thomas
Report nor
the Kenny Report was certain what attitude to take towards them, as
they are
funded departmentally and not by the Libraries Board. Faculty
libraries are
for the use of undergraduates, and contain, in my field at least,
multiple
copies of texts and secondary literature based on the teaching
curriculum. The
Thomas Committee, at least, declared that it would leave the
administration
and responsibility for these libraries untouched, as well as their
functioning.

That leaves us with the central research libraries. These
consist of the
Bodleian, the Taylor Institution Library, the Cairns, the Ashmolean,
and the
Institute of Economics and Statistics. All the non-Bodleian research
libraries
are subject-specific, specialist research collections catering in the
main for
a particular clientele. I am reliably informed, by a senior member of
the
Bodleian, that over 83 per cent of Libraries Board librarians are
already
`integrated', in as much as they are already employed by the Bodleian
and its
dependencies. Therefore, it seems to us that all these proposed
revolutionary
changes are aimed at the integration of the four autonomous research
libraries, which together account for about 11 or 12 per cent of the
total
library staff of the University. These are libraries whose readers,
as far as
I am aware, are perfectly happy with the way they function at the
moment.

So the Director of University Library Services is going to spend
his
time, at least initially, dragging us, kicking and screaming, into
the
integrated network. What kind of integrated network? Presumably the
Bodleian
integrated network. I suppose we ought to feel terribly flattered
that this
highly paid super-librarian and his colleagues are going to spend all
their
time seeing to us. That so much, will be done by so many, for the
sake of so
relatively few. The irony, of course, is that we do not need his
help. We
already have perfectly competent management systems. We already
liaise with
our colleagues in the Bodleian, either personally or via the CLIPs.
We already
co-ordinate our acquisitions and our cataloguing.

The people who do need Bodley's Librarian are, of course, the
people in
Bodley. The complaints aired from time to time in the Oxford
Magazine
are directed against our poor colleagues there. The
praise is
directed towards the Taylorian. It is curious the way the same
editorial is
referred to by Dr Slack as being in favour of integration, but I
regard it as
in fact being in favour of the non-integration of the Taylorian,
referring to
a `Golden Age' for modern linguists. Even the Thomas Committee
singled out the
Taylorian for special commendation, saying that the Bodleian should
achieve
the same level of responsiveness as the Taylorian!

Members of Congregation, we at the Taylorian are not morally
superior,
not more hard-working, not more dedicated, than our counterparts in
the
Bodleian. It is simply that any relatively small, specialist research
library
will inevitably do better by its readers than a vast universal
library such as
the Bodleian, however well managed. But it is precisely these
successful
libraries that it is wished to `integrate', whose managerial autonomy
it is
wished to destroy.

The Thomas and Kenny Reports address important issues of
substance. They
single out elements of the library system that could, with great
benefit, be
centralised in some way. I refer to the problem of conservation,
library
automation, training, and information technology. We already have a
Library
Automation Team, which, I may say, has been shamefully underfunded in
the
past, with one man being responsible for servicing fifty-seven
libraries. It
seems to me perfectly feasible that equivalent agencies might be
established,
in Bodley, if you like, but not necessarily of Bodley, which could
help and
advise librarians in these areas. This seems to me particularly
pertinent in
the case of information technology, which is taking an increasingly,
even
unacceptably, large proportion of library finances and staff time. IT
needs to
be limited by a set annual budget, or I fear it will consume us all.
But the
kind of libraries that are important to this University are not about
information technology. They are not about staff development. They
are not
even necessarily about great national collections of rare books.
These
libraries are about readers.

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I stand here before you in this House when I
would
much rather be with my books and readers. I am not here on my own
behalf. I
have no personal interest in the outcome of these deliberations. Nor
even am I
here because I believe that the Taylorian necessarily has a divine
right to
continue its autonomous existence come what may. No, I am here on
behalf of
the users of the library—our readers. It is they who wish the
Taylorian
to continue as it is. It is they who have expressed an extraordinary
degree of
solidarity with, and loyalty towards, us librarians. It is they who
have voted
overwhelmingly as a faculty time after time to preserve the status
quo
, whose
faculty board and curators have expressed the very strongest
reservations
about the proposed changes.

I appeal to members of Council, indeed I beg them, to consider
that
libraries exist for the sake of their readers, and listen to their
voice, if
they will not listen to mine.

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MR D.G. VAISEY (Exeter College; Bodley's
Librarian)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I want to follow on from what Bill Parry has
said, and in
doing so to speak for the senior members of the staff of the Bodleian
Library.

The Bodleian Library and its senior staff have sometimes had the
reputation of not welcoming change. We want to make clear, however,
that
we—like the Curators of the Library—are firmly behind this
resolution; and we do not see it as integrating everything else into
the
Bodleian system as imagined by the two speakers from the Modern
Languages
Faculty we have heard. We believe that an integrated management
structure for
those libraries which are funded by the University is the way
forward, and
that such a development will make more sense of certain changes
within
Bodley's existing management structure which are needed but which are
not
easily introduced while Bodley stands alone. We do not believe that
an
integrated structure need lead to a loss of identity or individuality
in any
part of the system. Indeed, we believe that the system should be so
constructed as to allow each library to play to its strengths and to
be able
to cater with more flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of all
our
users. If the new organisation does not do this, it will truly not be
worth
constructing.

But I would remind members of Congregation that it is the
Bodleian's duty
to cater as well for that `republic of the learned' beyond the
University for
whom, as well as for the University of Oxford, the Bodleian was
founded;
for whom, as well as for the University of Oxford, it acquired the
privilege
of legal deposit; and who, throughout its history—and very
notably in the
last eight years of campaigning—have shown it great loyalty and
financial
support. The University is now in receipt of £1.1m a year from
HEFCE
(over 15 per cent of the Bodleian's annual grant from the Libraries
Board)
which is conditional upon the needs of that other clientele being
catered for
in the Bodleian: and it is of interest to note that in 1994–5,
while the
Bodleian issued new reader's cards to 5,222 undergraduates,
graduates, and
senior members of the University, it issued new reader's cards to
8,132
non-members of the University. They, too, must not be sold short. The
University has a huge amount to lose if it is thought in the world
beyond our
walls that it is setting about to weaken a foundation which has been
one of
the jewels in its crown for four centuries.

That said, we believe that the passing of this resolution need
not
threaten this position, as it need not threaten the efficiency or
effectiveness of any other library in a system under an integrated
management
and with one overall Director. We do not underestimate the
difficulties of the
next three years as we work towards a desirable end—but we
do
believe the
end to be desirable, and we will be anxious to play our part over the
next few
months in constructing the decrees which will carry today's decision
into
effect.

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MS S.M. BURDELL (History Faculty Library)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, a couple of very brief points. We cannot go on
with the
status
quo
: I know from my own small library how much it is creaking.
But we
must
still go forward carefully, I think. We must take our time to get it
right.
Our new Director: let us bear in mind that he is to direct; he
is not
a
dictator that we are installing but somebody who is perhaps like the
chairman
of a faculty board, moving forward a bunch of maverick individuals,
and has to
do this by some means of persuasion rather than `Order! Order!' I
would think
that many of us would feel with David Vaisey that he is retiring to
see them
splitting his job in half and giving it more money, which is always
slightly
irritating. We would hope that the new Director of Libraries will
certainly be
able to give a great deal of attention to the Bodleian, big brother
to us all.
We would also wish to avoid this new personage being too tied down to
the
minutiae of the administration. I have already said to Mr Reynolds
that it
looks slightly as though what is being replaced is Mr Reynolds's job
in the
University Offices rather than Mr Vaisey's; and I think we would also
wish
that, in looking at the detail for the new appointment, the new
Director and
Bodley's Librarian will retain the links with the University Offices,
where so
much of the administration must be dealt with at an appropriate
level. I do
hope that this resolution will be taken as giving a framework rather
than
stone tablets, and that we will continue to move forward in
discussion on the
position which is to be filled and obviously has to be filled in the
nearish
future.

On another matter, I hope that the University will not too
readily stop
its librarians from having direct access to the new Libraries
Committee. At
the moment, any members of Congregation, including librarians, can
become
members
of the Libraries Board. This has been suggested as being something
which
should specifically be excluded for the new Libraries Committee. I
would hope
that Congregation might in the future consider this again in the
light of the
excellent service which has been given by many elected librarians on
the
Libraries Board in the past.

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MS S.E. USHER (English Faculty Library)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I would like to say first of all that I am
generally in
favour of the resolution and very pleased that the new director will
have an
active role in bringing forward any proposals for change. I do hope
that the
person who is appointed will get out and about as much as possible
and talk to
all interested parties. As the fears of the Modern Languages Faculty,
expressed today, of the historians, and of the English Faculty have
shown,
consultation must be genuine and thorough, and anything that is
established
today must not become established later merely by default. This is a
very big
cliff we are about to jump off, and I for one, unlike Butch
Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid, would like to be sure that we are going to hit
clear
water.

In the meantime I would just like to ask for
clarification
about one
point—that is the responsibility in the interim of the new post
for
the
preparation of the draft budget. At the moment the budget is
discussed at the
Libraries Board Finance and General Purposes Committee and then at
the board
itself, both of which currently have quite strong library
representation,
after which the budget goes forward to the General Board. But if the
Libraries Board
is to be suspended, where is the budget to be discussed in the
interim?
Precisely how will financial decisions be made in this interim
period? I
hope it will be possible for Dr Slack to comment on
this
later.

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MS E.A. CHAPMAN (Institute of Economics and
Statistics)

Mr Vice-Chancellor, I too want to make what might seem a quite `nitty
gritty'
point here, and one which I hope does not lower the level of debate.
I am
generally in favour of the appointment of a Director of University
Libraries
and I think that that person will be able to achieve great things
with the
library service. I have to say, speaking as a librarian, and I
hope
academic colleagues will agree with me, that one of the great
resources of the
library service in Oxford is actually its staff, not just its books
or its
other library material. Given that that is the case and given that
the
Director will have to have a good deal of, shall we say, work of a
personnel
nature, I am concerned to hear about the possible composition of the
appointment panel for the Director. I believe, Mr Vice-Chancellor,
that you
will chair that panel. Forgive me if I am wrong, but this is what I
understand: there will be two appointees by Council, three by the
General
Board, and two of those five will have to be external people; there
will be
the head of the college at which the director will be offered a
fellowship, I
assume, and a member of that college too; there will be two people
appointed
by the Bodleian Curators and one person appointed by the Libraries
Board. On a
very
radical level I would like to suggest that maybe some librarians who
work in
Oxford could be represented on that committee. If that is not
possible, then I
would like Council to consider that part of the appointing procedure
would be
that shortlisted candidates would be able, shall we say, to make
presentations
to library staff. It is crucial with this new post that the person is
able to
command the respect, attention, and loyalty of the library staff in
Oxford,
and so I would like to press that library staff have some input.

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DR SLACK

Mr Vice-Chancellor, the contributions to this debate have, I think,
shown the
size of the task which will face the new Director; and they have
also, to my
mind, amply demonstrated the need for a single person and a single
influential
committee if our libraries are to continue to give the service that
we require
of them.

I appreciate, Mr Vice-Chancellor, that there are some members of
Congregation, those who spoke from the Modern Languages Faculty, who
would
have wished to vote against the general resolution, if notice had
been given
early enough for our statutes to have allowed it. I fully understand
their
sense of frustration, although I am
sure they
will agree that the University must be bound by its statutes on
procedures in
Congregation just as it is bound by its statutes with respect to the
governance of
its libraries. I should like to suggest, however, that the most
substantial of
the points they have made have not been directed against the general
resolution now before Congregation. They have been directed against
those
parts of the Thomas and Kenny Reports, particularly their proposals
with
regard to integration, which are not incorporated in this resolution.
They
seem to me, with respect, to be contributions to an argument which
will take
place much later: when the new Director is in post and presents his
proposals,
no doubt towards the end of the interim three-year period. I have of
course a
great deal of sympathy with many of the points made. I too hope, with
Dr
Mackridge and others, that the present advantages of the Taylorian
and other
research libraries, and indeed faculty libraries, will remain. I also
feel
strongly that the research collections of the Bodleian and other
libraries
must be maintained and enhanced.

Where I differ from some of those who have spoken is in
finding it
impossible to believe that a new Director and a new Libraries
Committee would
destroy the obvious virtues in the present library service. Those
are
matters for much later discussion, however. They should not prevent
us taking
the
positive steps now before us—which will bring immediate benefits
in terms
of co-ordinated services and professional training, and provide an
interim
structure which will allow full consideration and consultation about
our
strategy—if I might use Dr Stevenson's very appropriate
term—for the
future.

Some points have been made about the proposed interim structure
itself,
about the committees and their composition, and here, as I indicated,
there is
opportunity for reflection in the light of this debate.

On the question raised by the English Faculty Librarian about
the
budget, the general resolution makes it clear that it is for the
Director
to
prepare the draft budget (and it would be a draft) which would
be submitted for consideration
by the
new Libraries Committee. How the new Libraries Committee chooses to
seek
advice after that seems to me a matter for it, and there is at
present no intention to legislate on the subject. I would simply
stress
that the Director produces a draft, and the Libraries Committee then
considers
it.

Ms Chapman raised a question about the composition of the
appointing
committee for the new post of Director, Mr Vice-Chancellor. I am sure
that
Congregation would not wish me to commit you, Sir, on its precise
membership,
but I
take note of the points she made about other
ways in
which librarians and library staff might be involved when
an appointment comes to be made.

Some reference has been made to the cost of the new
arrangements, and I tried to address
that issue
in my opening remarks; but there is a more important point here, and
it is one
which has been referred to surprisingly little in this
debate,
save by Dr Olleson. It seems to me vital that the library service
should be
able to fight to protect and add to its resources, and a single
Libraries
Committee, reporting to Council and the General Board and with direct
access
to the Resources Committee, will be in a far better position to do
that than
the present Libraries Board.

Finally, Mr Vice-Chancellor, the debate today, like the
consultation
which preceded it, has underlined the dilemma which faces proponents
of change
in these circumstances, and which I imagine may often be in the mind
of your
own Commission of Inquiry. If proposals are too detailed, they may
fail
because there seems to be no room for discussion and modification of
the
detail; if the proposals are too general, they are open to the
objection that
they involve uncertain and unspecified, but wholly threatening,
consequences.
I continue to believe that Council has reached the right balance in
this
particular case. It has seized an opportunity which will not quickly
recur for
the appointment of a single Director and Librarian, and it proposes
interim
arrangements to support the Director in a job that urgently needs to
be done.

I hope members of Congregation—outside this House as well
as those
who have been here today—will warmly welcome the general
resolution.

No notice of opposition having been given by the prescribed
time, Mr
Vice-Chancellor then declared the resolution carried without question
put
under the provisions of Tit. II, Sect. V, cl. 8 (Statutes
,
1995, p.
11).

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