A regular non-librarian reader (and author of the always interesting and sometimes controversial Butch Wonders blog) suggested some topics in a comment on my 2011 in Review post, and I thought I should try to tackle some of them.
The suggestion that has me pretty well stumped is to write about “what changes you would make to the library if you had one month and an unlimited budget”. I can think of plenty of things I would do with unlimited budget, but none of them could be done in a month.
Off the top of my head, some challenges that we might be able to solve with unlimited resources (time AND money) would be (in no particular order):
- Develop and deploy the killer app for Federated Searching — something that would allow for search and retrieval across all the various silos of content (Library Catalog, licensed databases, e-book packages, digitized collections, etc., etc.); AND would have an awesome interface that would make sorting through the inevitable massive results lists intuitive and intelligent. (Note: I think there is tremendous potential for Linked Data to eliminate the need for federated searching; but that is a very, very, long term project.)
- Work through our cataloging and processing backlogs, so that all the awesome resources we have acquired over the years are discoverable and available for use. Like most major libraries, we have plenty of foreign language materials, rare books, special collections, and other non-standard materials that require individual cataloging by an expert. If I had the funding, I’d hire every out-of-work cataloger I could find, and have them catalog the heck out of everything we have. Heck, if I really had unlimited funding, I’d pay for everyone else’s backlogs to get cataloged too. (Note that the need for support for traditional metadata work is a pretty clear theme in comments about What’s Happening at Harvard.)
- Digitize everything–especially everything that is in the public domain or that we have rights to. Add good metadata to everything we digitize and make it discoverable and accessible through our catalog and through Google and other public search engines.
- Do a massive lobbying campaign on behalf of Copyright reform. I wonder how much moola it would take to buy the votes needed for effective Copyright reform? (I’m kidding…about buying votes, not about copyright reform).
- Buy up all the publishers whose outrageous pricing is decimating library collections budgets, and create a new sustainable system of scholarly publishing.
Clearly, none of the above are one month projects. Perhaps I am suffering from a failure of imagination, but I just can’t come up with anything big and exciting that we could accomplish in just 1 month … except make some ground-breaking acquisitions. And adding more awesome, rare, expensive stuff to our collections just adds to the challenges listed above.
Anyone out there got some great ideas? What do you think a large academic library should/could do in 1 month’s time, with unlimited budget? You know, just in case some donor decides to give us a bundle of cash with that kind of Project Runway like restriction on it …