New York is a city of extreme differences. It is not merely a city -- it is something like its own cosmos. Taking my impression of the Bronx and the Bronx Library Center with me to West 114th St., I notice already upon leaving the subway that the world looks totally different here, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The campus of this dignified and highly productive private university as well as the Butler Library’s building positively spell out an invitation to scientific research and discourse with professors and students. On a gorgeous Indian summer day my conversation partners are James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, and Damon Jaggars, Associate University Librarian for Collections & Services.
American Library Association (ALA), which represents all the nation’s libraries, as well as to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), with its more specialized branches of research, medical, legal, and other libraries. And the Butler Library is also integrated into the network of international lobbying – in the context of the IFLA, for example. The common goal of all these groups is to facilitate open access to all information necessary for scientific research. And that has become an eminently political task. Following September 11, 2001, there have been – and still are - efforts to limit free access to information in the United States within the confines of the US Patriot Act, which consequently limit the freedom of research – especially regarding internet use and access to business data. James Neal leaves no doubt that he and his colleagues at Columbia University are mounting decided and lasting opposition to such political intrusions upon constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom.
Three members of the Butler Library staff are working exclusively on raising additional funds. However, all of the library’s approximately 300 employees keep financial issues in mind because that is the only way to compensate for the rising expenses of personnel, technical equipment, and building maintenance as well as to adequately engage new developments in research for the acquisition of new media and to manage the expenses accompanying special projects. The Friends of the Library also are active in the search for additional money. The total amount of funds raised in this way comes to about $10 million annually: 5 to 6 million dollars stem from individuals and are “endowment gifts,” “annual gifts,” “gifts in kind,” “project gifts” or “capital gifts;” 3 to 5 million dollars come from foundations, organizations and companies in the form of grants. In addition, there are occasional individual contributions tied to a specific purpose, such as the $100 million given this year for the Jewish collection and a related oral history project. In times of economic crises, the Butler Library’s dependency on private financial donors becomes evident, of course. In 2009/2010 a total of 45 positions will have to be eliminated. James Neal calls these cuts “painful but useful.” In dealing with this problem he proves to be as rational and pragmatic as he is decisive in his political positions: Don’t complain, but look for the best solution under the constantly changing conditions, in order to achieve the main goal that all library work has in common--“free and open access, no barriers.”
Friday, 9. October 2009
The Butler Library at Columbia University in New York City: Advocacy and Fundraising in the Service of “Open Access” for Scientific Research
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