University Senate                                                                                                          April 26, 2002







This year the Committee welcomed the arrival of Jim Neal, the new Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, and reviewed several aspects of the functioning of the library system and AcIS. We have no resolutions we wish to place before the Senate just now; we would simply like to report on some of our concerns.


1) Funding: In general, the library system is funded at a much more satisfactory level than in the bad old days of the early 90s. We are especially pleased to see the 8 percent increase in the acquisitions budget, and the breakdown of funds into different categories so that high funding levels for crucial areas can be separately maintained.


2) Fund-raising: In the past, library needs have too often received a low priority within the University’s larger fund-raising campaigns. We are glad to see the allocation of four new positions for this purpose, which should help to redress the balance. As the renovation of Butler proceeds apace, other campus libraries cry out for attention—and offer excellent opportunities for the attentions of named donors.


3) Conservation: Reports were presented to us about conservation issues (including the conservation of digital materials) and about the methods we are using at present for this purpose. An appropriate balance must be maintained between our physical collection and our online resources, both of which are vulnerable to loss, damage, and decay. The new ReCAP off-campus storage site (which we share with Princeton and New York Public) will itself make a contribution to these efforts. Not only this but many other conservation arrangements, especially in the digital area, are consortial, and Columbia has been a leader in initiating and guiding such consortia. We are glad that Jim Neal will be continuing to make conservation issues a high priority, and we urge that more funds be provided in this increasingly crucial area.


4) AcIS: AcIS has grown very substantially. Since 1995, AcIS staff FTE positions have increased 54 percent, a significant rate of growth by any standard. However, the use of its services has grown almost exponentially During the same period the number of courses taught in electronically equipped classrooms has increased 423 percent, and the weekly total of email messages has increased 1,033 percent. AcIS’s own six-year plan, initiated in 1998, has in many respects proved too modest, in view of the rate at which technology has “infiltrated the imaginations of tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff” (p.1). Online resources are now indispensable to our daily lives. More investment in AcIS is so manifestly necessary that we hardly need to labor the point.


5) Email privacy: In the wake of September 11, we decided to request a report from the office of the university counsel about the current status of the email privacy situation at Columbia. Although new guidelines are in the process of being drafted, we feel satisfied that our present policy represents a sensible middle ground between undesirable extremes of total inaccessibility or easy availability. We plan to monitor these guidelines as they are developed.


6) Looking toward the future: New successes and opportunities of course bring new risks. Now that the campus is blanketed with over 80 wireless broadcast points and new laptops routinely come with wireless cards, wireless web access all over campus is increasingly a reality—as is the much greater ease of eavesdropping by others tuned in to the same wireless station. It seems clear that the problems facing us over the next few years are likely to include greater concerns about online security, including concerns about the authentication of identity and the safeguarding of intellectual property. Our committee expects to examine these concerns in more depth as they evolve.



Fran Pritchett