A visit to University of Cincinnati Libraries

** Ed: This is the eighth article contribution from libraries which delegates can choose to visit during IFLA WLIC 2016 conference. The Publications Team thank University of Cincinnati Libraries for their article contribution. **

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Libraries is a 10-library system with 13 libraries total spread over four jurisdictions. Conveniently located throughout UC’s urban campus in Cincinnati, Ohio, UC Libraries supports the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional programs and include the Walter C. Langsam Library, the Archives and Rare Books Library, the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library and seven college and department libraries serving: chemistry and biology; classics; music; design, architecture, art and planning; education, criminal justice, and human services; engineering and applied science; and geology, mathematics and physics. Additional libraries at UC include the Marx Law Library, and the libraries for UC’s Clermont and Blue Ash Campuses.

UC’s first university library was established in 1895 and located on the third floor of the original campus’ historic Old McMicken Hall. Six short years later, with the help of a generous gift from donor Asa Van Wormer, the Van Wormer Library was constructed. Van Wormer, the oldest building on UC’s current main campus, is now the home to the Office of the Provost.

Blegen Library (UC Libraries)
Blegen Library entrance

Over the next hundred years, with the support of donors, endowments and the university’s Board of Directors, new libraries were built or established to serve the university’s needs. Blegen Library, for example, was constructed and opened in 1930 to serve as the university’s Main Library. It now houses three important libraries on campus: the Archive and Rare Books Library, the Albino Gorno Memorial Music Library and the John Miller Burnam Classical Library. In 2008, the new world-class Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library was opened; it was recently ranked 14th among the most impressive university medical school libraries in the world.

Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library (UC Libraries)
Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library interior

Facilities aside, UC Libraries has a collection of almost 4.5 million volumes, including its world-renowned classics collection, which was formed from the private library of former UC faculty member John Miller Burnam and expanded through the generosity of a former chairman of the Classics Department and his wife, William T. and Louise Taft Semple. Over 1.3 million users visit the libraries every year, a number that is gradually increasing with the library’s continued improvements to accessibility.

In 1932, the University of Cincinnati Libraries was a founding member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). The libraries are also an active member in OhioLink, the State of Ohio’s consortium of college and university libraries.

Two years ago, the University of Cincinnati Libraries launched a new Strategic Plan with the ultimate vision of transforming the libraries into the globally engaged, intellectual commons of the university. Integral to that transformation are the libraries’ Strategic Initiatives –innovative and collaborative efforts designed to explore new and exciting areas in the world of university libraries. These initiatives focus on a broad range of topics, both traditional and transformative, each chosen with the goal of bringing us one step closer to realizing the libraries’ vision. They cover such diverse topics as digital humanities/digital scholarship, managing collections, developing new technologies and creating and renovating new library spaces to meet the changing needs of students.

The first ten initiatives, which launched shortly after the launch of the Strategic Plan, are now completing their second year with tremendous success. Many of them are so embedded in the organization that they are preparing to graduate to operational status. Initiatives like “Creating the Next Generational Repository,” which launched a new UC digital repository Scholar@UC last fall, will transition to become a permanent department within the library.

Some of the initiatives began with a more research focus with the goal of formulating recommendations for future library practices in areas such as discovery and collection management. Once their research was complete, their final recommendations were shared internally and plans were developed to explore and implement their suggestions.

Other initiatives needed more time to reach their objectives, or needed to be revisited and their goals redefined to suit the changing needs of the libraries and university. The “Langsam Library Digital Scholarship Area” initiative, for example, has made incredible progress, but its completion is largely dependent on a number of internal and external factors and shared resources that make adhering to a strict timeline difficult. In realizing these initiatives, the libraries have sought to be both nimble and agile while at the same time sensitive to the libraries’ daily operations and the shifting priorities of the university.

This summer, UC Libraries will examine their progress so far and decide the future of all the initiatives going forward. They will also explore the possibility of new initiatives that align with their vision.

Langsam Library shot from different views n the summer.
Langsam Library view during summer

UC Libraries’ ongoing success has been contingent on the participation and enthusiasm of the libraries’ faculty and staff, and the partnerships they have fostered within their colleges and units, locally, nationally and internationally. UC Libraries road to transformation is paved with collaborations and synergetic relationships that encourage growth and groundbreaking, as well as sustainable change for the libraries and their collaborators.

Contributed by Ms Jenny Mackiewicz, Coordinator at University of Cincinnati Libraries.

Posted by Justin Tan, Editor.