College & Research Libraries News

ACRL: PARTNERS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: NASULGC’s 110th annual meeting examines library concerns: Copyright, scholarly publishing, and technology discussed

By Jill B. Fatzer

The National Association of State Univer- sities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) held its 110th annual meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 16-18, in the wake of a Congress that had just ad- journed leaving a number of important higher-education measures unsettled. Not surprisingly, legislative issues dominated many of the 52 programs and numerous busi- ness meetings attended by some 1,200 par- ticipants.

NASULGC’s infrastructure more or less parallels the structure of academic institutions with Councils for Academic Affairs, for Student Affairs, for Continuing Education, and the like; and Commissions on International Affairs, on Human Resources, etc. Librarians find their interests reflected in the Commission on Information Technologies (CIT), which is further subdivided into Boards on Distance Education, on Technology Infrastructure, and on Library Resources and Services. The CIT offered programs titled, “Intellectual Property Issues: Copyright Protection, Fair Use Guidelines, and Database Protection” and “New Alliances in Higher Education and Information Technology,” plus a dinner featuring “Congress and Telecommunications: A Senator’s [Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana] Perspective,” which was quite illuminating.

Legislation updates

The program on intellectual property issues provided updates on the various conflicting pieces of legislation vying to redefine rights and responsibilities regarding digital information. The breaking news was a bill by Reps. Boucher and Campbell that goes farther than the Ashcroft amendments in guaranteeing fair uses of information in electronic form.

In contrast, grave concern was expressed about HR 2652, which provides new copyright protections to “compiled information,” with absolutely no fair use provisions. One speaker feared that as defined in this bill, “compiled information” could include not just data sets, but any text from “a dictionary to the Bible.” This session also included a presentation of Mary Case of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) of SPARC: The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, the proposed mission of which reads “SPARC is conceived as a partnership of the Association of Research Libraries and other educational and research organizations … to create a more competitive marketplace for research information by providing opportunities for new publishing ventures; … to promote academic values of access to information for research and teaching; … to encourage innovative uses of technology to improve scholarly communication by collaborating in the design and testing of new products; … and developing systems and standards for the archiving and management of research findings.” Basically, SPARC seeks to initiate and foster alternatives to the current pattern of scholarly journal publication by innovative utilization of new technologies by those who originate the material: authors in colleges and universities.

Technology issues

The program on New Alliances was about the background, progress, and prospects of the initiative to create “Internet 2.” While it was anticipated that some 40 or so institutions would participate in this venture (and thereby provide its startup capital), some 116 members have signed up, including some consortiums representing several universities. The University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (UCAID) has been incorporated and Douglas van Houweling (formerly CIO at the University of Michigan) hired as its chief executive officer. While the level of interest and corporate progress has been heady, the audience was cautioned that a lot of hard, technological work lay ahead before successful implementation could be guaranteed.

Many other NASULGC entities are involving themselves in technology issues, with the Council on Academic Affairs doing a program entitled “Using Technologies to Create New Communities of Learning,” while the Commission on Human Resources and Social Change presented sessions titled “The Changing Role of Faculty in the Age of Technology” and “The New Knowledge Professor.”

Speaking with one voice

The business meetings of the CIT and its three boards featured the release and distribution of the pamphlet Higher Education Policies for the Digital Age. This publication is the first fruit of Commission on Information Technology’s chair (and President of Penn State) Graham B. Spanier’s efforts to position NASULGC as a leading organization on information technologies to assure that higher education speaks with one voice on issues of importance to us all. The pamphlet was generated by brainstorming among representatives of some 15 relevant associations (including ACRL), followed by consensus building on five key areas: intellectual property, free speech and inquiry, advanced communications, telecommunications policy and regulation, and distributed education. Final drafting was done by a small group that included librarians, and library issues are prominent throughout the document. Though published by NASULGC, it is issued by The Higher Education Alliance for Information Technology, made up of all the presiden- tially driven associations of higher education and endorsed by nine participating associations, including ACRL. The legislative liaisons of all participating organizations and institutions will be provided with copies, so that “speaking with one voice” may be more readily facilitated.

A continuing conversation

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the meeting was the connections made between the Board on Library Resources and Services and the Council on Academic Affairs (CAA). CAA is made up of the chief academic officers of the member institutions, and includes committees relating to the spheres of interest of the various commissions. While the CAA Committee on Libraries and Information Technology had over the years lost contact with the Board, its current chair, Marlene Strathe (provost at the University of North Dakota) responded to the invitation issued by Board Chair Elaine Albright (Library Director at the University of Maine) to meet with the librarians. During the course of the discussion, she invited the librarians in attendance to meet with her committee later in the conference. In a room reminiscent of the ALA Conference’s dreaded “meeting table” room, some half-dozen librarians met with a like number of provosts, plus representatives of the ARL and the Association of American Universities. The upshot of the stimulating, wide-ranging conversation was twofold. First, it became clear that at least some provosts now realize that many “library” issues, such as the spiraling cost of serials or the licensing difficulties of digital information, are really systemic issues for the whole academy to grapple with. The second result was an invitation for librarian participation in a halfday program at the Council on Academic Affairs’ summer meeting, and consequent opportunity to bring these matters to the attention of many more of the member chief academic officers.

There will also be a separate summer meeting of the Commission on Information Technology in conjunction with the Commissions on Outreach and Technology Transfer and on Extension, Continuing Education, and Public Service on the theme: “Cyberpartners: Will It Change the Way We Collaborate?” It will be held June 3-5 at the Chicago Hilton and Towers. While only 15 or so librarians participated in the NASULGC Annual Meeting, it is hoped that more will attend and form a visible presence at this summer program.

NASULGC is comprised of some 180 land- grant and public colleges and universities, all of whose librarians fall under that membership eligibility. It is an influential organization whose attention is increasingly riveted on all the issues of importance, both to individual libraries and to ACRL. More participation by librarians can only benefit us all.

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