Provost Frye explains creation of technology superfund

To the Emory Community

Digital technology and "electronic information" are quickly transforming Emory: the ways we generate, store and disseminate scholarly information, teach, collaborate as scholars, and interact as a community are all being changed. As these changes evolve, we are finding that here, more than in any other realm, our traditional administrative and budgetary structures are often not adequate to promote the level of either effectiveness or efficiency that we ought to expect. Indeed, our traditions of administrative decentralization and autonomy sometimes actually stand in the way of making the best choices for the good of the University as a whole. At the same time, these traditions are also a source of great strength and accomplishment, and so should not be set aside lightly. We need ways to avail ourselves of the best of both worlds, collaborating when it is in our mutual interests, retaining an appropriate level of freedom and responsibility to pursue independent goals when that will yield the best result. Toward that end I am writing to announce two interrelated decisions that I believe will encourage greater cooperation and, therefore, greater efficiency and effectiveness among the schools and colleges in the further development of electronic information resources at Emory.

First, I am establishing a Digital Information Resources Council to function as the University-wide coordinating and planning body to make decisions and/or advise the provost, the deans, and directors of our libraries and of information technology on all relevant issues involving institutional policies, organizational changes, funding strategies for acquiring, supporting and managing information resources that support our teaching and research programs. The charge to this Council and a membership list are printed below.

Second, I am creating a central "superfund" for information resources to support the work of the Digital Information Resources Council. The size of the fund, initially, will be $500,000 per year, half of this coming as an appropriation from my office, and the other half jointly from the General Libraries and the Division of Information Technology. The fund is to be used (1) to share in certain costs that are now perceived to be the responsibility of individual units, and thereby promote both greater collaboration and greater cost-effectiveness, and (2) to provide venture capital for the development of new services and operations that benefit the entire campus. Examples of such uses of the fund might include the purchase of site licenses and software that provide University-wide access to particular information resources, creation of a campus-wide data center, or support of our collaboration in the National Digital Library Federation (a federation of 15 major scholarly libraries committed to building the capacity for a national digital library). Such uses of the fund will simultaneously reduce the costs to individual units that now purchase them and make these services more widely accessible within the University community. I expect this to encourage more rapid and better coordinated development of means of providing universal access to information from any location, whether in electronic or paper format. The fund will be administered through the General Libraries, under the supervision of the Council.

Few ideas have a higher value within a university community than the notion of "free" and universal access to information. In this day and age, there is little reason to continue to endure the constraints that have been imposed by the limits of ownership and location of information. These initiatives are intended to give added impetus to the movement toward universal access to our campus resources. A bonus of this is that the same steps that we must take to provide universal access to information resources internally will assure that Emory is prepared to be a principal player nationally and internationally in the so-called "virtual library" as it continues to evolve. Finally, let me note that this action is intended to advance the objectives of Choices & Responsibility through enhancing our scholarly infrastructure, promoting intellectual community and diminishing the administrative boundaries that artificially divide us.


Billy E. Frye

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