ISU Day at the Capitol

Yesterday was ISU Day at the Capitol, ISU’s opportunity each year to visit with legislators, legislative staff, and visitors to the Capitol, to demonstrate what Iowa State has to offer students, communities, and Iowans. Units from campus set up table displays in the rotunda and it is most definitely cardinal and gold all around! Cy was all over the place, sitting in important seats around the Capitol building. At our University Library table I had the opportunity to visit with many people, including legislators and staff, high school students on a tour of the Capitol building, an Iowa librarian now working for one of the legislators, and most enjoyable, a pair of ISU alums who lived in Pammel Court in the early 1970s. Of course I did not miss the opportunity to mention our Special Collections & University Archives exhibit, “For Married Students”: Building a Community in Pammel Court, 1946-1978, and encouraged them to come to campus soon.

After ISU Day at the Capitol wrapped up I attended an ISU reception for area alums and legislators in downtown Des Moines. At the reception President Leath spoke about ISU’s growth in enrollment, research funding, and impact on our state. He thanked our legislators for their support and talked about the importance of higher education and the land grant tradition. He then introduced Dr. Cathann Kress, Vice President for Extension and Outreach, who spoke about ISU’s Land Grant Legacy project. With this project Iowa is the first state in the nation to identify the land that would fund a college…the Iowa Agricultural College which eventually become Iowa State University of Science and Technology. What an exciting project for our state! Extension staff did research for this project in Special Collections & University Archives and at the State Historical Society.  During the reception I had the great fortune to speak with a woman who farms with her family on one of the original Iowa land grant farms. She was so taken with the Land Grant Legacy project that she is now involved in gathering stories from other land grant farms.  Her family’s story, and that of other land grant farm families, is being collected on ISU’s Extension and Outreach website. I encourage you to visit the Land Grant Legacy.

So many reminders of the great work we do here at ISU and the important land grant tradition. What an enjoyable day!

#landgrantlegacy @cathannkress #ISUCapitolDay

Busy September!

How time flies when it’s nice outside and a new academic year is getting underway. As some of you know I’ve been reluctant to call this a blog. Somehow blogging or being a blogger just didn’t set well with me. But that’s what it really is. So, here goes: I haven’t blogged lately, not because there is nothing to say, but work and life and family and activities happen and the next thing you know our basement floods, we deal with a skateboard accident and lost teeth, and here on campus we’re a month into the semester. September has been busy!

Did you know that the word blog is a combination of two words – Web and log. As the name implies, a blog is a record of information posted on the Web. There are millions of blogs out there that cover millions of topics, including Looking out my window. I’d like to introduce you – if you aren’t following already, the blogs presented by our colleagues who write about what is going on in departments around the library and in the larger library community.

Cardinal Tales: The Blog of Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University covers all things SCUA including a look back at the 1975-76 Cyclones men’s basketball team, World Soil Day, popcorn hybridization, the 1900 Old Main fire and Stephens Auditorium. Not only is the auditorium an architectural icon, but many noteworthy names have performed there.

Scholarly Communication @ ISU Library is a blog on scholarly communication topics written by colleagues around the library. Posts cover all-things open access, copyright, fair use and open data, to name a few. Understanding Predatory Publishers is a recent post that, as the name implies, discusses predatory publishers, how to spot scams and how to avoid them.

Parks Library Preservation is a blog about the activities in the Preservation lab and department. Staff write about preservation techniques, digital initiatives, visitors to the lab and even RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).

Follow these blogs and let the post writers know what you like.


For the next couple of months we’ll host an open meeting each week about the Library Space Feasibility Study, or LSFS2016 as I like to call it. Attendance is optional, but anyone who is interested is welcome!  At the first of these sessions last Friday we covered the goals, overall schedule, recent updates, and rumors and myths, and wrapped up with Q&A. I expect the next couple of sessions will be similar, with some time for a focused conversation on a particular related topic. We’ll post the PowerPoint, probably on CyPoint. In the meantime, here are questions raised during Q&A at Friday’s session, with some answers:

1.More study space means less space for collections, right? Maybe, but not necessarily. It could mean other locations for our collections outside of Parks, or more efficient use of our current study space and collection space.

2.Are Design RR and VetMed library included and what about other spaces on campus? We are having conversations with Dean Nolan and Dean Rico-Guttierez about Design and VM library spaces, and those efforts are related to but separate from this project. As for other places on campus – we continue to seek additional space for shelving/storing library collections.

3.If we have such a space concern why are we inviting other campus units and staff into Parks? All of campus is feeling the space crunch. Sharing space in Parks with ITS and with the Provost office (for the 3 advisors) provides our campus community with two important services in the Library. Partnering and collaborating with others to meet campus needs positions us well for the future.

4.What is our current use of space vs ideal use vs what P+W firm knows of other university libraries? Good question!   We’ll ask P+W this question. Currently, FP&M’s space survey allocates Parks’ spaces like this:  38.2% Collections; 29.0% Public Spaces; 16.1% Staff Spaces; 15.4% Utilities, hallways, bathrooms, stairwells, etc., and 1.4% Partners

5.Will P+W do the actual plans as well as the space feasibility study?  Possibly, but not necessarily. This is a feasibility project. Developing actual plans would be a new project and a new/separate RFP, etc. We have asked P+W to provide a report or proposal that we can implement in phases, as we have funding. It is possible that P+W could be a firm that we work with again on one or more of the phases but that is unknown at this time.

6.What will be the location of the Student Innovation Center?  The Student Innovation Center will be located North-West of the water tower and south of Sweeney, where the Nuclear Engineering lab is located.

7.Is expanding Parks a possibility? What about expanding up?  Expanding beyond our current footprint is unlikely. The possibility of expanding up is being investigated.

8.Do we really have a bathroom shortage?  Not exactly a shortage, but we do have a bathroom problem. Our restrooms need to be updated to meet current standards and code.  According to building occupancy calculations we actually have enough of them, they just aren’t in the most ideal locations and they need to be updated.

Parks Library is a beautiful building and a popular location for ISU students. Our staff provide consistently excellent assistance to students, faculty, and the visitors who walk through our doors and visit our website each day. And this puts us in a good position to consider what’s next – what else we may want to do meet the library information and research needs of our campus. This feasibility study affords us the opportunity to ask questions, study spaces, and gain an external, professional opinion – through the report – on what Parks Library could be.

The LSFS Steering Committee wants this to be as transparent a process and project as possible, which is partially the reason for the information/input sessions. So, I hope you will let me know if you have any questions about anything I said or didn’t say last Friday.  E-mail or ask me this week – Thursday, July 21, at 11am, when we’ll do this again.


Early summer update

Summer and travel

I can tell it’s summer by the thermometer and all the students on campus for #IowaStateORI! I hope you are able to enjoy some vacation and time with friends and family. Our schedule at home is relaxing a bit, as our boys finished soccer last week and will be finished with baseball by this Friday. Both are looking forward to swimming and fun with their friends in our neighborhood.

Here on campus, though, summer is turning out to be a busier time than I had expected. I plan to attend ALA later this month, in July I’ll travel to Charlottesville, VA for the SHARE Community meeting, and then in August I’m heading to UCLA for the National Diversity in Libraries conference. I am hoping to fit in some visits with our library supporters during these trips. I’m especially looking forward to some family touring time with Wes and the boys when we visit Rocky Mountain National Park in July. Thank you to everyone who has recommended places for us to visit during that adventure.

P+W and library space

The University Library has partnered with Perkins + Will, an architecture firm located in Chicago, Ill. A large firm with 23 offices around the US and the world, they have a lot of experience and have helped numerous clients execute successful projects like what we are asking them to do for us. Libraries they have worked with include those at Stanford, Clemson, Duke, and Wake Forest. Also of note, a number of P+W interns, designers, architects and principals are alumni of the Iowa State architecture program.

In the coming weeks, there will be opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with members of the P+W team when they visit campus. An open meeting with all interested library staff is being planned for their mid-July campus visit. And, in between their visits I will host discussions for interested staff on a variety of space-related topics. Please watch for announcements about the upcoming meetings and open sessions. After our people and collections, library buildings and spaces are our most valuable asset. The University Library and our spaces around campus are vitally important to student success, and the goal of this project is to assess how we utilize our space and then seek ways to make improvements for everyone. As I’ve said from the day I arrived, I appreciate and welcome your input. Our success depends on you!

Wrapping up the semester

This week and last I made two quick trips to Washington DC for meetings.  Last Thursday and Friday I participated in a joint meeting for members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Diversity and Inclusion Committee and past participants in the ARL Institute to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW) and CEP (Career Enhancement Program) programs, to review past years and discuss the future of the IRDW program.  While I was there I followed up on behalf of our Library’s Committee on Diversity with ARL’s Mark Puente, to see about Mark coming to Iowa State to work with us on programming and staff development. I am hopeful we can schedule Mark’s visit for this fall.

Early Tuesday morning I traveled back to Washington DC, this time with colleagues Kim Anderson, Chris King, and Hilary Seo for a workshop on creating a digital scholarship center, sponsored by CNI (Coalition for Networked Information).  For an overview of the workshop you might check the trip reports on CyPoint. My intent for attending was twofold: to learn more about digital scholarship centers in general and also to build on information we gained from the earlier library-site visits undertaken by Kathy Parsons and others in the past few years. This workshop and site visits will be informative as we begin to work with the architectural firm to consider library spaces at Iowa State.  More on the library spaces study soon.

After two quick trips in the span of 7 days it is good to be home in Ames!  And now that I am back on campus it seems like a good time to tidy up, clean up, wrap up (you get the idea), so in this post I will revisit items from previous posts, to bring you up to date.

From Feb. 26: As of May 14, the IT Solution Center has moved to 192 Parks Library. The center is managed by permanent ISU staff with many student employees to support their efforts. Two walk-up desks are stationed outside the “call center” for people to get on-the-spot assistance. Visit the IT Solution Center website for current information about hours of operation. On Monday, May 16, the University Library and the Solution Center hosted a joint open house – to thank all who were involved in the move and to invite everyone to take a tour of the new space.

Also from Feb. 26: The Library sponsored an Iowa State Women’s Basketball game on March 1. This was a fun way to reach out our library colleagues around Iowa and invite them to Parks Library, introduce them to some of our programs and services and then cheer on the Cyclones at the game. We submitted our video, created for the March 1 basketball game, to the ARLies (a new film festival to inspire ARL member engagement) category of Development/Fund-Raising. Because they had so many submissions, all videos were reviewed prior to the meeting and some (including ours) were selected for showing in Vancouver. While we didn’t win this year (in our category Cornell was the winner), I heard many positive comments and I hope if the ARLies take off we’ll have the opportunity to participate again.

From April 26: Turns out, if you keep the library open around the clock, students will come and utilize the spaces and resources. The 24/7 pilot was a complete success and we are now planning for the fall semester and making the necessary adjustments so we can claim victory then, too.  ICYMI: On May 2, the first day of Finals Week, KHOI Community Radio did a live broadcast from Parks Library. Gail Seiler, associate professor in the School of Education & with KHOI and discussed the 24/7 open-hours pilot with me, students shared thoughts on finals and the 24/7 open-hours pilot, and Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert discussed finals week and offered students some advice. Marie Carlson, ISU police dispatcher, and Keith Morgan, Story County Emergency Management Coordinator, discussed public safety…all live from Parks Library. I hope you will take some time to listen to the archived broadcast.

From March 10: President Leath has approved the ISU Strategic Plan FY 2017-2022, and it’s headed to the Iowa Board of Regents for approval. The priorities of University Library strategic plan tie in well with that of the University, and we continue to make strides to ensure ongoing progress. Some new committees have been formed and meetings are taking place around the library. We want to ensure that library users and staff have superior experiences, and our efforts in strategic planning have us well on our way to achieving our goals.

Please contact me with questions, suggestions or comments.

Piloting 24/7 access to Parks Library

I haven’t blogged in several weeks and with no very good excuse except that I’ve had a rash of work-related travel, and the soccer and baseball seasons for Ames’ kids overlap.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve considered writing about several things, sometimes to the point of jotting down notes. Much has been happening in our library, on campus, and within the greater academic library community.

So now, here are a few of the things I meant to write about:

  • the many ways the University Library serves Iowans (during Extension and Outreach Week, #strongiowa);
  • how we are involved with ARL (Associate of Research Libraries) and what this might mean for us in the coming year, a conversation that emerged when Executive Director Elliott Shore visited us a few weeks ago;
  • and the question of whether and how we can find ways to partner with some of our colleagues around the Midwest — even the larger libraries — in new areas where we really want and need to become involved (data is a good example), which stemmed from a visit from University of Michigan’s Associate University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks.

In the 4:55 a.m. quiet on the first night that Parks Library was open 24/7, I counted roughly 45 students. When we do the door counts, we’ll know for certain. For now, I would report that those who were here seemed to be working and they were happy to pick up a piece of the fruit we provided. Thanks, HyVee!

Speaking of doing rounds, that was interesting. We were missing a second student for the first part of my 2 a.m. shift and so the remaining student and I took turns on rounds, she took Round B, I took Round A. Round A wraps around Floor 2, Tiers 2 and 1, then through the Lower Level and up to Floor 1. As I made my way through Floor 2 the first time around, I looked up and noticed a tent set up outside my office. Surprise! So, I detoured and went upstairs to find out the story. Two very polite young men told me they had decided to take advantage of the 24/7 access to collections and study space and set up camp in Parks. We talked for a bit, I reminded them that floor 3 is pretty busy usually, that belongings left unattended sometimes walk off, and that while I was glad they were in the Library, I hope they make healthy choices during these stressful two weeks.

Thank you to all library staff and faculty for your efforts this week and next as we pilot the 24/7 hours. We are making a difference in our students’ academic success, and I know they appreciate this. How do I know? So many of them say thank you on their way out the door. In fact, Hannah Postlethwait, junior in journalism, stopped by on her way out at 6:55 a.m., to say thank you and chat for a minute: “Your being open 24/7 is going to save my grades,” she said. “The library is my favorite place to study, especially having use of the dual computer screens. I’m so happy I go to Iowa State.”

Planning, planning, planning.

Many people on campus, including some of our colleagues at the Library, have been hard at work the past few months drafting ISU’s new strategic plan. This morning at President’s Council we heard an progress update and next steps. ISU’s new plan connects in a timely fashion with the strategic planning processes for the ISU Foundation and the Board of Regent’s strategic planning. This makes very good sense, since connections with the Foundation and Regents are so important. President Leath’s four priority areas: student success, increasing ISU’s research profile, economic development, and creating a welcoming, safe, and inclusive campus environment are the foundations of the new strategic plan. Open forums on the new ISU strategic plan are scheduled for March 31, 4:30-6pm and April 5, 12-1:30 pm. I’m planning to go on March 31. Please think about attending one of the forums. And, if you would like to join me at forum on the 31st that would be great.

As I was listening to the update at President’s Council I realized how timely this was for us in the Library. Our Library strategic plan, with goals for a superior user experience, with responsive and anticipatory resources and services, dynamic collections, empowering users through teaching information literacy and research skills, engagement, and physical spaces, and a superior staff experience, with an agile organizational structure and healthy culture, connects very well with President Leath’s priorities. We are making progress on many of the action items and initiatives suggested last year by staff members. In just a few weeks we’ll see the first draft for the university’s new plan and just a few weeks after that, at our April 12th All Staff meetings, we’ll talk about our progress on the Library’s plan. Then, this summer will settle on objectives for next academic year. Planning, planning, and more planning, it’s an ongoing process.

On a completely different topic, in national library-related news:  Earlier today Heather Joseph of SPARC reported the very good news that FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, has moved out of the Senate HSGAC Committee and onto the Senate floor. This means that FASTR is now free to be considered by the full Senate as a stand-alone bill, or to be attached to another bill that might be moving for a vote. You can find more information about FASTR at: and

And, finally, I really like the ideas that have been suggested so far for naming the research lecture series we will co-sponsor with the Office of the Vice President for Research. There’s still time – please get your creative ideas to me ASAP.


Maybe it’s the nice weather these past few days and with it the promise of Spring that makes everything seem so much more promising, do-able, achievable.  Some days working toward our goals can feel pretty daunting but I know we are making progress. I hope you agree.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to make a presentation to President’s Council about our University Library. To those of you helped with content for the PowerPoint slides – thank you very much.  President’s Council meets once a month or so, and often includes short presentations from various campus units. I was delighted to be invited to present. My plan was to remind Council members about the services and collections we provide, tell them about some of our newer initiatives underway, and finally – for everyone there to recognize the important contributions we in the University Library make to learning and research and that we want to collaborate with them to increase our contributions in these areas.  Message received!  It turns out that just about everyone wants to talk with us.  OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but over the past few weeks several campus leaders have contacted us with ideas for collaborating.  Not all of these ideas will develop but others should lead to tangible ways for us to make even more contributions to student success at Iowa State. There are two collaborations coming soon to which I want to alert you.

First, the ITS Solution Center, where ISU students, staff, and faculty go for technology support, will move from Durham into Parks Library later this semester.  The exact location is still being determined but it will be somewhere on the Parks first floor, in close proximity to the stand-up computers, printers, and our main service desk.  Solution Center staff will continue to provide help with software, networking, and other IT service issues as they do now and will also assist with the technology-related support that our library users sometimes need, including printing and scanning assistance, etc.  This is a great way for the Library and ITS to collaborate, but even more importantly it offers convenient access to technical expertise for campus.

Dead and Finals Week. We will try an experiment this semester: Parks Library will pilot being open 24/7 during dead week and finals week.  On Sunday, April 24th we’ll open at our usual time, 12:30 p.m., and we will stay open until 5p.m. on Friday, May 6th.  This extra service is something libraries at some other universities have successfully provided in recent years, and apparently this is something that ISU students have asked for off-and-on.  Since I’d been thinking about it anyway, when I saw the student government campaign poster listing 24/7 access as a platform issue for one of the candidates I decided it was the time to seriously consider the idea and discuss it with Administrative Cabinet. And Admin Cabinet has agreed to give it a try.

There are many, many details still to work out, including investigating CyRide schedules, communicating with other units such as campus police, not to mention scheduling.  For this to be a successful project, we’ll need an adult employee here around the clock for those 13 days.  Please be thinking how you might participate: maybe sign up to staff a night shift or two (I’m planning to), take an extra daytime desk shift or chat session for a colleague who flexes their schedule to work an evening shift, or be flexible about rescheduling a regular meeting for a co-worker who has changed their schedule. There are many ways for each of us, throughout the Library, to contribute.  I am confident we can work together to pull this off and that ISU students will appreciate this contribution to their academic success.  More information about this will follow.

Up next:  Next Tuesday, the Library is sponsoring the final game of the ISU’s Women’s basketball season.  We play West Virginia University and their library dean, Dr. Jon Cawthorne, will visit campus that day to join me at the game for a bit of friendly library/basketball rivalry.  In addition to coming to the game, Dr. Cawthorne will make a presentation at 1:30 on Tuesday. Please check CyPoint for details about his presentation. The game sponsorship gives us another way to support Iowa State students plus provides an outreach opportunity to our area library colleagues – we have invited guests from academic and public libraries around the state to visit campus, tour Parks and go to the game.

Seeking creative ideas:  Another interesting developing partnership is with the Office of the Vice President for Research, for a research lecture series co-sponsored by the University Library and VPR.  We are still in the early discussion stages and need some creative thinkers to assist. Please send me your creative ideas for names for the lecture series – something that will draw faculty in and connect the Library to research.

Please be in touch if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments.


Looking out my window


I have a list of things I do regularly. First thing in the morning I check, Inside Higher Ed, and my Instagram account. Then I check e-mail. When there’s time I might look at Facebook and Twitter, but that’s usually delayed until evening. Early morning and late evenings I take a walk with our dog, Brody. Themed meals (most popular right now-Tuesday Taco Bar…apparently making your own plate is a big deal for 7-year olds) and Friday game nights (ping pong and foosball) are pretty regular occurrences with my family. On Fridays I try to clean out my email accounts, both work and personal accounts. And, on Saturdays I usually call my folks. The list goes on.

So, when a friend here on campus suggested I try my hand at blogging as a way to connect with Library staff and faculty, I thought, sure, I should add that to my routine. But can and should are two very different things. I sat on this suggestion for a couple of months but have now decided I’m going to give this a try and see how it works. My intent is to provide a weekly update, and for the words I write here to be mostly business, some personal, and I am hopeful, to be of interest.

My first installment includes three pieces of information that I think will be of interest to library staff and faculty. One is donor related. One is holiday schedule related. One is space related.

Donors. After research and experimentation, a Gift button has been added to the navigation bar on the Library website. When site visitors are so inclined, we want giving to be really obvious and really easy. So far, reviews of the Gift button are positive, and it has been utilized. We’ve received at least two gifts in the few days it has been active. All the colleges on campus present a straightforward path for donating via their websites. We researched how Gift links are presented on various library websites, too. The most effective ones are conspicuously placed at the top.

Holiday/Semester break. In an effort to best serve our many constituencies, faculty, staff, and the campus community, Parks Library will not close over the holidays in 2016/17. Parks will remain open, most likely with reduced hours, and with limited services. Details on how we’ll do this are still being worked on, but I wanted to make you aware of it for semester-end/holiday planning.

Last but not least, library space. You’ve probably noticed that Parks Library is pretty crowded with students most days. I think this is wonderful and a good sign that we’re providing a welcoming, supportive research and study environment for our students. And, to continue to do so, we will soon begin a formal space study of the University Library. This space study will focus mostly on Parks, but will also include the Design Reading Room, Veterinary Medicine Library and the Library Storage Building. Discussions are just beginning with FP&M’s Margie Tabor and the University architects Dan Sloan and Dan Nutini and they will guide us on the next steps. We will all have opportunities to be involved and engaged in this major project and I’m counting on your creative ideas.

Stay tuned for more on the above and please let me know if you have any questions.


Snow scene from 302 Parks Library: “I love ISU.” I do, too!


You can follow me on Twitter @bethmcneil