|“Rat-a-tat-tat, bam, bam, bam,” followed by a
brief moment of silence. Then “Bam, bam, bam, rat-a-tat-tat,”
and “thwack, thwack, thwack.”
The noise level in Joyce Ogburn’s office is headache-inducing, yet the new director of the J. Willard Marriott Library seems to take it in stride.
In the few months since her arrival at the U on September 1, 2005, Ogburn has adjusted to the chaos that reigns during the renovation and seismic upgrading of the building, a $71 million project that isn’t expected to be completed until fall 2008.
“It’s a lot slower when you’ve got 8,000 people in the library on a busy semester day and you have to keep services going,” says Ogburn. “But it would have been impossible to move to another location.”
Try to imagine.
The renovation is just one of the many challenges—and opportunities—facing Ogburn, who left her position as associate director of Libraries, Resources and Collection Management Services (RCMS) at the University of Washington to come to Utah to head up the multiple plans in progress at the library here.
One of Ogburn’s highest priorities—above and beyond getting some peace and quiet—is to implement a collaborative project with the University of Utah Press. To begin, the project will involve moving the press from its current location in the basement of the University Services Building into the library. The close proximity will prove mutually beneficial for a variety of reasons.
“For a long time, people have talked about libraries assuming more of a publishing role because we now put so much information on the Web,” says Ogburn. “Libraries are increasingly attuned to the publishing industry because we have similar interests in making sure that knowledge is accessible, that there is a venue for research to get published and disseminated. We share that commonality with the publishers.”
According to Jeff Grathwohl MA’85, director and senior editor of the U of U Press, an increasing number of university presses and research libraries are linking up. “We hope to benefit from the Marriott’s expertise in some of the new digital publishing options as a supplement to our print program. And as the library undertakes initiatives that are essentially publishing projects, I think we can provide some help in shaping editorial functions.”
Margaret Landesman, head of Collection Development, points out that libraries have one set of skills and university presses another, and that cross-pollination is bound to bear fruit. “The skills we have, they lack, and vice versa,” she says, “So we should be able to help the press figure out how to move online, and the press should be able to help us learn to add value to our collections and to become better editors.”
Although commercial publishers are often at odds with libraries, university presses are a different matter. “We are, at heart, book people,” says Ogburn, “even with all the digital options. A lot of university presses around the country are in financial trouble; but ours is not. Jeff has done a fabulous job.”
She notes that, in general, people aren’t aware of what university presses do. “They are very important to making scholarship available. Their primary mission is serving scholarship and high-quality research. They also support the community in scholarly ways.”
A logical way to involve the Web in this collaborative effort is to make available companion or thematic sites that supplement book publications, including additional photographs and other complementary, elaborative materials. “Scholarly books don’t have large print runs,” says Ogburn, “and by putting these materials on the Web, we are able to have more information available than we can afford to publish. We hope to involve the U of U Press more with this in the future.”
According to Grathwohl, those scholarly print runs may soon be cut back even more, as “print on demand” is becoming ever more feasible.
“Regardless of the purported viability of electronic books, the more immediate prospect for academic monographs and edited volumes is print-on-demand,” says Grathwohl. “The days when academic publishers print a 10-year supply of academic monographs are gone.” To hold down costs and inventory, the press is now trying to print for no more than an estimated two years of sales, after which it will then consider printing on demand.
“It’s not going to reduce the retail cost of books,” notes Grathwohl, “but it means that a research monograph whose likely sale is 500 to 600 copies becomes a more viable publishing project… Things aren’t quite at the point where a single copy of a book is printed for a single order, but that day is coming soon.”
The day is coming soon, too, when the library will fulfill its true function as the pulsating heart of the campus: The building will not only be seismically upgraded so that occupants don’t have to worry about being “pancaked” following an earthquake, but it will also be expanded and enhanced to include:
• an Information Commons, a technology-intensive center staffed
by professional helpers;
Ogburn believes that the library should be an all-purpose refuge—for studying, for socializing, for collaborating. But, she says, “We don’t want to forget that it’s a place for research and scholarship as well. It’s becoming more student-centered, but our services are still geared toward scholarship.”
Rather than being daunted by all of the challenges ahead, Ogburn is energized. She admires the “collaborative spirit” on the U of U campus and looks forward to working with Jeff Grathwohl and others on new ideas and projects already under way.
“This is really a great library,” she says. “It has a lot to offer the community and is something to be really proud of.”
Bam, bam, bam.
—Linda Marion BFA’67 MFA’71 is managing editor of Continuum.
JOYCE OGBURN: EQUAL TO THE TASK
While Joyce Ogburn had never been to Salt Lake City before interviewing for the position as head of the Marriott Library, she was aware of the many recreational opportunities available in Utah, which she and her husband, Steve Eichner, found attractive.
The couple now resides on the upper Avenues, close to downtown and to the U of U campus, where they attend many of the events and cultural performances offered. “It’s so convenient,” she says. “Plus, there is a lot less traffic here than in Seattle. And the mountains are so accessible. We often go hiking along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.”
Ogburn’s husband, who grew up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, was “quite willing” to come here, she says. “We made a pact that we would never go anywhere unless it was good for both of us.” (That goes for job opportunities as well: Eichner is now assistant registrar at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.)
The duo has trekked around the country a fair bit, agreeing to follow Joyce’s career, which has taken an upward trajectory from the moment of her graduation with a B.A. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1978. (She also earned an M.S. in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982 and an M.A. in anthropology from Indiana University in 1988.)
Ogburn began her career as acquisitions librarian at The Pennsylvania State University (1984-1991), then moved on to Yale University, where she was chief acquisitions librarian and head of the acquisitions department (1991-1996). At Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., she was assistant university librarian, Information Resources and Systems (1996-1999) before relocating to the University of Washington.
In welcoming Ogburn to the U, President Michael Young commented: “The Marriott Library is the primary repository in Utah for printed materials and electronic information—indeed, one of the largest library collections in the entire United States. I am absolutely delighted that we have attracted someone equal to the task of managing and improving it. Joyce Ogburn has had precisely that experience at some of the very best university systems in the country and has succeeded marvelously well wherever she has been. I am extremely pleased she has agreed to join our educational team.”
Now that Ogburn has had time to
settle in, she says of her new life in Salt Lake City, simply, “I
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