The BIG Convenings: Why Now?

As you may already have seen elsewhere in this issue of the Agenda, the BTAA has scheduled a series of BIG Collection Convenings for all faculty and staff of member libraries. This series of keynotes will focus on generating broad community engagement with the vision, themes, and practical direction for the BIG Collection.

As a member of the BIG Collection Steering Committee, I invite you all to register to attend. But further, I thought I’d use this month’s column to give a bit of additional context about these events and discuss why now is a great time for us to be engaging in these conversations as a community.

In a recent presentation, BTAA’s director of library initiatives Maurice York described our current operating environment as a sort of “Pangea,” with each of the self-contained land masses representing a distinct element of the member libraries’ collections and operations—our purchased collections versus our licensed collections, for instance, or the material we digitize from our physical holdings versus that which we make available as part of our various publishing initiatives.

From my perspective as a member of the Steering Committee, the issue with the way this landscape has developed over time is that each area has grown in isolation from the others. Until very recently, no one had taken a step back to survey the environment holistically, to consider these elements as interconnected and interdependent, and to imagine the possibilities that can emerge when treating our Pangea not as a loosely related set of activities, but as a single entity with a unified purpose.

The Convenings are our first step toward getting the people on all these separate land masses to see a common future—of moving us closer toward that unified purpose. They are also a way for us to hear from representatives of all these different groups, to understand them better and learn both what they can offer the BIG Collection and what they might need from the BIG Collection to be successful.

As I have written several times over the last number of months, the scholarly communication landscape is evolving, precipitated in part by changes brought about by the pandemic and the shift to an online-centric model of teaching and research. At the same time as our users’ expectations shift to demanding access to materials “at the speed of now,” pressure is being put on academic libraries across the country to maximize their budgets and achieve efficiencies of scale. Set against this backdrop, how do we align resources and activities across BTAA libraries to work toward a “knowledge commons” and maximize our impact? How can we work together—leveraging shared services, infrastructure, and strategy—to better serve all our communities? These are the questions that we will begin to explore throughout the BIG Convenings. I hope you will plan to join us!

Krisellen Maloney