Remarks: Welcoming Reception in the Powell Library Rotunda
September 15, 2003
Twenty-three years ago this month I stood in the Supreme Court Chamber of the Library and Courts Building in Sacramento and took the oath of office as state librarian of California. Today I stand in this historic rotunda as university librarian. I have truly returned home. I could not feel more at ease and excited than I do at this very moment.
I am honored to follow in the steps of UCLA's great University Librarians—Ackerman, Powell, Vosper, Shank, Werner—I have huge shoes to fill. Each shaped this great University Library in new ways, toward new challenges. I accept the challenge to forge new directions as well as protect and preserve the Library's great and vast collections and to build new ones. Together we will also build new electronic resources and engage the Library in scholarly communication, at the same time strengthening information literacy needed to navigate today's vast store of knowledge and ideas.
Libraries represent a fundamental public good in our democracy. They assure the right, the privilege, and the ability of individuals to choose and pursue any direction of thought, study, or action they wish. The library provides the capital necessary for us to understand the past and plan for the future. It is also our collective memory, since history and human experience are best preserved in writing. The University Library is dedicated to the needs of its diverse communities on the campus, its advocacy and support of appropriate technology, the excellence of its collections, and the commitment of its staff to the very highest ideals of library practice.
Collections are the core of any library. UCLA has built massive, respected collections of resources, making it one of the greatest research libraries in the world. This premier asset to the university must be maintained and allowed to grow. Conserving and preserving the print collections are high priority in this digital age.
Compiling a book on reading in 1987, I asked numerous authors, librarians, and others to contribute. Bob Hayes, then dean of the School of Library and Information Science, commented:
It is my philosophical position that the open, ready availability of information is essential to our society and culture, to our political process, to our economic well-being, to our scientific development, and to the welfare of the individual person. ... Information is the ultimate good. It makes it possible for people to share with each other, both now and across time. It provides the means for us to deal with social complexity without loss of individual freedom. It serves as the basis for education and individual growth.
In fact, the library is an institution of continuing stability, with established roles and relationships to the constituencies it serves and with clear commitments to that philosophical view. The library will continue to maintain that stability in the future and will continue to relate well to the constituencies served in assuring ready, open availability of information, ideas, and knowledge.
Bob further conjectured, ...reading makes these means for communication real and more than just artifacts. The book comes to life when it is read. It affects the reader and, potentially, all to whom the reader then communicates. The library assures that the book can live in this way and not disappear and die.
The faculty and students at UCLA create significant amounts of new intellectual content. The Library must work with you to determine how best to capture and preserve this invaluable resource and ensure that it is appropriately made available for use and consultation. Support for robust systems of full text must be developed and maintained along side print collections.
Everything I have done to this day has been preparing me for the next years at UCLA. Serving three different governors in California through the early post-Proposition 13 era prepared me with several degrees in crisis management. Dealing with the aftermath of the terrorist attack on our country tested my resolve of the role of libraries in creating and keeping a civil society.
I join a tremendously talented staff at the Library and look forward to working with each one of you in the coming days, weeks, and years.
© 2003. Gary E. Strong.