Hello, and welcome to the first column in a new Lyrasis series in which we hope to engage you, our members, in a discussion of our work and future priorities. Of course, our goal is to inform, but we also hope that this series begins a dialogue, creating opportunities for feedback and engagement.
Meet the new guy
But, first, I should introduce myself. I began as CEO of Lyrasis in late 2022. I came to the position after a career in academic libraries. I’m proud to have pioneered many digital library efforts, but my heart is at the nexus of preservation and access, made possible by technology. Whether it was putting the Middle English Dictionary online, undertaking the Making of America project, or serving as the first executive director of HathiTrust, I was always excited by the reach that new technologies make possible. That reach also inspires us to raise important questions of openness and rights, and I am particularly proud to have played a role in advancing our fair use rights, copyright determination efforts, and the “open” landscape.
I am proud of that work, and of my work as an academic library dean and provost, but I’m not ready to rest on those laurels: I couldn’t be more energized to be a part of Lyrasis. Lyrasis plays a powerful role in our world, and I believe that role will only become more important over time. Lyrasis is your organization, and when we at Lyrasis do our work well, it makes it possible for you to do your work better, for you to have greater impact, and, most importantly, for you to serve your constituents even more effectively. As a community-focused, mission-driven nonprofit, we are of and for you, our members, and it is my hope that we can use the scale of our organization to help you amplify your voice and your impact.
This thing called Lyrasis
Amplifying the work and addressing the needs of our members has been part of Lyrasis since our inception and continues as we evolve to address new needs and meet new challenges. Our early work in licensing made library dollars go further and improved licensing terms for our members. From integrating highly valued community-supported programs like those from the former DuraSpace organization to early adoption and support of Open Access initiatives, we continue to find ways to help you succeed. As we begin to chart a new course for the year ahead, I want to tell you about our current work and future priorities to give you a sense of the ways that we work on your behalf.
Libraries, archives and museums have grown increasingly interdependent. Network-based services contributed to that trend, which was fostered by a growing number of pressures. Included among these was long-term downward budget pressure requiring cultural heritage institutions to sustain their impact with less funding. Though budgets have been constrained, aspirations have grown, with libraries and other collections-holding institutions playing increasing roles in areas such as data management and community engagement.
Alongside these pressures, our community has a growing sense of shared needs and responsibility, especially with regard to the cultural record and our obligations to the broader social sphere. And of course, all of us in this space recognize the imperative of balancing our wider responsibilities while still serving the unique and distinctive needs of local constituencies. By addressing common problems through shared strategies, we can more adequately resource and address local needs.
Lyrasis plays a pivotal role in this changing landscape. Efforts in our community to address common needs evolved from conversations to cooperation to, ultimately, collaboration. In this collaborative environment, our institutional needs are best addressed when we operate with a sense of radical interdependence.
In this landscape of radical interdependence, Lyrasis serves as the connective tissue, by design and intention. Our governance is designed to reflect the interests of the community. Some of the best evidence of this over the last several years is the deeply engaged work by the Lyrasis Board of Trustees as they led the strategic integration of mission-aligned programs and supported organizational change on behalf of members.
As a nonprofit, Lyrasis is not governed by shareholder interests, dividends or year-end yields. However, to ensure that we are able to effectively adapt to meet changing needs, invest in new opportunities that benefit the community and ensure the longevity of our programs, we are fundamentally committed to strategies that prioritize sustainability. Part of what enables Lyrasis to fulfill our mission is the trust we have earned from you, our members. I, and the entire Lyrasis team, deeply value and appreciate that trust. Commercial entities play an important role in meeting commodity needs, but when it comes to the intrinsic work of our institutions, it is critical that our libraries, archives and museums have trusted partners like Lyrasis. Serving as your trusted partner and addressing these shared needs is one way that Lyrasis functions as that connective tissue, bridging gaps between important organizations and partners so that radical interdependence can benefit the whole.
In this context of growing interdependence and trust, I want to share with you the three key areas of focus for our future work at Lyrasis, and where we will make our near-term investments. While some of these directions will be new to many of you, much is clearly connected with our past work.
- Content and Scholarly Communications
Our support for licensing has been a difference maker for libraries and many consortia. The scale at which we operate helps drive down costs and secure excellent terms for libraries. While this work will continue in earnest, Lyrasis has also been deeply involved with Open Access initiatives for several years and is developing new approaches and models as open resources continue to become a much larger focus for our organizations. We will continue to work on behalf of the community to shape sustainable Open Access initiatives and will support scholarly infrastructure with support for important programs such as ORCiD and integration of persistent IDs in our systems.
- Hosting and Open Source Software Support
Community-supported software and hosting services are key to the success of our libraries, archives and museums. Ten years ago, Lyrasis created an organizational home for ArchivesSpace, and since then we extended that model to support a number of other open source, community-supported software projects. We remain committed to that work, while acknowledging that many of our institutions are unable to deploy and maintain this software on their own. To that end, we will expand our already robust hosting services on behalf of libraries, archives and museums to ensure that we meet your needs for today and the future.
- Ebooks and Community Engagement
Ebooks and the ebook marketplace present a challenge for many of our libraries, whether because of a cacophony of reading and discovery services, or because Open Access ebooks are rarely integrated into the mainstream of acquisition, preservation and discovery environments. With our investments in The Palace Project and BiblioLabs beginning in 2021, Lyrasis is cultivating a rich set of reading and content hosting tools to help address these challenges and create a more robust user experience, while inviting public libraries into our community in a more meaningful way than ever before.
Setting the Stage
We plan to share more columns like this in the near future in which we’ll delve into each of these areas more deeply and discuss our future directions. In undertaking the work that I have laid out, Lyrasis will not abandon its commitment to a strong set of member programs. We know that programs like Lyrasis Learning, Consulting Services and the Catalyst Fund have become mainstays of your work, and we will continue to invest in these programs as well as new opportunities that similarly help our community build capacity. As with our key strategic investments, these programs help reinforce our role as the connective tissue in an environment of interdependent institutions.
As I mentioned at the outset, we want to hear from you. Of course, we would love to hear your thoughts about these near-term priorities as well as potential future investments. Know, too, that we are committed to open dialogue and will work to foster that dialogue and feedback on our work: we are a part of the library, archives and museums community and, without you, we cannot succeed.
I would like to invite you to join me for a members-only online session in which you can ask questions, share feedback and collaborate in real time with your fellow Lyasis members.
I hope to use this time to discuss these strategic directions, to hear your thoughts on radical interdependence in more detail and to learn more about how we can serve you.