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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Improvements ahead for LTS

Published: August 31, 2012
Section: News, Top Stories

An extra half a million dollars has been allotted to LTS each year, which should help them recover from the large budget cuts of the economic downturn.

John Unsworth, Vice Provost for Library & Technology Services, explained that LTS plans to use the extra funds for continued improvement and library development. A number of projects are already in the works, most visibly a new Java City-run cafe in Farber Two and a large-scale cleaning of the library’s books.

The 2012-2013 budget, announced last April, specifically designated a portion of funds to rejuvenate Brandeis’ library and technology services, which had been stripped during the 2008 crisis.

“The increase for LTS was about half a million, and that was welcome because in the downturn, there were large cuts,” Unsworth said.

Library and Technology Services includes both the physical library, which employs librarians and plans to hire more subject-specific personnel; information technology, including network security, phone and Internet systems, software and hardware repair; and the Getz Media Lab. Unsworth explains the connection between the library and technology sides of the department. “Library and Technology are connected because ultimately, they are about information and informational services. Librarians have been long-time early adopters of information technology.”

Only a small portion of the funds for the new Farber cafe came from the budget. Instead, it was made possible by extra funding from the franchise that runs it. Java City is paying for most of the work done in Farber. “The cost of the cafe is by the vendor,” Unsworth explained. “We’re putting some money into the reset of the space, re-carpets and painting.” It will be accessible directly from the patio of the library, and include extra seating. Unsworth is not concerned about the noise level that the cafe would create. “One of the reasons we chose this space in Farber is because it is traditionally called the loud-study area,” Unsworth said. The plan was instigated by Unsworth. “It’s something that I initiated, though it’s been talked about at LTS a lot.”

The book cleaning has cost the university approximately $100,000, according to Unsworth. It had not been cleaned in more than a decade. Unsworth explained why: Books and shelves have to be individually removed and vacuumed, then re-shelved in the right order. “When it’s not done, everything gathers dust and dirt and looks like it’s not cared for,” says Unsworth. “If people look around and their environment looks uncared for, they will be less likely to care for it themselves.”

Future plans for LTS include a new system to make campus-wide decisions, which Unsworth calls a “new IT governing structure.” This new governing structure would give the greater campus input in campus decisions. It would create a new “decision-making structure” that would allow the campus to share opinions and information on issues.

Unsworth has also begun “a conversation with faculty about open access,” which would make current access publicly available to be read by anyone, though still protected by copyright.

Since his appointment last year, Unsworth has worked for greater transparency in LTS. This transparency has already been seen in the many emails LTS sends to the entire campus. Examples include, interruptions in phone and Internet, and the telephones that went down temporarily this week and last spring.

“Since I got here in February, I’ve made it a policy to send an email about any campus-wide outage. Generally people seem to appreciate these changes,” Unsworth said.

Unsworth is also teaching a class in the fall: “Introduction To Digital Humanities”, a pilot program where students take courses in-person and online from any school while enrolled at Brandeis.

The program would mimic the Women’s Studies Research Center’s program, where classes can be taken at any campus in the program and count toward a Brandeis degree, explained Unsworth.

The idea of the program, Unsworth said, is to allow a Digital Humanities program to exist when no single campus had the resources to put one together. “No institution has a faculty to amount to a program,” he explained. In the program, however, that Unsworth is hoping for, “you can take a course online or physically, depending on how it’s offered, at any of the universities.”