Rethinking Libraries Through Consolidation

November 2, 2016

Date: November 2, 2016

Dear UW-Madison Deans, Associate Deans, Directors of Centers, Chairs of campus governance groups, other campus academic leaders:

I’m writing to provide an update on the work that Ed Van Gemert, the Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian is leading. The work is being undertaken at my direction and with the support of the Chancellor. Two years ago, I charged a consolidation working group (CWG) to re-envision the campus libraries. This included a plan for consolidation work in order to rationalize a highly-decentralized library system and to maximize existing resources in order to provide the appropriate levels of service and materials needed to support research, teaching and learning on this campus. Currently, campus libraries are administered in a distributed model, with some libraries reporting to the Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian, while others report through their respective college/school deans/directors/departments.

The goals driving this consolidation work include the need to transform the libraries into a robust 21st Century research library, with a sustainable budget model that takes into account, among other factors, the annual inflation rate (4-7%) of electronic subscriptions. Another major goal is to expand electronic content including its discovery, preservation and access, while also leveraging the Library’s technical capability to enhance delivery of all other services and programs. Library staff time is being aligned to support current and emerging service needs across disciplinary areas. Other anticipated outcomes of the consolidation work include repurposing of prime campus spaces from warehousing print collections to creation of robust learning and study spaces that better align with campus teaching and learning priorities.

Until recently, UW-Madison had been the only institution among the 114 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) that provided data showing more is spent on salaries and wages than on library materials (2014-2015). Over time, as we reduce the number of physically distinct libraries we will be able to invest more dollars into acquisitions. Recent efforts to increase the total spend on library materials and to reduce the total spend on salaries and wages have enabled us to transfer dollars to the Library materials budget.

To date, the CWG has completed the planning phase of this effort, and is now in the implementation phase, with several of the campus libraries on track for consolidation during the 2016-2021 timeframe. The Library documents and makes publically available its consolidation plans, timeline and progress on its website. There is also a link on that site/page for your input and questions.

The Vice Provost for Libraries will continue to work with the deans/directors/departments to implement the recommendations presented in the campus libraries’ consolidation report. The recommendations and the report itself were reviewed by campus governance groups and subsequently endorsed by the University Library Committee in December of 2015.

The Chancellor and I will stay closely connected to this effort and will direct funding and other resources accordingly. I look for your support as we advance this effort on our campus.

Please direct any questions or comments to Ed Van Gemert (


Sarah C. Mangelsdorf