The USF Library is seeking membership in the Association of Research Libraries, a non-profit organization that includes libraries at Harvard, Yale, UF and FSU. The possibility of joining a network of the best research libraries in the country comes at a time when the Library is approaching the milestone of acquiring its two-millionth book.
More than 120 libraries nationwide belong to the organization. According to the ARL Web site, to become a member, a library must meet certain criteria related to the volume of its collection, the number of staff and the availability of electronic resources. Phyllis Ruscella, director of the Tampa Library Branch, said USF could receive an invitation to the group within the next two years.
“Because the University is now a Research I institution, in order for us to be at the same table as other research universities we need to belong to the same organizations,” said Ruscella.
Membership in the ARL is also helpful when competing for grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that supports learning institutions, Ruscella said.
“They look at what kind of collection you have and whether it’s recognized nationally,” Ruscella said.
Ruscella said the Library informed ARL two years ago that it is seeking membership. Last year, the Library failed to meet the formulaic requirements the ARL sets for membership.
“Last year we were very close to that number,” Ruscella said. “They have not released what that number is for this year so we don’t know where we are yet.”
In addition to the collection size requirement, membership in the ARL also requires that a university possess a “collection of distinction.” Ruscella said USF’s application would emphasize its special collection, which includes a number of valuable editions of Greek classics and a collection of Florida postcards dating back to the beginning of the tourism industry. The extensive collection of marine biology material at the St. Petersburg campus library will also be highlighted.
According to Ruscella, the ARL also expects member libraries to support and reflect their local area. She said the Library’s application would list the collection of historical material from Ybor City that shows the development of the cigar industry and the different ethnic groups that were drawn to the area.
Ruscella said Library officials have visited other ARL libraries to see what special services they offer and the uniqueness of their collections.
The Library has an opportunity to enhance its collection with the purchase of its two-millionth book. For the landmark buy, the Library is looking to purchase a valuable book or artifact for its special collections, which are housed at the Tampa Library.
The Library, which recently announced that it is creating an “internet commons” by installing more software applications on the computers in its reference section, is also in the process of digitizing all the material in its special collection section.
Ruscella said that the plan is for Library resources to be “seamless.” The internet commons will allow students to go online for research, go over a book on e-Reserve, check assignments on Blackboard, browse the special collections on the internet and write a paper all at the same computer terminal.