Innovation Juggernaut: The Libraries at Stanford University Have Reenvisioned Scholarly Communications

By Mathews, Brian | American Libraries, November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Innovation Juggernaut: The Libraries at Stanford University Have Reenvisioned Scholarly Communications


Mathews, Brian, American Libraries


The libraries at Stanford University have been a juggernaut of innovation over the last 20 years. They have reenvisioned scholarly communications with the launch of HighWire Press, initiated digital preservation and archiving tools LOCKSS and CLOCKSS, become a founding member of the open-source course management software Sakai, and developed numerous enhancements to Black-light, the open-source OPAC. On top of all that, they are also a major contributor to the Google Books project, offering over eight million volumes to be digitized.

Being located in Palo Alto, the birthplace of Google, has undoubtedly had an impact on the philosophy and philanthropy of the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SULAIR). A key distinction of this paradigm-shifting organization is that it blends traditional library functions with campuswide academic computing, as well as the University Press.

Ambitious leadership

The leader of this ambitious unit is Michael Keller, a former Army National Guard tank driver and trained musicologist. He insists that SULAIR never set out to be a pioneer. "The big idea isn't innovation for its own sake, but rather, the question that we ask ourselves every day is: 'What opportunities and assets do we have that can make scholarship and learning better?'"

Keller took the helm in 1993, a critical time in Stanford's history when it was recovering from a damaging earthquake. The campus was eventually rebuilt, and it was from this chaos that SULAIR emerged as a model 21st-century library.

The driving force of Keller's leadership is stewardship. "Everything we do is for the benefit of the entire institution," he says. Keller views success as improving the university, not just the libraries. "Everyone feels a great sense of satisfaction when they can see how their effort makes a difference to the students, faculty, and researchers."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley and the process of "constant reengineering and continuous improvement" have affected operations. …

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