Season 5 - Episode 533
As a college student, Jeffry Archer was drawn to the role libraries play in connecting people with the information they needed for research, scholarship and learning. Today, as Dean of University Libraries, he leads Baylor’s libraries, special collections, centers and library technology efforts. In this Baylor Connections, he takes listeners inside the modern library, shares University Libraries’ role in supporting Baylor’s R1 research endeavors and more.
Derek Smith:Hello, and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith and today we are talking libraries with Jeffrey Archer, Dean of university libraries at Baylor. In that role, he provides leadership throughout Baylor's library system. He came to Baylor in 2020 from McGill University in Montreal. Prior to that, he spent more than two decades with the university of Chicago library. University libraries play a significant role in Baylor research and scholarship, providing students, faculty, and researchers around the globe with diverse resources ranging from digital scholarship to special collections and more. Dean Jeffrey Archer with us on the program today, and welcome. It's really great to have you on this afternoon.
Jeffry Archer:It's exciting to be here. I've learned so much from Baylor Connections over my preparation and coming, and I feel honored to be part of the program.
Derek Smith:Well, I appreciate that. Yeah. There's no shortage of great colleagues of yours that we have to interview. So now I'm glad we can have you on that list for sure. And I'm sure as we are preparing for a semester, things are certainly busy for you, but I'm curious to start off with. When I was in college many times, I said like most students do, I'm headed to the library and I meant Moody library. When you hear the library, what does that mean to you? Or if we could see it through your eyes, when you start thinking about the library, does the term the, even begin to scratch the surface of what you're thinking of?
Jeffry Archer:Because I know what's under the hood, I obviously will be thinking much broader than that, but at all universities, the library is considered the third space. So students, where they live, say a dorm or the apartments, they're in classes and where else is home for them? And really, that's where the library is thought of as the heart of the university, because that's where students will study, they'll sleep a little bit, they'll have community with one another as they're studying, and they'll eat. It's not like when maybe you and I were in college, you would get frowned upon even trying to sneak something to drink in. And here we'll have somebody bringing in a to go box from Penland, where they're getting Chick-fil-A delivered in the parking lot and bringing it inside the building. So it's really much more holistically like that, but we do have large libraries like Moody and Jones, and then we have the wonderful assets of our special libraries.
Derek Smith:You mentioned special libraries. So when we talk about university libraries here at Baylor, I know there's libraries themselves, there's collections. What all are we discussing under that umbrella?
Jeffry Archer:So for me, and this is when I think of what does... I think of what does the provost envision when she's talking to me and says, university libraries? And that's where it's Moody and Jones library, it's Pope for Legislative History, it's the Keston Institute, it's the Texas collection and university archives, it's the Institute for Oral History and it's the Armstrong Browning library. And those are sort of like the containers in which we have collections and people and services. But then I have an entire unit, the library and academic technology services, which is fully integrated to the backbone of the university. So there, they take care of canvas. So the course management system. We have instructional designers that help faculty design their classes and do interactive and active learning for our graduate and professional education programs. I have the unit here headed by Connor Creed that is responsible for all of the technology and classrooms across campus. So there are many layers to that, and then the entire unit that takes care of all of our acquisitions that no one sees.
Derek Smith:Well, you say Connor. I got to think he and his team have a job that is probably, there's no way it can't be dramatically underappreciated, just because of how vitally important it is to this campus.
Jeffry Archer:It really is. And I think that they have much more brand awareness because of a little thing called COVID-19 and the pivot to online in April of 2020. And then all of the work they had to do over the summer and the pandemic where very few people were on campus. But his staff were transforming classrooms to fully support hybrid instruction through many of our larger classrooms that had almost no technology before.
Derek Smith:And I should clarify, underappreciated because most of us don't know what they do, but I'm glad we can give them a little bit of appreciation here on the program as we visit with Jeffrey Archer, Dean of university libraries. And so Dean Archer, you came here to Baylor in 2020, been in Chicago and McGill. Let's go back even a little before that though. Your love of libraries, where did that grow? And particularly where did that lead you down this career path?
Jeffry Archer:I grew up near Champaign, urban in Illinois, ended up going to university of Illinois to pursue a bachelor's in economics. And I put myself through school, so I worked between 50 and 60 hours a week, but 30 of those hours a week was at the undergraduate library at university of Illinois. And there, if you can imagine the garden level of Moody library, take that down two floors. So it was totally underground and a big atrium in the center, but I was a shelver and then I was a circulation assistant working 20, 30 hours a week there my entire four years. And I was seeing the kind of services that the librarians were able to provide students. And it may sound like a heretic, but I'm not a reader, I don't read like that. I'm an economist and a business librarian so it was about data and research, but I liked what they did in their work. They helped somebody connect to the resources that help answer a question or help people go down the road. So it's that piecing together, doing interviews with people one on one, what are you really looking for? And understanding sort of like the information ecosystem, how can we connect these things to get you the right stuff that will help you answer your questions? And for me, that's the bread and butter of my profession and that's what got me interested. How can I help people make those connections at a university? And I was lucky to immediately go from the undergrad program straight into the library of science program and had a grad assistantship in art and architecture library for three years working there. So even though I knew I would focus in business, I got a much more well rounded appreciation for the humanities side of librarianship.
Derek Smith:You talk about that basic function of connecting people to it, providing information and connecting people to it. That remains unchanged, but in a lot of ways, the delivery methods have changed and the resources have changed. So I know this is a broad question when I ask, but thinking back for you, from Illinois to now, what are some ways you've seen libraries on college campuses change in terms of the role they play or the services they provide?
Jeffry Archer:Really, some of the biggest changes has just been the information age changing, going from print to having those early apps in indexes and abstracts. I mean, we may have paged through readers guide or business periodical index to try to identify articles. We'd go then to a catalog or a card catalog to find out where that journal was. We'd find the journal, we'd find those pages. We'd look at the article, we may or may not just sit there and read it or do the old fashioned, copy them and we'd staple it together and put it in our binder. And usually there were only two or three, maybe subject special indices in your discipline. And it's been nothing but an absolute explosion of new databases and disciplines, so if you go to something like business or even humanities, probably even worse. In the past, you would've had maybe MLA for literature, and now there's probably going to be 10 other competing databases. So which database does a student choose or do they just do JSTOR or Google scholar or maybe they don't even do Google scholar, they do regular Google. So I think now, instead of in the past, you were much more dependent on the physical and mediation and help. What we're having to do, because people are wanting immediate access is some of the delivery is chat online, video online, helping people, but we now need to build systems that help you narrow down yourself, that empowerment for people to self direct to resources. So we need to describe them better, we need to organize them better, and then we are integrated into classes like the early writing program. All the students in that program get library instruction so they know how to use databases, they know how to think about resources and evaluate because at this point, everyone's overwhelmed. How do you screen through all this? How do you choose the right source? And it's not going to get any easier. So that requires more training, because people, otherwise we'll have people relying only on Google search and using their firsthand results. And we know good scholarship and good readers, as well as those seeking truth, you can't go with just the first things that come here. You need to be able to wrestle with those tougher questions and go deeper and go broader. And go broader than what we could provide here. Our challenge now, any library in the past would've long, maybe in the seventies, were thinking, okay, we can buy exhaustively in this subject area. Nobody can do that now. So we rely on our partner. So for us, for example, we received here at Baylor, over 6,000 items last academic year from other institutions for our students and faculty. That was 6,000, now we received 8,000 that were online only. So in addition to the six, we had 14,000 items total from other institutions and 8,000 of that was just electronically. And other institutions are relying on us. So as Baylor really is already an R1 institution within the library from my perspective, even before I came, we actually lent out more materials than we brought in from other institutions. So we received 6,000, we lent out almost 7,000 physical items.
Derek Smith:That's great.
Jeffry Archer:We received online 8,000 items from other institutions and we actually lent out over 10,000 items electronically to other institutions. So it is a really different network and that's how R1 institutions operate. You can't get everything so we need to make sure that we have systems in place that makes easier for you to discover materials that we don't own and make it really seamless for our faculty and students to think broader than what we have here at Baylor, because that's good research.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Jeffrey Archer, Dean of university libraries at Baylor and Dean Archer, you mentioned R1 and Baylor achieved R1 recognition last December about a year after you got here. So let's talk about the role that a library plays. You mentioned already R1 level libraries when you got here. How much did Baylor's of mission and vision lead to you wanting to take this job? Because you've been at some great universities first of all, then I want to ask you more about that research role.
Jeffry Archer:I really have. So I was at the point where I was considering a possible next move and move up to a Dean or director of university library. And Baylor came up, I really took my time to learn about Baylor. The special collections are just absolutely amazing. Historical physical collections that are really deep in religion, philosophy, literature, and history, but Baylor is also really invested in their online resources. Online resources allow you to do digital humanities and with the Riley digitization center, creating corpuses and materials that allowing research that could not have been done if they had not been transformed into this new environment. You take that and then we have Josh Been, who's doing digital and data scholarship boot camps for faculty in the summer. So he's taking humanities faculty and it essentially up skilling them in how to use Python, sentiment analysis in their work, looking at scriptures or historical documents in different ways that are using machine power that helps them answer those new questions. So to me, I was seeing the breadth of these kinds of things that are happening at other institutions and in some cases, out surpassing what I was seeing being done at McGill or university of Chicago.
Derek Smith:You mentioned the digital humanities. It's been probably almost a couple years now, but we had Steven Reid who at the time was Truett faculty member and he still holds an appointment there now, he's the vice provost for faculty diversity and belonging, but he went through that, through the...
Jeffry Archer:Yes, he did.
Derek Smith:Digital humanities project. And Josh Been helped him take his research into African American perspectives on the book of Deuteronomy and use computer to really just accelerate his ability to read, to discover, to find patterns that maybe the human eye could miss after reading a lot. And it was really, really fascinating. And I know that you have faculty members in English and history and any number of humanities, disciplines, that are taking part of it. What does that mean to you all? I guess how invigorating is it when you think about faculty members who are eager to learn new skills and to do so in ways that I guess provide new knowledge for others around them through these programs?
Jeffry Archer:It's exciting. And I think, when you use the term mission and vision, I also think of strategic plan and okay, I may not be a reader in the traditional sense, but I am a librarian and just having a strategic plan illuminate is invigorating for me. So when I think about the new kind of research that's empowered by digital humanities, it doesn't replace the deep thinking that has to be put in place, but these things can highlight and bring things to the surface that really, human beings can't do because of the scale that we're talking about. And to me, then it's creating new knowledge and where does that new knowledge go? It goes out into the world and why can't that be Baylor, really sharing those areas of digital humanities excellence as we go forward in our R1 endeavors? And that's also exciting about academic focus areas that's not tied to a single department. So if we think of the one area data science, and you and I are now talking about Josh Been and empowering faculty with these summer faculty fellowships in data science, we're bringing humanist into that data science category because data science wasn't restricted to computer science or any other hard coding kind of discipline.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. It's really exciting to see, and it's empowering these different disciplines to play even bigger roles in advancing their research, as we visit with Jeffrey Archer, Dean of university libraries. I know what you just described in a lot of ways that research piece takes place throughout all different collections and through the different libraries on campus. I wanted to ask you, I know that we don't have time to really highlight every collection that we've got here, but what stands out to you about the grouping of collections that we have, and maybe could you even take us inside how people outside of Baylor utilize these?
Jeffry Archer:This is where, there's two elements of it. One is that we have amazing physical special collections. I mean, Armstrong Browning with the Browning letters and original manuscripts, Keston library. I've seen some testimonials that have been smuggled out of former Eastern European countries, even written on rolls of toilet paper. You have the black gospel archive and many of the KWVU listeners are familiar with shout and Bob Darden.
Jeffry Archer:Now we have a physical space that house the collection that we have and because we've done it so well, we're working with a potential donor who's going to provide us with over 10,000 LPs. One of the largest private collections is coming here. So there's just such a mixture. I'm also more of a personal Explorer of the outside, so the map collection over in the Texas collection university archives is one of the special things to see how we've captured our understanding of our environment through maps and how it's changed as technology has changed. But I was looking at a few maps earlier today from the 16 hundreds and how they thought Texas was shaped and how it was sort of connected and what rivers were there. And seeing the Comanche Indian portion of Texas and the Waco Indian. It was not Waco city, but Waco Indian at the time when a map was being done. So I think it's really, those are the kinds of things that are exciting, but everything that we've been digitizing, someone doesn't have to come here. So the hundred years of the Baptist standard that we just digitized. A scholar from Europe can come to our digital collections. They can listen to the black gospel, they can listen to black preaching project materials, they can scan our architectural diagrams of campus, they can actually look at the Armstrong Browning handwritten manuscripts.
Derek Smith:Well, people can check that out if you just Google Baylor university archives, or Baylor university digital collections, there's a lot that you can find that you just described in short order as we visit with Dean Jeffrey Archer. Dean Archer, as we head in the final few minutes of the program, I want to ask you first, what's ahead in the new school year, university libraries? Anything new projects or anything about which you're particularly excited for 2022, 23?
Jeffry Archer:I know everyone I keep running into across campus, saying, will Starbucks be ready? Yes, it will. Starbucks will be open in the Moody library. One of the most exciting projects that we've pulled together this summer with funding from myself, the provost and for the parent advisory committee, is to fund faculty fellowships to replace commercial course materials with open educational resources. So reducing student costs, which is right in line with the president and the provost's goals of increasing our retention and reducing the gaps in graduation rates. So we have 10 faculty, we provided $64,000 in fellowships, which if things work out as they were projected, we'll be saving in year one, over $300,000 in student cost.
Jeffry Archer:With a 65,000... And that cost will then be saved again next year and the third year, so that's huge. And so now my next goal is to get money for next year's summer fellowships because I know that that's where... I'm just passionate about the students and I want students to have spaces that allow them to flourish, resources that don't strain them so they're not having to choose between food or books. So really being conscious of that, because it will have an impact, particularly with our first generation students and underrepresented students. So, and our [inaudible] recipient students. So I think that's really what I'm excited about. Next spring, we're going to have our large Pruit Symposium on Andrae Crouch. So that will bring many of the performers that he worked with actually on campus, as well as scholars.
Derek Smith:Well, Dean Archer, a lot to look forward to, and you mentioned a lot of great resources. If people are interested in becoming involved or exploring university libraries or just learning more about that, what are some ways they can do that?
Jeffry Archer:I think really exploring the university library's website. There's a lot of information. You already mentioned our digital collections, but I'll still continue to always accept things in the library Dean's excellence fund. But one part of really supporting university libraries is to use it. Particularly with the KWBU audience. I really like to promote the idea that we're a community library. So that any member of our region, if they start with their local public library and they ask for a text share card, with that text share card, they can come to Moody and Jones libraries, identify materials on the shelf and check them out themselves. And most people don't realize that.
Derek Smith:I did not know that myself.
Jeffry Archer:Get your text share card, and there are no turnstiles here in Moody and Jones and the special libraries, if you have an interest in Victorian literature, visit the Armstrong Browning museum and library. Texas history, go to our Texas collection, come to the Moody and Jones library. We have the St John's Bibles. Anyone from the public can come in during the day and request those and sit and spend a couple hours paging through the St John's Bible.
Derek Smith:That's great. Well, great to know that people in the community can get involved as well with the text share card and come see our beautiful facilities and all that we have to offer. We'll, Dean Archer, I really appreciate you taking the time to share. I learned a few new things and I'm excited that we could share this as well. So I hope it's a great year for you and all your colleagues in the library system ahead.
Jeffry Archer:Well, thank you much so much for our conversation. And if you haven't been here recently, come see me and I'm happy to walk you through our libraries and our new spaces.
Derek Smith:That sounds great, I look forward to seeing that. Jeffrey Archer, Dean of university libraries at Baylor, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.