Cornell University Library Report

ALA Midwinter 2009


submitted by John Saylor

Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Special Collections 

I. Personnel Changes 

After several years of interim arrangements, the Library's senior leadership team is finally in place. The Library Executive Group is made up of

  • Anne Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian
  • Lee Cartmill, Associate University Librarian for Administrative Services
  • Dean Krafft, Chief Technology Strategist
  • Xin Li, Assistant University Librarian for Strategic Initiatives
  • Janet McCUe, Associate University Librarian for Teaching, Research, Outreach, and Learning Services
  • Oya Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Information Technologies
  • John Saylor, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Resources and Special Collections (effective 2/1/09)
  • Edward Weissman, Assistant to the University Librarian
  • Scott Wicks, Associate University Librarian for Central Library Operations

In January 2009, Kent Fuchs, former Dean of the Cornell College of Engineering was appointed as the 15th Cornell University Provost replacing Carolyn (Biddy) Martin.

II. Budget Information 

Our new University Librarian negotiated a 6% increase for 2008/9 and then a 7% increase the following year in the materials budget. I t remains to be seen what happens with this negotiation with the impending budget cuts. In light of the recent worldwide economic downturn President Skorton has announced that "we (the university) must face up to a 10% correction in our annual operating budget over the next few years."  The details of how that will impinge on the library are not yet known.

III. Digital Initiatives 

CUL Large Scale Digitization Initiative Update

Digitized Books
in June of 2008, Microsoft suddenly ended the Microsoft Live Book project.  Shortly after this the Google digitization effort with CUL got underway, with 12,000 volumes now being shipped for scanning per month. 

Amazon/BookSurge Partnership

Cornell University Library entered into an agreement with Amazon's print production subsidiary, BookSurge (On Demand Publishing LLC) in 2006.  The Amazon/BookSurge Project currently makes ~5,900 public domain titles from the Library's digital collections available through and sites.  Digitized assets (~90,000 titles) from the Microsoft Live Book Search Project will be submitted to Amazon for PoD retailing this spring.

Our portal to the collection is available at:

IV. Scholarly Communications & Publishing


 In October, hit a major milestone when it reached half a million e-print postings. The primary daily information source for hundreds of thousands of physicists and other researchers worldwide, arXiv has been at the forefront of the open-access movement and served as the model for many other initiatives, including NIH‚s PubMedCentral.

Forum on Academic Publishing in the Humanities 

Cornell University Library and the Society for the Humanities at Cornell cosponsored a Forum on Academic Publishing in the Humanities, which was held November 7-8, 2008, in Ithaca, New York. Speakers included: Milad Doueihi (University of Glasgow), John Guillory (New York University), N. Katherine Hayles (UCLA), Peter U. Hohendahl (Cornell), Joseph S. Meisel, (The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), Peter J. Potter (Cornell University Press), Oya Rieger (Cornell University Library), Naoki Sakai (Cornell), Donald J. Waters (The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), and Lindsay Waters (Harvard University Press).

V. Major Collections

Hip-Hop/Rap Music Collection

In the summer we announced the Cornell Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections had acquired a collection on hip-hop/rap music, documenting its emergence in the Bronx in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Featured in the book Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop (Rizzoli November 2007), contains approximately 1,000 sound recordings (primarily LP records), hundreds of flyers by Bronx artist Buddy Esquire and others, 950 photographs by Bronx photographer Joe Conzo, Jr, along with original art work and textiles, manuscripts, and more than 200 books. 

This acquisition of the Born in the Bronx Hip Hop archive was celebrated this fall with a groundbreaking conference on the origins of hip-hop culture, featuring both the pioneers of the movement and academics studying it. A Cornell Daily Sun editorial said it all:  "Cornell staked a claim in hip hop history this weekend, and Kroch library just gained some serious street cred." 

90th anniversary celebration of the Wason Collection

Cornell University Library, the Cornell East Asia Program, and the Association of Chinese Professors of Social Sciences in the United States (ACPSS) co-sponsoried the 14th ACPSS international conference, which was held in conjunction with the 90th Jubilee of Cornell's Wason Collection on East Asia. The conference's theme was "East Asia Studies: Challenges of Complex Realities in an Era of Globalization and Digitization."

Scholars and librarians from across the United States and China came to Ithaca for the three-day event held November 7-9, 2008. Concurrent with the conference, an exhibition featuring the history of the Wason Collection and the rare materials from the collection was on display in the Olin/Kroch Library corridor, the Severinghaus Asia Reading Room and Kroch Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

 "This conference is a historical event that honors Wason's noble ideal of bringing China and the United Statesinto closer intellectual relations," said Liren Zheng, curator of the Wason Collection. "I believe this conference will create opportunities for academicians and librarians to work together in the pursuit of excellence in East Asia studies."

VI. Other News and Initiatives

 The Vanginderen Case. 

In 2007 Cornell alum Kevin Vanginderen sued the university for libel, claiming $1 million in damages for making available online the 1983 issue of the Cornell Chronicle that reported he had been charged with third degree burglary. The Chronicle was digitized and made available through the library.  The United States District Court, Southern District of California, granted Cornell's motion to strike Vanginderen's complaint on the basis of free speech and, on the last day of 2008, ordered him to pay partial compensation for Cornell's attorney's fees.  Vanginderen's appeal is pending as is a second suit against the university. These cases may prove crucial in determining the rights of libraries and other parties to digitize and make accessible older materials. The court documents and rulings can be found on the web site


Charles Darwin 

Cornell University Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin with an exhibition opening February 12, 2009. "Charles Darwin: After the Origin" will explore Charles Darwin's life and work in the twenty-two years of his life following the publication of the Origin of Speciesin 1859, the years during which he most fully developed his views on evolution.  The exhibition is a collaboration between the Library and Cornell's Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution.  Both venues will feature an exhibition and associated lectures and events.

Abraham Lincoln

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were both born on February 12, 1809.  In October 2009 the Library's Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections will celebrate Lincoln's 200th brithday with the exhibition "The Lincoln Presidency: Last Full Measure of Devotion."  The exhibition will feature Cornell's significant Lincoln and Civil War collections, including one of five existing copies of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's hand, and manuscript copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment.

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