This article by Susanne Markgren is a recap from Walker’s talk at the 2012 ACRL/NY Symposium, a�?Cultivating Entrepreneurship in Academic Libraries.”
Stephanie Walker, Chief Librarian and Executive Director of Academic Information Technology at Brooklyn College, was the third speaker of the day and the only one to focus on a specific, successful, entrepreneurial project. Her talk, entitled a�?Commercialization is Not a Dirty Word: Using Library Entrepreneurship to Begin Addressing Budget Needsa�? addressed the challenges and successes of an academic library’s venture into commercialization. She and two of her Brooklyn College colleagues also brought their innovations (or products) — book scanner and homegrown software — with them to demo and share with attendees of the symposium.
The library at Brooklyn College has a unit called Academic IT (AIT), which is separate from the campus IT services. This unit allows for the experimentation and creation of technological solutions that are library-specific. The tools that they have created over the past few years include a web information management system (WIMS), an e-resource management system, an inventory management system (TIMS), a timesheet management system, a Find-a-Book app, directory management software with mapping, room booking software, lab tracking software, and more.
a�?As many of us can attest, digitization endeavors are becoming increasingly popular at academic libraries, and students, faculty, staff and librarians are using scanners to digitize texts, documents, projects, papers, and images, to support their instructional, educational and creative needs.a�?
Their big project, however, and the one that is actually starting to make money for them, is a homegrown scanning station. As many of us can attest, digitization endeavors are becoming increasingly popular at academic libraries, and students, faculty, staff and librarians are using scanners to digitize texts, documents, projects, papers, and images, to support their instructional, educational and creative needs. Rather than pay a commercial vendor thousands of dollars for the software and the hardware, the Academic IT team worked with the librarians to develop their own easy-to-use, hardware-independent scanning software. This allows them to save money on the hardware and to use different kinds of scanners in different locations. It was an immediate success. They marketed this product to their colleagues in other departments and decided to charge for it (at about half the cost of commercial options). The Academic IT / Library team worked with the CUNY Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) to market their scanner product, as well as a hosting service, across CUNY. They have sold 17 scanners (at the time of the presentation) and are working on ways to market and sell to other institutions.
During her presentation, Stephanie emphasized two things: 1.) that their products are successful because they are created specifically for a library environment, by librarians and programmers working together a�� not by commercial vendors imagining how libraries should operate; and 2.) developing these products, and offering them to others on campus (and to other campuses) promotes goodwill amongst colleagues, the campus community, and the power-that-be.
We look forward to hearing more about this entrepreneurial project and we expect, and hope, that more libraries will follow suit and collaborate with others on their campuses and in their institutions to develop and share technological solutions to meet specific needs and to help to counteract the burden of growing expenses and shrinking budgets.
Digital Services Librarian
Purchase College Library, SUNY
This article was originally published in ACRL/NY Connections Vol.31, No.1, Spring 2013.