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Dean's Update: Less Is More

October 3, 2016

I was first inspired by the idea 'less is more' as an undergraduate when studying architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's minimalist design philosophy. Recent work around communicating the Libraries' purpose and aligning its budget allocations brings the concept again to the forefront. I wish here to test if my observations can be stated in few words.

Information is increasingly abundant. Given that abundance, narrowing the selection of information resources becomes critical to increasing the convenience and productivity of students, faculty, researchers and administrators.

Libraries help narrow the playing field to navigate this info-abundance. Libraries maintain effective and intuitive search systems to discover information resources, extend guidance on making evaluated selections and offer services to access the good stuff at lower costs than what you'd pay without them.

Libraries work efficiently to make these links to enhance productivity for teaching, learning and research activities. They work through well-planned processes as well as creatively on the fly to apply their expertise and experiences to build such connections.

In some ways, this is a shift in how librarians have long been trained to think. Librarians continue to value standards, rules and clear work flows. At the same time, more and more they are expected to be entrepreneurial and innovative in seeing new ways to improve these validated guidelines. It is hard to change - especially when that might mean not building ways to find it all or customizing workflows to accommodate everyone.

The notion that the more you know, the more you have, and the better, smarter and richer you are, is becoming obsolete. A more valuable goal might be to do the least you can to gain the most of what selectively matters. Less means more. More is less practical. Less is better when its difference to more is unnecessary. Students ask for more space with less distraction. Faculty assign less to read but with more impact on their teaching. For librarians, the less work it takes to build more knowledge, the more efficient we can be.

And so it goes. When we can build more with less, ultimately we can give our clients more for less effort.

Danuta A. Nitecki
Dean of Libraries

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