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September 1, 1994

Bowling Green's Miller named director of ULS

Bowling Green's Miller named director of ULS

Rush Miller, who officially became the new director of the University Libraries System (ULS) today, Sept. 1, says he got mixed advice from his colleagues about whether he should accept the Pitt job.

Some of Miller's fellow librarians said it would be a bad career move for him to quit as dean of Libraries and Learning Resources at Bowling Green State University to go to Pitt, which has had four permanent or acting directors during the last six years, a failed director's search in 1992, and a reputation for low morale among its faculty librarians.

Other librarians, however, praised both Pitt and its commitment to its libraries. They noted the planned addition to Hillman Library, the administration's decision to devote much of the recently purchased Masonic Temple to house ULS special collections, and double-digit percentage increases in ULS's acquisitions budget in recent years.

Miller, 47, followed the advice of the yea-sayers.

In an telephone interview last week, he said: "The biggest attraction to me was being associated with the University of Pittsburgh, which I consider to be an outstanding institution. I liked the strong commitment to the libraries that I sensed among the administrators and faculty I interacted with." Miller said he is "very, very impressed" by the close cooperation between ULS and the computing professionals in Pitt's Office of Computing and Information Services and other units. He said he also likes what he has seen of PITTCAT and other automated library services here.

As for the city, Miller said: "I've known a lot of people from Pittsburgh over the years and never heard anybody say anything bad about the place." Miller said he believes that reports of morale problems among the ULS staff have been exaggerated. "I fully expect that most of those problems will be made better just by having stable leadership in the library system. My past career has been marked by fairly long tenures in positions and by a lot of emphasis on staff development and improving morale." Miller headed Bowling Green's library system for eight years. Before that, from 1982 to 1986, he oversaw the operations of the 800,000-volume Newton Gresham Library at the Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. From 1975 to 1982, Miller was director of library services at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss. He also has been an assistant professor of library science at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and an assistant professor of history at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.

Miller has a B.A. in history from Delta State University, master's and doctoral degrees in medieval history from Mississippi State University, and a master of library science degree from Florida State University.

"The message that I received from the search committee and everybody else I talked to at Pitt is that the libraries are an integral part of the academic mission of this University, and stable leadership is needed to take the libraries into the 21st century and to a higher level of excellence," Miller said. "I'm certainly willing to make that commitment, both in terms of staying in the job for a number of years and working to improve the library system." Miller said he is anxious to begin raising money for ULS and building a library endowment fund. "Every university library is struggling with the fact that we can never acquire enough money from normal budget increases to enhance our services the way we should. We have to seek support from outside the University to do that. There are lots of foundations and funding sources out there for research libraries, and I would like to start contacting them as soon as possible." As for getting more Pitt money for ULS, Miller said the University administration has pledged to fund "some additional staff positions where they're needed, over time. I don't want to be more specific than that at this point.

"I have no firm opinion yet whether the staffing in the library system is adequate or not," Miller continued. "You never have enough library personnel, in my opinion. You may have enough for a minimal level of service, but you can always use more people to enhance services and move in new directions." One new direction in which Miller plans to take ULS is toward playing a leading role at Pitt in promoting cultural diversity. "Libraries can't focus just on library services anymore," he said. "They have to focus on making a positive contribution to the tolerance and understanding of other cultures." During Miller's eight years at Bowling Green, the proportion of minorities among the faculty librarian staff increased from virtually none to 16 percent. According to Miller, Pitt's administration supports his intention to hire more librarians from under-represented minorities and promote the kind of cultural diversity programs that he instituted at Bowling Green.

"This year, for example, we [Bowling Green] had a year-long program on the history, life styles and special problems of the Hispanic population of northwestern Ohio, which essentially began as a migrant worker population. In the past, we've emphasized everything from gay and lesbian life style issues in our community to the problems of minorities living in this region to major issues that relate to all universities — diversity, multiculturalism and the controversies surrounding those issues," he said. Also under Miller's leadership, the Bowling Green library system began hosting an annual reception to welcome minority and international students to the campus.

Another focus of Miller's leadership, he said, will be increasing links between Pitt and other libraries in Pennsylvania, and possibly in neighboring states. The goal is to give library users wider and easier access to all kinds of library materials, especially expensive special collections.

As the price of library materials increases at a rate of 15 percent annually, with journal subscription rates going through the roof, libraries must do more to share their collections with one another and thus avoid unnecessary duplication, Miller said.

At Bowling Green, Miller was one of the first university librarians to get involved in OhioLINK, a sophisticated statewide campus information network. Built upon a state-wide tradition of library sharing unknown to Pennsylvania and funded by $30 million in state money, OhioLINK enables patrons at any university library in Ohio to access collections at all other such libraries within the state. Books can be ordered on-line and delivered by courier within two days. A central computer records all transactions.

Miller said he is familiar with Pittsburgh's Oakland Consortium linking the libraries of Pitt, Carnegie Mellon University and The Carnegie. "I plan to work closely with the consortium to enhance it, but I see a need for more cooperation state-wide," he said.

Technology alone won't solve the growing financial crunch faced by nearly all academic libraries, according to Miller. "I hear a lot of talk that automation will resolve our problems some day, but I don't believe that's true. Actually, I haven't seen automation save money yet. I think it increases costs. It certainly enhances services and access to collections, but it's not the solution." Miller said he hopes to teach occasional courses in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS). His wife, Johnnye, will begin working in the school next year in a project to evaluate SLIS's school library curriculum, he said.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 27 Issue 1

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