7. Recommendations of the Panel
The results of the customer surveys and the Panels analysis make a strong case for the
continuation of NAL
not only as a library service for USDA
personnel, but as the
centerpiece of a dynamic national agricultural information system as a national library
that also serves as a library service for USDA personnel. This system would draw on
innovative technologies to directly link users to the most useful and appropriate
quality content (abstracts, full-text, data, and information packages) in all areas related
to the sustainable management of natural resources in the support of agricultural
production. Included would be a complementary mix of services including a greatly
database, a series of comprehensive and topical web sites, 24/7
document delivery, and all interconnected through a powerful search interface
providing users with the closest approximation possible to a one-stop-shopping
reality. Responses from NAL staff members demonstrate they understand these
customer needs and have the same interest in providing the high-quality services
necessary to meet those needs. What are lacking are the human and other necessary
commitments by USDA, to do so.
Fulfilling its Congressionally mandated mission, the NAL should move as quickly as
possible to attain and maintain leadership position in obtaining, managing and
distributing new and previously available agricultural knowledge and exploiting the
tools of the electronic digital age to meet demands of customers located anywhere and
in need of information anytime.
Thus, the Panel strongly recommends and unanimously
endorses the following changes and improvements to our
National Agricultural Library system:
- Innovations in Information Services
- Provide rapid, accurate, comprehensive access to the full range of
agricultural information resources through a variety of the most
cost-effective delivery systems, but with particular emphasis on
ensuring leadership in applications of advanced digital
technologies, and based on user-identified needs.
- Establish a national grant program on the NLM model, to be
administered by NAL, for the initiation of innovative and
collaborative digital projects in agricultural information systems.
- Update and enhance the AGRICOLA database to a level equivalent
with the NLM's Medline and PubMed services, particularly through
improvements of the Web version, extent of coverage, and linkages
to full-text and summaries. Related to this, complete the
retrospective conversion of the NAL catalogue to digital form for
inclusion in the ISIS online catalogue.
- Further develop the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) Alliance and Program as a portal to agricultural
information, data, and resources, and as the foundation for a
national digital library for agriculture.
- Continue to build the NAL Information Centers as subject gateways
to key topics of particular interest to citizens, policy makers, and
scientists, based on frequent user surveys and knowledge explosion.
- Identify and initiate cost-effective improvements and expansion of
the current document delivery service.
- Update and implement the Technology Plan of 2002 with
modifications as needed to accommodate recent and emerging
advances in technology.
- Organizational Structure
- The NAL should change its self-concept from being a place to that
of performing customer-driven functions, and its national role from
being the place where every item is, into the role of being the hub
through which every item can be obtained online anytime.
- Update and reaffirm the NAL mission and vision statements to
reflect its mandate as a national library and its commitment to the
use of technology to meet the information needs of the U.S.
citizenry. Formulation of these statements is the responsibility of
the NAL Director and the proposed Board of Regents.
- Provide 30 percent increases in funding each year from now until
the next 5-year review when programs and services will be formally
reassessed and evaluated for successful initiation of new directions.
The Panel believes the annual NAL budget should eventually reach
approximately $100 million (2001 dollars) to meet its
Congressionally mandated mission in the digital age. This will
provide sufficient resources to develop superior expert system
search tools, to hire and retain the infotech talent it needs, to fill the
growing gaps in its coverage of new knowledge in research journals
and historical documents, and to ensure its security in view of the
new security hazards it will face. It will enable the NAL to provide
services and levels of service required of a National Library in the
- Increase the number of positions by 50 or more during the next 5-
year review period.
- Realign the NAL within USDA to reflect its national mission. To
reflect this mission, the NAL should report directly to the
Secretary/Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.
- Organize a Board of Regents, on the NLM model, to direct on long-
range planning, advocate for the NAL within USDA and elsewhere,
guide the development of new products and services, and monitor
for quality in all services. A Strategic Planning Task Force should
be appointed and serve until a Board of Regents is implemented.
- Develop a NAL Friends Support group to assist the Board of
Regents and other groups in promoting NAL programs and
- Establish the position of the Director of the NAL in the Senior
Executive Service, with a four or more year term, and renewed
based on performance; library degree is preferred but not required.
(The strength of interest on the panel on this issue is represented by
its range of opinions, ranging from one emphasizing an exclusive
political appointment to opinions that were open to either/or:
political appointment or inclusion in the Senior Executive Service,
to opinions advocating inclusion exclusively in the Senior
- Authorize the NAL to solicit and accept donations, with those funds
exclusively designated for use by the NAL.
- Establish a Development Officer to enhance liaison with private
foundations and individual donors.
- Planning and Evaluation Processes
- Introduce a formal five-year review by external reviewers,
including USDA personnel, to ensure progress on long-range plans
and customer service orientation, with a 100 percent turnover of the
membership of that review group every 4-5 years.
- Implement a system to obtain ongoing input from all categories of
customers (web, in-person, mail, telephone), and summarize the
information in an annual report. These reports should include
actions taken in response to customer input and should be available
to the public through the NAL website.
- Establish internal advisory groups from USDA agencies to provide
feedback to NAL about its products, services, and long-range plans.
- Results from the five-year reviews and all other feedback data
should guide the long-range planning process. Long-range plans
should be developed for a five-year period, with annual updates by
the Director and the proposed Board of Regents to ensure continued
- Complete and implement a plan for a national digital library for
agriculture (NDLA) that will be the main focus and long-term
organizing principle for NAL and the national network of university
and industrial libraries.
- Establish liaisons within NAL who will act as market managers to
track specified NAL customer segments for their needs and user
- Develop a plan for facilities management and improvements,
including space requirements, as an integral part of the long-range
- Provide leadership for and become the central hub of the worlds
agriculture libraries to facilitate users access and use of agricultural
information on a perpetual basis using a knowledge management
- Continue to develop the NAL role in the preservation of digital
publications-and-data initiative of the USDA and in the National
Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
- Continue to take a leadership role in the development of national
digital efforts to bring the wealth of agriculture-related information
and knowledge to U.S. citizens by using the most advanced
technologies and by developing the most advanced and easily used
expert online search system available.
- Enhance contractual collaborative relationships with other
governmental agencies and non-governmental units to meet the
NALs mission for collaborative collection development,
preservation, and archival functions.