Horizontal Line Summary and Analysis of Public Comments: Report on the National Agricultural Library - 2001
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Results

Nearly all comments received were relevant for the purposes of public comment on the "Report on the National Agricultural Library - 2001". Approximately 10% of all responders indicated overall endorsement of the Report and its recommendations. Within this group many cited a preamble paragraph from the Executive Summary of the Report, while the remainder offered no further comment. Many responders reflected on specific recommendations which in most cases were an indication of their personal experiences with the products and services of the National Agricultural Library. In other words, those who responded to the Report knew of the Library, had used the Library, and are stakeholders of NAL.
 
Specific comments were mapped to the most relevant recommendation in the Executive Summary of the Report. Most comments (34%) responded to the recommendations under I Innovation in Information Services. This category describes a vision for what the NAL could or should be and is closer to what NAL stakeholders want and need. The responders are familiar with the current services and have an idea of what they would like to see changed, therefore they are more conversant on these points. The category II Organizational Structure accounted for 26% of all comments with most of these directed to budget issues. Administrators and Managers responded proportionately more to the recommendations in the III Planning and Evaluation Process category. Librarians responded proportionately most favorably to the recommendations in the IV Leadership category. This response reflects their need for NAL to serve a leadership role for the profession and the field.
 
Total Comments by Category

I. Innovations in Information Services

Information services are the interface between the public and the National Agricultural Library. These services are the end result of collection building and organizing, value enhancements, and the technology infrastructure for processing and delivery. The majority of comments supported the innovations in these services as recommended by the Report. Thirty-four percent of all comments responded to this category.
 
The Report issues seven recommendations relating to innovations in information services. These recommendations in summary are: providing accurate and comprehensive agricultural information made available through extensive use of advanced digital technologies; establishing a national grants program; updating and enhancing the AGRICOLA database; furthering the development of the AgNIC Alliance; deploying cost-effective document delivery solutions and expanding current services; and updating and implementing the Technology Plan of 2002.
Librarian comment
"As Library Director for the University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science. I highly endorse your plan. NAL has always been a valuable resource to us. They have been improving service with staff who work exceptionally hard at providing service in a timely manner. It would be wonderful to have services and products equal to those available through NLM."
Figure 5 presents an analysis of the response to each individual recommendation in this category by major job function. The data have been normalized to the number of individuals commenting per group, by dividing the total number of positive responses for a specific recommendation by the total number of responders for each job function. For example, 43 researchers submitted comments on the Report; of these 43 individuals, 31 responded to recommendation I a. The normalized result 0.72 = 31 researcher positive responses to I a. / 43 researcher responses to any aspect of the Report. This same analysis was conducted for each recommendation category, and allows comparisons to be made across recommendations by job function for a better understanding of how each group responded independently.
 
Innovations In Information Services (# Respones / #Responders per Job Function)
I a. 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.1
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           31           18             3           13         3

 
All groups responded favorably to this recommendation. Educators and researchers were especially interested in this vision of services. Both of these groups are the true end-users of the information services provided. This recommendation expressed what they both need and want. Administrators/Managers and Librarians were equally positive about this recommendation. These two groups are responsible for delivering such services and this analysis indicates they understand and agree with the basic "vision" for customers.
Researcher comment
"I strongly support this system and hope USDA will understand the importance of ready access to an information base is essential to producing quality information on the forests of the U.S. Without easy access to a comprehensive source of information as discussed above, USDA employees are either forced to spend an inordinate and inefficient amount of time and energy to keep current with other research, and to properly frame their research results, or to just ignore what many other scientists are doing. Please give us the tools we need to be pro-active in providing information of real use to land managers and policy makers."
I b. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           4             0           5         0

 
Administrators and managers as a group responded most favorably to this recommendation. They felt the grants program would encourage the spread and adoption of innovative technology and enhance the AgNIC Alliance. One NAL staff member commenting in support had experienced managing a small grants program that fostered collaborations and development of program-specific information products.
 
One researcher disagreed with NAL managing the grants program. The concern expressed was the potential duplication of administrative structures and displaced priorities.
Librarian comment
"I agree with a grants program. AWIC had a grants program at one time that produced many important documents and videotapes. We also supported the Washington University NET VET program as one of the early developers of web based delivery systems. They delivered AWIC publications for us before NAL had a delivery system. Such programs can really harness the creativity of others who just need a rather small infusion of money."
Researcher comment
"I do not see the idea of NAL providing grants as an appropriate role. This would require the development of additional administrative structures that would not support the libraries primary mission. It is appropriate that grant funds be used to support NAL's needs in developing new technology, but this should be done through existing grant programs, with funding support from Congress. Don't make NAL a granting agency and thereby divert attention from it's primary mission."
I c. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           26           20             2           11         1

 
AGRICOLA is a widely used resource acknowledged by most responders to be in need of improvement both in terms of the breadth and depth of literature indexed in the database and the online search functionality. The database is an especially important resource for rural and disadvantaged users because it is online and freely available.
 
Researchers were supportive of AGRICOLA but acknowledged the need for significant improvement in coverage, functionality, and timeliness. Many responders were in favor of developing AGRICOLA capabilities similar to those of PubMed. A range of views was offered about how to achieve this goal. Some questioned whether AGRICOLA should continue as an independent database. One recommendation suggested merging the two databases, thereby freeing NAL to index additional agricultural literature not currently indexed in PubMed.
Researcher comment
"As a regular NAL user I strongly endorse the Report's conclusion that enhancing NAL's ability to deliver more comprehensive services electronically would be of great benefit to the community it serves. There is no need to invent new technology to achieve this goal. An excellent model already exists, at NLM. We in the research community love PubMed. Make AGRICOLA like PubMed. Make full text available like it is on the NIH campus. Doing that would a great service to the Agricultural community."
Researcher comment
"Due to the large and increasing overlap in scientific information of relevance to agriculture, the life sciences, and environmental sciences, one wonders if AGRICOLA must be maintained in isolation. Already, many journals are included in AGRICOLA as well as other databases. Could resources used to maintain AGRICOLA be applied to the addition of agricultural journals to existing superior systems (such as PUBMED)? This may be a resource-saving strategy with the added benefit of improving the larger scientific community's recognition of and access to agricultural research publications."
Researcher comment
"I did not read the entire report but scanned to find the comments about Agricola. I, too, would like to voice my support for the Agricola database. I use it often and find that it is a vital database for my work in the equine sciences and specifically in equine behavior. This database should continue to receive high priority in keeping up-to-date. I also agree with the comment regarding the web interface - I have used 3 different sites to get to Agricola and none are particularly user-friendly. Thank you for the opportunity to comment."
Librarians voiced support for this recommendation to enhance the AGRICOLA database. They did not consider merging AGRICOLA with PubMed as an option. One responder indicated the need for a national advisory board for the database. One responder commented on the poor response times in conducting searches.
Librarian comment
"At present AGRICOLA, our agricultural database, indexes less than 50 percent of the literature published in the United States in all areas relating to the sustainable management of natural resources. Many of the citations are only minimally indexed and many have no abstracts. To access our national information, librarians are forced to use other international access tools to cover our own material generated within the United States. There is need to appoint a national advisory board to consider all aspects relating to AGRICOLA in becoming the national database that would make our information community proud and provide the needed information for our researchers."
Corporate Librarian comment
"The AGRICOLA database must be brought back to the current state-of-the-art and can be modeled after the excellent NLM Medline/PubMed databases. I have had a standing search on AGRICOLA via the Dialog service for the past 8 years and while it is still a valuable tool, I also search Medline and CAB when seeking specific information as those databases are now more complete than AGRICOLA. I utilize several of the publisher Table of Contents alerting services (Infotrieve also provides such a service) and the NAL web master may want to consider providing links to those publishers to allow researchers to receive notice of the very latest journal contents as they are published. Certainly wherever possible, existing Web services should be used rather than "reinventing the wheel". Maintaining links to information already available is much easier than handling all that raw data simply to end up with a product that is already extant."
Librarian comment
"The National Agricultural Library MUST BE funded on the same level as the National Library of Medicine. As a Medical Librarian, I depend on and support both NAL and Agricola."
The remaining groups, Administrators/Managers, Educators, and all other responders who commented on this recommendation supported improvements to the AGRICOLA database. One exception was noted to the overall desire to emulate Medline and PubMed.
Nutritionist for a city-based Head Start Program
"I am in the Food, Nutrition and Dietetics field and I have used both NAL and the MEDLINE. I have found Medline cumbersome and a bit frustrating for references and resources to use. It uses hi-technology but is less effective for me in providing me with what I need within a reasonable amount of time. Medline uses more of links which I hope will not be the case of NAL in the future."
CAB International publishes CAB ABSTRACTS, an international bibliographic database covering agriculture, and is a not-for-profit, fee supported intergovernmental organization.
CAB International comments
"There is overlap and coincidence in the role of NAL and CAB International. It would be prudent to acknowledge the benefit of collaboration for the effective use of resources and promotion of synergy to serve the needs of the U.S. agricultural community.
 
Areas of coincidence include the creation, management, maintenance and dissemination of agricultural bibliographic databases, development and maintenance of agricultural thesauri and taxonomies, creation and maintenance of subject specialist gateways and innovative knowledge bases. NAL and CAB International both aim to serve the needs of similar audiences including students, researchers, academics, professionals, educators and consultants working in academic, government, corporate and higher education environments.
 
Enhancing AGRICOLA to a level equivalent to NLM's Medline indicates a requirement to extend its coverage of reported research. This is an area of strength for CAB International and its CAB ABSTRACTS database is already acknowledged in the U.S. as a key resource for accessing agricultural and allied sciences research information. Our data indicates that approximately 75% of Land Grant Universities and 60% of USAIN-affiliated institutions subscribe to CAB ABSTRACTS in some form."
I d. Further develop the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) Alliance and Program as a portal to agricultural information, data and resources, and as a foundation for a national digital library for agriculture.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           11             0           14         0

 
Librarians and Administrators / Managers strongly supported this recommendation. These groups understand the benefits of the Alliance and want to see its content developed, with a robust technological infrastructure. The Chair of the AgNIC Executive Board articulated the view of the membership with respect to NAL's role in the Alliance. Several responders indicated a greater need for NAL coordination and guidance for the Alliance partners and the need to implement quality standards for content and reference services.
 
The researchers who responded were for the most part USDA employees. The fact that this group did not comment on the need to further develop AgNIC, implies they have not had experience with the resource. Inferentially it may be deduced that the system has not yet developed to a point for NAL to integrate and make full use of the resource in serving information needs within the Department.
Chair, AgNIC Executive Board
"The AgNIC partners are obviously interested in new and innovative information services as outlined in the report. Although not specifically stated in the report, NAL can develop and provide the expertise that will assist Land Grant Universities in the development of fully interoperable information systems. NAL will always be a valuable source of information, but with enhanced funding, it will be even more valued for its information expertise. This implies an even greater outreach role for NAL but one that is essential to its success."
Librarian comment
"The other suggestion is to coordinate AgNIC a little more. Before I took my current job, I had the opportunity to work with the University of Illinois on creating an AgNIC site. I noticed how some sites produce excellent resources, while others were poorly constructed. From my experience, I felt that there was not enough guidance from the NAL for what should be include or exclude. Contact information, for example, is a fairly fundamental element for a web site. One would expect a way to contact those responsible for maintaining a site, which was not the case for several AgNIC partners. I grant that this may be a lack of communication somewhere among the ranks."
Librarian comment
"1.d. … as a portal to high quality agricultural information, …"
I e. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           7           6             0           7         1

 
As a group Administrators / Managers responded most favorably to the need to continue building NAL's Information Centers. NAL's Information Centers are often the result of inter-departmental collaborations. One responder encouraged the further development of these collaborations. Note: This recommendation is related to recommendation I d, in that NAL's Information Centers are for the most part AgNIC partners.
Administrator/Manager comment
"FDA is pleased that the Report supports the Information Center concept which FDA and FSIS have worked with NAL to establish and expand. We encourage NAL to continue to expand its dialogue, outreach and collaboration efforts to include its non-USDA constituents, such as FDA and CDC and other public and private sector public health/food safety organizations. We also encourage NAL to work cooperatively with other federal agencies to build cross-agency web sites."
I f. Identify and initiate cost-effective improvements and expansion of the current document delivery service.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           24           7             1           5         1

 
At this time NAL provides free of charge document delivery services to USDA employees and a few special customer classes (some of which have been subsidized through interagency reimbursable agreements). Fees are assessed to fulfill requests for most non-USDA patrons. Therefore, it is not surprising that the research group (who are largely USDA employees) expressed strong support for this recommendation. Many of those who responded were located in remote locations and depended upon these services to conduct their research. The Librarians and Administrators / Managers who responded relied on NAL to help fill their requests for materials not in their own collections.
 
Several USDA researchers commented on the need to implement the NAL Digital Desktop Library Initiative (DigiTop) as a means to provide USDA customers with access to key electronic journals from their desktop, obviating the need for document delivery requests. Note: The task force was unaware of the DigiTop initiative, which was under discussion at the time of the assessment but was not ready for presentation.
Researcher comment
"The importance of the NAL as a library service for USDA personnel must continue to be recognized by individuals with funding authority. Without an effective and efficient vehicle for providing up-to-date scientific information, USDA-ARS scientists can not fulfill their research missions. Excellence in research requires a fully-informed scientific staff, and many ARS scientists are located in small research stations with poor access to scientific libraries. ARS scientists located on university campuses fear that their access to electronic journals through University libraries will be lessened with loss of university network access, due to security issues recognized by the agency. If this is the case, ARS scientists will increasingly depend upon the electronic information services provided by NAL in the future."
Researcher comment
"As a USDA ARS researcher at a site remote from any university, the National Agricultural Library is absolutely critical for supplying me with scientific literature to support my research. Recent advances such as automated Current Contents searches, NAL copy requests by email, Ariel and now posting of article copies on the WWW for my retrieval, and interlibrary loan of books have made the task of staying current with my scientific literature not just easier, but, frankly, possible (where it was not just a year or two ago)."
Researcher comment
"The ability to obtain reprints/photocopies automatically would be great. Currently a person at NAL has to scan the document into a PDF. Eliminating this inefficient use of human resources seems to be what the "digital desktop" initiative is/was about. It appears to me that this initiative has stalled. It appears to me that the limiting factor in that case is not NAL technology or infrastructure, but rather financial commitment on the part of NAL, CREE, and/or USDA at large to pay the usurious rates demanded by scientific and academic publishers."
I g. Update and implement the Technology Plan of 2002 with modifications as needed to accommodate recent emerging advances in technology.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           1             0           0         0

 
The Technology Plan of 2002 is primarily an internal planning document for NAL. There were no specific comments on this recommendation.

II Organizational Structure

The recommendations in this category describe the practical organizational and institutional elements needed to implement the visionary innovations in technology and services described in the previous section. This category represents 26% of all comments and within the category the comments were overwhelming in favor of increased funding. Overall the Administrators / Managers responded most often which is reflective of their job function. Librarians had the greatest interest in the realignment of NAL within the Department to a position reflecting their interest in NAL's national role. Researchers responded more to the "change" recommendation, that NAL should become more of a hub or gateway to information rather than collecting comprehensively. There were no specific comments from Educators in this category.
Library Administrator/Manager comment
"The Report recommendations related to Organizational Structure are crucial. For years I have observed the budgetary and staffing problems at NAL. Those problems cannot be properly addressed as long as NAL and the NAL Library Director report at such a low level in the agency hierarchy. For NAL to fulfill its Congressionally-mandated mission to be a national library, its visibility and status within USDA must change. The Task Force's comparison of NAL and NLM, as summarized in Section 5.2 of the report, is quite shocking. The disparity in resources and services of these two "national" libraries has been obvious to the entire science research library community for a long time. The Report documents that both had similar budgets in 1975-1978 and goes on to state that NLM's current library operations budget ($240M) is now about twelve times the size of NAL's current library operations budget ($20M). This is a real eye-opener that cannot be ignored."
II Organizational Structure (# Responses / # Responders per Job Function)
II a. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           14           8             2           9         2

 
Several researchers, a librarian, and the Chair of the AgNIC Executive Board wrote in favor of recommendation II a. The librarian and Chair recognized the leadership role NAL will need to assume in order to implement this recommendation. One NAL staff member felt this change had already occurred but funding hampered implementation.
Chair, AgNIC Executive Board comment
"The first bullet under Organizational Structure is particularly important. NAL as a place that possesses unique and wonderful resources is generally recognized. However, the report correctly identifies the need for NAL to change from a product orientation to one that is more directed toward knowledge and expertise. To succeed in this role the NAL culture must be willing to embrace a leadership position."
Librarian comment
"Section II.a. mentions the evolution of NAL's self-concept from place to process. I think that this has largely taken place, but the significant lack of funding and staff available to implement alternative presentation modes severely limits realization of these changes at the present time. NAL's role as "...hub through which every item can be obtained" should be changed to include the concept of every item being "*identified* and obtained online anytime."
II b. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           2             0           5         2

 
A few Administrator/Managers agreed with the recommendation to update the NAL mission and vision statements. This recommendation is related to the "change self- concept" ideas presented in II a, and responder references to vision were often linked to their support of II a. Responder comments on NAL's mission were often made in connection with an enhancement of its national role.
Administrator/Manager comment
" … It does need to be pumped up a bit with better funding and an updated mission. …"
II c. 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 21st century.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           15           19             1           18         5

 
This recommendation received the most support in the category, although there were some concerns and discussion about how the funding increases would be accomplished. The researchers (as a group are primarily USDA employees) who had reservations were concerned the increase in funding for NAL might be drawn from their own research budgets or as agency-level assessments. One Federal librarian thought the increases may be more than needed when efficiencies are realized through automation. However, it should be noted despite these few reservations this recommendation was endorsed overwhelmingly by most responders.
 
One Administrator/Manager recommended creating a separate line item in the budget for NAL to allow for a more transparent tracking of the NAL budget.
 
Administrator/Manager comment
"I support these findings and recommendations and believe that over the years the NAL has been financially neglected. It's visibility continues to decline. Homeland security, West Nile Virus are examples where timely information is more important than ever. These are areas in which the NAL can make major contributions. I urge the ARS and Congress to take this report seriously and follow up on the well thought out recommendations."
Librarian comment
"The National Agricultural Library serves not only USDA, but the nation. In recent years, USDA has treated NAL as though it were a departmental library. Unfortunately, information is not free and the various costs associated with collecting, organizing and supplying quality information cannot be negotiated or ignored. NAL's budget is a fraction of what it needs to accomplish its mission. Benign neglect of an important resource to the nation undermines the effectiveness of USDA's mission to disseminate information."
Administrator/Manager comment
"The issue of effective national support is critical to the effective functioning of the Library. The report makes needed recommendations regarding what the NAL should do and how it should grow, but the critical issue of how to engender that growth is not there. The NAL is dependent on base funds contained in the Administration's budget each year and acted upon by the Congress. The Friends of the National Agricultural Library (the Friends, a cooperation between the Council and the Foundation) must assess their own ability to influence the budget process for the benefit of the agricultural library needs of the Nation and develop a strategy to fully utilize and enhance that ability. This strategy has to realize that congress persons and senators respond to the people they represent, so the question becomes one of how to tangibly demonstrate the NAL's importance to the people of their Districts and States."
Administrator/Manager comment
"Perhaps most important of the recommendations, in that it enables much else of what is in the report, is the recommendation for the substantial increase in budget for the NAL. The return on this investment should be many fold to the U.S. taxpayer. To this direction, I would like to offer the suggestion that the NAL budget be separated into a distinct appropriation line item. To the extent that there is a national commitment to the NAL, then a separate line item will ensure that the funding commitment is direct and transparent. It can also more easily follow the organization, if changes in the organizational structure occur. "
II d. Increase the number of positions by 50 or more during the next 5-year review period.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           3           10             1           8         2

 
This recommendation is a corollary to the previous recommendation. Those who responded were in favor of the recommendation. One responder cautions fifty may not be enough and a careful analysis of the skill requirements is needed. Several NAL staff members responded with their personal observations on the negative impacts caused by the sustained losses in staffing over the last 5 years.
Librarian
"This statement is o.k. as is, but I'm concerned about just hiring 50 people. I'd like to see it clarified somehow. My thoughts: Perform a careful analysis of staffing requirements for a national digital library of agriculture and hire personnel with appropriate skills to accomplish the tasks at hand."
NAL Secretary comments
"Why do people from all over the world want to become U.S. citizens? Certainly our freedom is the first thing that comes to mind. What else? Our abundance - of clean water, plant varieties, healthy animals, land. Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of these when he founded the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Patrons from all walks of life - scientists to school children - seek information from us. How sad it is to see staff struggling to keep up with their requests, without adequate resources. As a branch secretary, I am currently covering work that three secretaries covered, and am not satisfied with the quantity/quality of my output, at the end of the day. Fatigue and frustration are among the principal reasons for seeking retirement next year."
II e. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           6             0           5         1

 
Librarians and Administrator/Managers responded most favorably to this recommendation. Their response reflects the viewpoint of NAL as a library serving a national role. The researchers who responded reflect the interests of NAL as a departmental library, although one speculated that budget support would be no better under the Office of the Secretary.
 
One responder suggested an alternative to realigning NAL's position within USDA. It was proposed to add representation for NAL through aposition on the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board designated for library and information sciences. Another Administrator/Manager suggested establishing NAL as an independent agency reporting to an Under Secretary in lieu of a direct report to the Secretary. One librarian recommended including NAL staff on high-level subject specific planning committees and working groups to better inform NAL of emerging Departmental needs and to increase the utilization and build greater support for NAL across the Department.
 
One research administrator discussed the possibility of moving NAL out of USDA and merging it with the Library of Congress as a means of ensuring better financial and administrative support.
 
Administrator/Manager comment
"While the NAL serves as the Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it also serves as a National Library of the United States. As such, its mission is to serve not only the USDA, but also the nation. To reflect this mission, the NAL should report directly to the Secretary/Deputy Secretary of Agriculture."
Administrator/Manager comment
"How is the Library of Congress supported? Would the support of the NAL be stronger if taken entirely out of USDA and connected to the Library of Congress?"
Administrator/Manager comment
"What seems most important is that USDA ensure appropriate recognition and support for the National Agricultural Library's mission and service roles within and outside USDA. There may be other ways to do this than an organizational realignment. For example, representation on the NAREEE Advisory Board and other relevant USDA entities could be designated for specialists in agricultural librarianship."
Administrator/Manager comment
"The National Library of Medicine reports to the Director of the NIH. Other national libraries report to technical experts as well, and it seems like it would be a good idea. I wonder about having the NAL report directly to the secretary; it seems to me that ARS may be an even better fit and has the advantage of being closer to the scientists and the laboratories and farther away from the politics. It may be just as difficult to get the funds the library needs from the Secretary's office as it is within the agencies, since the Secretary's office has only a very small budget."
Administrator/Manager comment
"Third, the library's organizational position within ARS isolates it from the Secretary and USDA subcabinet and from the budget formulation and presentation process. Realigning NAL within USDA to report directly to the Secretary or Deputy Secretary would be ideal, but establishing NAL as an agency reporting to the Undersecretary for REE would be a step forward."
Researcher comment
"The NAL has been administratively positioned under ARS and I can understand that its importance to a broader community is reflected in the recommendation to have the leaders of the NAL report to a higher level. The current link with ARS; however, does recognize the essential need of the Library to ARS scientists and all other public and private researchers in agriculture and related fields. I trust that the recommended investment in the NAL will be viewed as a critical investment in helping U.S. agriculture scientists remain highly productive. I also trust that public sector agriculture scientists will continue to have access to the NAL resources without assessing the limited budgets of many researchers."
II f. Organize a Board of Regent's, 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 Regent's is implemented.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           5             1           6         0

 
Researchers, Librarians, and Administrator/Managers all recognized the advantages that a Board of Regents and other advisory groups can bring. Expert guidance can help set difficult priorities, identify opportunities, facilitate collaborations, and provide vital advocacy for the long-term sustainability of the institution.
Administrator/Manager comment
"Perhaps with an influential Board of Regents to help plan and prioritize long term planning for its programs, services and policies, NAL will have the advocacy that it needs to keep attention, resources and visibility to a level so that it will be unlikely that this problem will occur again."
Administrator/Manager comment
"The Board of Regents structure is an excellent idea and I hope it will be implemented. An ex officio role for the Directors of the other national libraries can help these institutions reinforce our national capabilities."
II g. Develop a NAL Friend's Support group to assist the Board of Regent's and other groups in promoting NAL programs and services.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           4             1           2         0

 
All who commented on this recommendation were supportive and understood the many ways a Friends' support group would aid NAL.
 
Corporate Librarian comment
"A Friends group certainly could be of help to the NAL, but as pointed out in the Report, such a group needs supervision and clear direction. I think many of the agricultural producer groups would be willing to share their publications (including conference proceedings) if they were aware that the NAL collection was in need of same. These groups are generally in frequent communication with members of Congress and could be helpful in generating further support for the NAL."
II h. 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 [task force] 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 Executive Services.)
Note: To better represent the diversity of opinion expressed on this recommendation, three pairs of opposing choices were created. Only one choice from any pair would be selected per response.
 
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21      8
SES/4yr Term             1            1             0            1      0 Pair 1
SES/No Term             1            0             0            1      0
Political Appt.             0            0             0            0      0 Pair 2
Not Political             3            2             0            1      0
MLS Preferred             0            1             0            2      0 Pair 3
MLS Not Pref.             0            1             0            0      1

 
While there were differences in opinion regarding the position of the NAL Director there was no support for this position to be a political appointment. All responders supported a Senior Executive Service appointment, although opinion was evenly split over on the issue of a term limit. Opinion was also evenly split over the issue of professional library science credentials; some felt the degree was not as important as a strong technical background while others felt library credentials to be essential to the position.
Researcher comment
"I agree with the creation of an SES level director's position, but STRONGLY disagree with any attempt to make this a Political Appointment! The mission of the NAL is too critical to the mission of other agencies for its vision to be limited to 4 year increments. The end result could be devastating, not only to NAL, but to the many agencies and organizations within the agricultural industry that depend on NAL for access to information."
Professional Association Comment
"The American Library Association would note that historically our Association has strongly recommended a qualified library background for the head of any National library, and thus would take issue with the Report's statement that this need not be a requirement."
Administrator/Manager Comment
"The panel recommends establishing the position of the Director of the NAL in the Senior Executive Service, with a four or more year term, and renewal based on performance; library degree is preferred but not required.(Executive Summary II. Organizational Structure point h.) I agree with the position but would argue the point that a library degree is preferred but not required. Library degrees are much more broad-based these days and include information science and technology. I believe that the best advocate for the Library would be an accredited librarian."
Administrator/Manager comment
"If the Director is not currently SES, he or she certainly should be. Provision of library services now and in the future seems to me to be more technical than political, and by that observation, the director or administrator of the library should be considerably more technically qualified than politically qualified."
Anonymous comment
"Whereas the Library of Congress and NLM historically appoint professionals in related fields of research, directors of NAL have been librarians with essentially little or no high-level management skills. The goals have always been high, but the methods for achieving these goals, follow-through, and communication of such goals are weak, at best. In combination with what seems like a lack of understanding for the need to articulate clearly the relationship between the Library and the Department, relating goals to primary users and funders has been feeble, allowing the real value of NAL to slip further and further out of sight by the Department."
II i. Authorize the NAL to solicit and accept donations, with those funds exclusively designated for use by the NAL.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           1             0           3         0

 
A few general comments from responders supported this recommendation. One responder who would expand NAL's role to serve as a western hemisphere clearinghouse suggested additional sources of funding such as the Organization of American States.
All Other comment
"I have one bias, that may have been handled in the full report, but which I saw nothing about in the executive summary. It has to do with your particular efforts over the past few years. Not only do I believe that NAL should be funded to become the NATIONAL LIBRARY regarding food, fibre, natural resources, conservation, et al, but I think sound thought should be given to making it a clearing house for information and service in these subject areas for the western hemisphere. This, of course, would require additional funding from various Organization of American States entities, large American foundations, or others. I suspect that Congress or the Executive Branch would balk at this idea. It's time may not yet have come."
II j. Establish a Development Officer to enhance liaison with private foundations and individual donors.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           1             1           3         0

 
All groups responded favorably to this recommendation. It was generally recognized that a Development Officer would focus on soliciting external donations and gifts to support overall programs and the collections.
Administrator/Manager comment
"A Development Office function would help NAL gain funding to supplement and complement base funding from Congressional appropriations."

III. Planning and Evaluation Processes

The Planning and Evaluation Processes category received approximately 15% of all comments. The recommendations in this category reflect processes that support the sustained development and functioning of NAL as both a Departmental Library and as a National Library. In general Administrators/Managers responded most frequently to the category, consistent with their administrative job functions. The majority of comments in this category supported planning for the National Digital Library of Agriculture. This reflects the significant support for enhanced electronic access to information resources by all groups. The recommendations in this category include: formal five year review process, obtaining consistent customer input, establishing a USDA Advisory Board, initiating a long-range planning process, planning the development of the National Digital Library for Agriculture, identifying market managers for customer liaison, and facilities and space management practices.
Research Administrator/Manager comment
"Fourth, the planning and evaluation processes recommended by the panel should be implemented immediately! There can be no better use of the library's resources than to establish a strategic plan, especially to provide a framework for timely budget formulation."
III Planning & Evaluation Process (# Responese / # Responders per Job Function)
III a. 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% turnover of the membership of that review group every 4-5 years.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           1             0           4         0

 
All who responded were in favor of this recommendation. In some cases this was felt to be a recommendation to be adopted in the near future. The need for customer input was specifically identified as necessary in the review and planning processes.
Administrator/Manager comment
"In order to continue growing into a true National Library the NAL needs to implement a formal review process that includes feedback from internal and external customers."
III b. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           3             1           5         0

 
Many responders expressed their appreciation for being given the opportunity to provide input on the Report and services of the NAL. Through these comments the responders informally supported this recommendation (however, such comments were not coded). Several responders pointed out the need to ensure the inclusion of internal as well as external stakeholders for input, including internal NAL matters, notably those involving information technology planning. A specific method for obtaining input was suggested for AGRICOLA (see I c) with the proposed AGRICOLA national advisory board.
Administrator/Manager comment
"Among the Planning and Evaluation Recommendations, I especially support the call 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." It is clear that renewed emphasis must be placed on long-range planning and the participation of external stakeholders in this process."
III c. Establish internal advisory groups from USDA agencies to provide feedback to NAL about its products, services, and long-range plans.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           2           3             1           2         0

 
Many USDA responders expressed their appreciation for being given this opportunity to express their views, implicitly supporting this recommendation (although such comments were not coded as such). One researcher expressed a need for an internal ARS advisory council. The value of customer input was often related by responders to the planning and evaluation processes.
Researcher comment
"I also feel that an internal USDA advisory group from ARS should be formed, to present current researcher needs to the NAL leadership."
III d. 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 viability.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           1             0           4         1

 
There were very few comments and no discussion related to this recommendation.
III e. Complete and implement a plan for a national digital library for agriculture (NDLA) that will be the main focus and the long-term organizing principle for NAL and the national network of university and industrial libraries.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           21           19             3           13         1

 
Support for increased electronic access to information resources was a common theme running throughout the comments. The National Digital Library for Agriculture as noted in the report is the central organizing principle to provide these services. This concept was clearly supported by all groups.
 
Two librarians identified issues related to this overall direction. One pointed out that issues of copyright will need to be addressed and will limit full implementation. Another responder reminded us that researchers will still need personalized services and there remains a need to serve individuals who are not technologically equipped. This last point had surfaced in a number of comments relating to NAL's role as a national library serving the nation - including the disadvantaged. Even with these reservations the overwhelming response has been in favor of this recommendation.
Researcher comment
"I'm encouraged by recommendations related to the development of a digital library. I believe this is vitally important for ARS scientists to be at the leading edge of agricultural research. The NAL Digital Desktop Initiative, which I learned about after receiving the NAL Report, is definitely a move in the right direction."
Librarian comment
"I'm most in agreement with the need for greater electronic access to information. The main obstacle to this is copyright I realize. Even so, a great deal can be offered online full-text."
Librarian comment
" … I think the staff at NAL are to be commended for what they have been able to do despite the lack of resources. NAL has laid a solid foundation to build a National Digital Library for Agriculture; building blocks such as Agricola, the 2002 NAL Thesaurus, the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC), and their national preservation plans for both print and digital publications."
Library Administrator comment
"The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries are active participants in collaborative projects led by NAL. The Report recommendations related to "Innovations in Information Services" identify important areas where NAL is capable of developing new models of information access and document delivery for users of agricultural and environmental information. We are also strongly supportive of the need to build a national digital library for agriculture that is described in the recommendations on "Planning and Evaluation.""
Research Administrator comment
"The concept of a National Digital Library for Agriculture is very appealing and I think likely to be the way of the future. It is especially important as we see land grant universities cut back on their budgets; libraries that were once up to date are now often lagging behind. Going in the direction of the digital library will make it possible for all of our ARS scientists, and scientists elsewhere in USDA to be up to date no matter where they are."
Librarian comment
"Obviously, all the emphasis on technology to ensure information collection, recording, sorting and dissemination in all its forms is essential, and the wave of the future. What should not be lost in that heavy focus, however, is the fact that even now, not all users are computer-equipped or have access to online facilities for meeting their information needs. Some printed information, such as bibliographies and analytical reports on special subjects must continue to be produced. I was pleased to see mention of support for the specialized information centers, but also want to boost the importance of the general reference services. There is simply no replacement for human knowledge, intuition and direct assistance for some researchers. (Note the bias of a former reference librarian)."
III f. Establish liaisons within NAL who will act as market managers to track specified NAL customer segments for their needs and user satisfaction.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           5             0           2         0

 
This recommendation is closely related to the systematic collection of customer input (III b). A few individuals commented on the need to market more effectively the services of NAL. These comments support the market manager concept envisioned by the task force. One librarian suggested placing NAL staff on high-level planning committees as a means to capture "market" information from within the Department.
Librarian comment
"I strongly recommend the completion of the plan to make the NAL a truly national library that can be used easily by the public. It should also be marketed to the public as a means to get agricultural and horticultural information of all kinds. As a librarian, I use it frequently, but I think it must be made more user friendly for use by the general public. It is a great resource and should be brought up to current technological standards."
Librarian comment
II. e. a new item or maybe this belongs close to III.f. Position staff so they are integral parts of high level subject-specific planning committees and working groups and use the information they glean to support NAL and other USDA agencies and customers."
III g. Develop a plan for facilities management and improvements, including space requirements, as an integral part of the long-range planning process.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           0           1             0           4         0

 
NAL is housed in a 30+ year structure which has begun to deteriorate. The need for additional planning and upgrades was recognized by a few responders. Note: NAL has been designated as a modernization site eligible for building and facilities funding and has received such funding in the last several years.
Administrator/Manager comment
"When one looks at the funding history and structures of the other national libraries, it becomes obvious why the lack of progress in a variety of basic library functions has been experienced in the last decade. The disparity is obvious and startling. To give the NAL dual roles without commensurate support has placed the organization and staff at peril. To further complicate the matter, the National Agricultural Library is housed in a building built more than 3 decades ago and has many maintenance needs. It has extra needs because of inadequate support which has allowed some systems to break down completely and make repairs a waste of time."

IV. Leadership

The Report makes four specific recommendations: urging NAL to adopt a leadership role in knowledge management for agriculture; to advance the preservation of USDA digital publications and help coordinate a national digital preservation program; to lead the development of advanced digital delivery of agricultural information; and to expand the development of collaborative partnerships in collection development, preservation, and archiving.
 
Librarians and Library Administrators responded in force to these recommendations which outline the national role they need NAL to serve. Researchers and others interested in developing the national digital library for agriculture also supported these recommendations.
Administrator/Manager comment
"The Leadership recommendations define what should be expected from NAL as the national library for agriculture in both the print and digital worlds. I wholeheartedly concur with these recommendations and welcome the opportunity for my institution and library to work with NAL in these areas. If provided with adequate resources and support, NAL can fulfill its role as a national library."
IV Leadership (# Responses / # Responders per Job Function)
 
IV a. Provide leadership for and become the central hub of the world's agriculture libraries to facilitate users' access and use of agricultural information on a perpetual basis using a knowledge management approach.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           9             0           8         1

 
This recommendation is the internal framework underpinning the concept of a national digital library for agriculture and is closely related to recommendation II a. The importance of this framework was clearly understood by the Administrator/Managers and Librarians. The researchers were interested in the outcome of this recommendation (one-stop-shopping, powerful search engines, and so forth).
Librarian
"NAL should provide the leadership for and become the central hub of the world's agricultural libraries to facilitate users' access and use of agricultural information on a perpetual basis using the available technology."
Librarian comment
"As an agriculture librarian at a land-grant institution, I look to the NAL to provide national leadership in emerging areas of information delivery and in maintaining collections that support and enhance those available at the local level. During the past several decades, NAL has been particularly strong in building collaborations with the agricultural information community throughout the nation. In spite of extremely limited USDA support for NAL and such national initiatives, there has been considerable progress made in the use of new technologies and approaches for developing broad-based information systems. The fact that these efforts have been largely voluntary speaks to the commitment and vision of NAL, the land-grant universities, and others who are sustaining these programs."
IV b. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           7             0           6         0

 
Administrators/Managers and Librarians responded most favorably to this recommendation. Researchers tend to have an immediate focus on current research but turn to librarians when they need to research older works, therefore unless their research typically involves such historical research, as a group, they do not often think about preservation. On the other hand, this is an important job function and issue in the library community. The responses received are consistent with these diverse job functions. It was recognized in the comments that digital preservation also provides an opportunity to increase access to these resources and will further build a national digital collection.
Researcher comment
"As a scientist I know that access to prior knowledge is vitally important to effective research. The investment of taxpayer money toward creating and maintaining an efficient scientific information sharing system will be repaid many-fold in improved public problem solving and increased research effectiveness. This investment should be viewed as a low-cost way to make a significant incremental improvement in nutritional, environmental, and agricultural research across the entire USDA, university, and private research spectrum."
Librarian comment
"The digital preservation function is larger than perceived and one that relates to digital library development, since preservation and archiving, when done correctly, are initiated at the beginning of publications' life cycle and are part of overall life cycle management. In order for digital preservation and archiving activity to become a reality at NAL and within the Department, an infusion of resources is needed as well as a strong commitment within and throughout NAL as well as the Department."
Univ. of Wisconsin - Extension, Cooperative Extension comment
"We would like to acknowledge the NAL has been challenged by unrealistic expectations given their level of funding. We would like to applaud their current work with AgNIC and we endorse the panel's recommendation that NAL should move as quickly as possible to attain and maintain a leadership position in using the tools of the electronic digital age to meet demands of customers located anywhere and in need of information anytime."
Chair, AgNIC Executive Board comment
"Enhanced preservation efforts will enable NAL to continue the stewardship of the information resources entrusted to the library. However, NAL can also "liberate" this information by making it available to all potential users via new electronic channels or media and in a format readable on current technology. Each item preserved is also an information resource that can be used by numbers of citizens and scholars."
One responder commented from the international perspective on NAL's role in preservation.
International Librarian comment
"We support the findings of the report and see the role of the library from an international perspective as: preserving agency and other U.S. materials, digitising and making them available online. Libraries around the world who have collected print publications such as those of the experiment stations are rationalising their collections and would like to be assured of long-term access, preferably in digital form. … "
IV c. 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.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           22           19             3           12         1

 
This recommendation was coded together with I a and II e when interest was expressed to increase electronic access. As seen above there was strong interest by all groups of responders to increasing electronic access to agricultural information. Electronic access was felt to be especially important in serving rural and disadvantaged customers. Many USDA scientists in the Forest Service, Agricultural Research Service, and Animal, Plant, Health Inspection Service are located in remote locations with limited access to research libraries. Electronic services are vital to their work. Many librarians view this as an arena in which NAL can provide national leadership and administrators/managers understand customer needs are changing and this is the future for libraries.
Researcher comment
"I certainly agree with the task force report, especially as it relates to the need for improvement. In comparison to the resources available to academia we feel like a poor relative. Electronic access to integrated databases and electronic journals are crucial to my science. My field is advancing too quickly. How am I to keep up without timely access to information? I simply will not be able to compete with those scientists with access to a modern library. The Digital Desktop Initiative, if it is funded properly, will help. Modernize!"
Librarian comment
"The four additional land grant institutions in the U.S. affiliated Pacific are also geographically isolated and have extremely limited resources. The free information resources provided by NAL (AGRICOLA, AgNIC and the NAL Information Centers) are crucial to the agricultural research and teaching that take place at these institutions.
 
The Pacific Island institutions need a national library to provide for agriculture the types of resources that the National Library of Medicine does for its field. In order to provide this type of leadership and innovative information resources, the National Agriculture Library needs to have a budget similar to that of the NLM as well as commensurate personnel resources."
Administrator/Manager comment
"The NAL should be commended for pursuing interagency collaborations with other Federal science agencies and for partnering with science information organizations to increase access to and enhance visibility of agricultural sciences information. In particular, NAL's leadership of the Science.gov Alliance, which consists of fourteen information components in ten Federal agencies, has been a significant contribution in the development of a national science information resource. Using a digital gateway concept, Science.gov is up and working. Via Federal agency collaboration, a working science portal was produced from concept to reality in less than one year. It is difficult to site another example of true interagency collaboration that has yielded such fine results. It is doubtful that Science.gov could have been accomplished without the unique contributions of NAL leadership. In addition, science.gov sets the stage for future collaborations for taking the next step in science information infrastructure."
IV d. Enhance contractual collaborative relationships with other governmental agencies and non-governmental units to meet the NAL's mission for collaborative collection development, preservation, and archival functions.
     Researcher    Librarian    Educator  Admin/
Manager
 All
Other
Total Number            43           32             5           21         8
Tot # for this
recommendation
           1           4             0           3         0

 
NAL has established collaborative relationships with: the Library of Congress and the National Library of Medicine in collection development; CAB International and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for selective indexing of agricultural literature; and the United States Agricultural Information Network for preservation of the core literature of agriculture. The task force recognized and encouraged these efforts with this recommendation. These are largely library functions and both librarians and library administrators supported the recommendation.
Dean of Agriculture comment
"As Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona, I want to express my support for the recommendations made in the National Agricultural Library (NAL) Report. For the past several decades, I have been aware of many national initiatives in the area of agricultural, environmental, and health-related information concerns that have been coordinated by NAL. Collaborations with Land-Grant universities, including the University of Arizona, and other institutions have led to such innovations as the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) and the program for preservation of historical and core agricultural materials. I believe these types of information and communications efforts are essential if the American agriculture sector is to remain competitive in the new global economy. I am also aware of the ongoing lack of budgetary support for all of NAL's programs and services, including those mentioned above. This situation has put serious constraints on progress made to this point and in the development of the technical foundation on which all new information technologies rest. If implemented, the recommendations listed in the report will begin an essential process for providing NAL with the resources it needs to operate as a fully operational national library. Thus, I urge the approval of the report in its entirety."
Several researchers commented on the uniqueness and value of the NAL collections. Librarians remarked on NAL's position as the national library in a national library system. In this national role, NAL serves as the library of last resort, and should hold in its collections materials not readily found elsewhere.
Researcher comment
"During the last 26 years (20 years as an ARS scientist and 6 previous years as graduate student or postdoctoral associate), I have depended on NAL for acquiring the literature needed for my research. During most of this period, I have been at remote locations and unable to directly access a library. NAL has and is providing an invaluable service. It has been especially helpful in obtaining old or obscure publications either from its own collections or through interlibrary loans."
Researcher comment
"I am a geographer doing land use studies related to biodiversity and habitat issues for neotropical migratory birds. The use of the NAL, while sporadic for me personally, is indispensable in the type of research I conduct. Whether I go directly to the library in Beltsville, or whether I request information/literature via our own library, the wealth of documents contained and maintained by the NAL provides us here with a treasure trove of data."
Administrator/Manager comment
"As the Head of a Life Sciences library at a Land-Grant institution I realize the importance of the NAL. We use the resources of the NAL on a daily basis and rely on them to have the materials that we do not. It is imperative for the NAL to update and enhance the AGRICOLA database to bring it up to a level equivalent with the NLM's Medline and PubMed services. Two other very important services that require attention are the NAL Information Centers and the AgNIC Alliance."
Professional Association comment
"An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, dated September 13, 2002, discusses an amendment in the House bill on homeland-security that would allow development of a university-based research center for homeland security. One of the qualifications for this university applicant would be its "pre-existing relationship with the Department of Agriculture's laboratories and training centers." The value of a strong National Agricultural Library while not specifically mentioned in the article, is clear. Not only is there a connection between research institutions and the NAL and a reliance upon its resources, but there is an established standard of information of "last resort" that libraries use that are part of a national library structure. In other words, NAL should be the information source when all other sources fail. The Report recognizes the value of many of the products like the AGRICOLA database and the AgNIC network that the NAL provides, but also recognizes the need for a significant infusion of funds for improvement of services to the scientists, researchers and the agricultural community across the country."

 
____________________
1Quoted here in bold italics and throughout the Results section are the recommendations taken from the Executive Summary of the "Report on the National Agricultural Library - 2001".(Back)
 
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Last Updated Fbruary 7, 2003