About hixson2015

I am the Dean of University Libraries at Florida Atlantic University, starting August 11, 2015. I have been a librarian for more than 30 years and have been a library dean for more than 10 years. I started and managed another Library Dean's blog at my last institution, USF St. Petersburg, which can ve viewed by looking for "poynterdean"

Textbook Affordability

It is well known and documented across the nation that the rising cost of textbooks and other course materials have made it increasingly difficult for students to succeed in their classes.

Data from the FAU Libraries’ student satisfaction survey conducted for three weeks in April 2018 revealed the average cost of course materials for FAU’s students, as well as the impact of those costs on student success.

As the following chart shows, 44% of FAU students indicate that they spend more than $300 a semester to purchase course materials or access codes.



The impact of the high cost of these course materials is significant, with students telling us that they have registered for fewer course, they have dropped or withdrawn from courses, that they failed a course, or that they accepted getting a lower grade in a course because they did not purchase all the required course materials. As the following chart shows, over 70% of FAU students have at some point not purchased all their required course materials because of the high cost, placing them at an immediate disadvantage compared to their peers who were able to purchase all the materials needed for a course.


The Dean of the Libraries chairs the University’s Textbook Affordability Committee which reports to the Provost’s Office and is charged to “Identify options for reducing the cost of textbooks for students” and to work with partners across the University to achieve a reduction in the cost of course materials. In partnership with the Center for eLearning, the Libraries are spearheading efforts to reduce the cost of course materials for FAU’s students by taking the following actions:

  • working to increase the number of textbooks and other course materials that are placed on Reserve in the Libraries, through soliciting donations, as well as requesting additional funds from the University to be able to purchase these materials
  • checking for free or library-owned or licensed materials that are required for each class and creating a tool enabling students to check what is available course-by-course
  • assisting faculty with identifying free or library-licensed digital materials that can be used for courses in lieu of expensive textbooks or access codes to commercially produced digital materials
  • developing a system of identifying low-cost or no-cost (beyond tuition) courses that would be identified in the course catalog
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to modify freely-available digital materials to use for their courses
  • encouraging faculty (through a grant award process) to create their own digital textbooks that would be free to students

The new program is known as ACT: Affordable Curriculum Today and is being put in place this summer for partial implementation for fall 2018 and full implementation for spring 2019. It is our hope that all the separate segments of this program will gradually result not only in lower costs for FAU’s students but also in greater student success throughout their academic careers.





Welcome to FAU Libraries’ Director of Information and Engagement

I am excited to welcome and introduce RJ Stamper who joined the FAU Libraries as the Director of Libraries Information and Engagement on January 22, 2018.

RJ Stamper

RJ Stamper

RJ came to FAU with nearly 15 years’ experience in higher education. He most recently served as the Director of Alumni Relations for Nova Southeastern University (NSU), overseeing all alumni activities and communications for close to 200,000 alumni.  Prior to NSU, RJ spent ten years at the University of Florida as the Director of Outreach and University Initiatives for the UF Alumni Association.

RJ is tasked with raising awareness and support for the FAU Libraries within the University, the State University System, and the broader community. This will include building partnerships, overseeing all library marketing and communication, as well as creating meaningful engagement opportunities for students, faculty/staff, and friends.

The mission of the FAU Libraries is to “connect people to knowledge and global communities of learning across time and space” and “enable users to explore, collaborate, educate, and create in their journey toward academic excellence and lifelong learning.” RJ has a proven track record of innovation, engagement and stewardship that will help us as we continue to develop into a center of collaboration on campus, ensure the academic success of our students, and create value for all FAU stakeholders.

The Challenge of Library Collections

The FAU Libraries’ collection budget has remained largely unchanged for more than a decade. While the funding has remained steady, the rate of inflation for library collections in the past decade has been at least 84%, with a 7-10% annual increase in costs being standard for print and electronic books, journals, and other resources. Like all libraries in the State University System of Florida (SUS), the FAU Libraries purchase and license access to scholarly content through a complex array of consortial agreements and individual licenses or purchases. We consult extensively with our colleagues within the SUS and the state and apply best practices for the development of academic library collections.

The strategy followed by the FAU Libraries in the past decade has been to minimize the impact felt by faculty and students by funneling a greater percentage of our collections budget into electronic resources. The result is that today we effectively have no budget for monographs. While this strategy has enabled us to continue to provide access to a substantial set of electronic resources (although even that will no longer suffice as prices continue to go up and pricing models change), it has also placed those disciplines that still rely on print monographs at a disadvantage. The Libraries have not been able to purchase a significant number of new monographs for many years and the print collection is aging. Research in the field of collection management and best practices make it clear that libraries have a difficult time  recovering from the loss of access to new monographs, even if budgets improve. What has been lost cannot be easily regained.

We have supplemented our collections budget every year with Technology Fee proposals to purchase archives of electronic content. We have been fortunate to receive such supplemental funding for many collections and this year we have ten separate requests in for Technology Fee funding for a wide variety of content to try to serve all disciplines. The Libraries have also utilized money from unspent salary savings every year to provide one-time injections into the collections budget. It is also our intention to request a budget increase for the collections budget from the University this year to place us on a better footing. We are also working on proposals for external donor funding.

In the fall 2017 semester, I made presentations to the Council of Deans, the University Faculty Senate, and to various College Councils or Executive Committees describing the state of the collections budget and the need to make cuts if no new funds were received. On November 20, 2017 we hosted the first open forum for faculty to give us their thoughts on a good process for making these difficult decisions. We have also made extensive use of survey data collected from our comprehensive fall 2017 survey of faculty use of and satisfaction with library services and collections to guide us in developing an approach. More input is needed but the reality is that we must make cuts, as the University will not allow us to overspend our budget.

For more information about Collection Management at FAU Libraries, we invite you to review the web pages at http://www.library.fau.edu/depts/cd/colldev.htm . We have also set up a Google site https://sites.google.com/a/faulibs.com/committees/university-committees/library-collections with access to various reports and presentations relating to our collections budget. Please feel free to contact the Head of Collection Management, Maris Hayashi, the Assistant Dean for Research and Collections, Jeff Sundquist, or me, the Dean of University Libraries, with any questions or concerns.

Welcome to Spring 2018

It is my great pleasure as Dean of University Libraries to welcome new and returning students and faculty to the FAU Libraries.


You will find the faculty and staff of the Libraries eager to help you find the information and resources you need: whether it’s a book on the shelves, a room to study together with classmates, an article you can access from our impressive array of electronic journals, a DVD to watch and relax to, a great space where you can study quietly, workstations with special software to help you if you have accessibility needs, a book borrowed from a library across the country, charging stations for your mobile devices, printers and photocopiers, or a well-informed librarian or professional staff member to answer your questions and help you focus your research.

We are guided by our Mission Statement in all that we do:

As leaders at Florida Atlantic University, we connect people to knowledge and global communities of learning across time and space. Reimagining services and spaces, we enable users to explore, collaborate, educate, and create in their journey toward academic excellence and lifelong learning.

The FAU Libraries are working to be more responsive to your needs, more comfortable for you to spend time in, and more actively engaged in the life of the students and faculty.  You will see and experience changes this semester, including:

  • the opening of a Serenity Room in the Wimberly Library to provide students of all backgrounds a quiet place to pray, meditate, or reflect. This has been in the works for several months and is a direct response to student requests.
  • the expansion of the Reserve collection of class materials, as part of the University’s efforts to reduce the cost of education for FAU’s students. The Libraries are leading this effort on behalf of the University with the assistance of every College and other student support units in the institution.
  • monthly meet-and-greet events with me as the Dean so that I can interact with students and faculty and learn directly about your needs and concerns.
  • the rolling out of a new website that will be easier to use, more informative, and less cluttered.
  • more student-sponsored events and activities that will result from a new program for University Engagement that the Libraries are implementing.
  • a student survey which will give us feedback we need to improve existing and design new services and spaces. This will build on data we obtained through a comprehensive faculty survey carried out in the Fall 2017 semester.
  • an expanded program of exhibits and lectures to inform and amuse you.
  • greater visibility of library faculty and staff as we take our “show on the road” more frequently by attending student and department events across the campus.
  • ongoing efforts to renovate the spaces in our facilities, especially the Wimberly Library on the Boca campus.


Welcome to all and may you look to us to help you have an exciting, successful experience in your time at FAU!

The Importance of Library Collections

Ten or twelve years ago, the FAU Libraries had a fairly robust budget for library collections. The budget for collections in 2008 was $3 million. At the time, that was a reasonable budget that allowed us to buy many books and journals and subscribe to heavily used electronic books, journals, and databases. Compared to some of our sister institutions in Florida, we were doing pretty well. Today, the FAU Libraries budget for collections remains at $3 million while the collections budgets at our sister institutions in the State University System have increased anywhere from 18% to 48% in the last ten years.

In addition to an unchanging collections budget, other factors have affected our ability to provide access to the books, journals, and databases that our faculty and students need for their study and research. The average rate of inflation for library collections is 7% annually. Over a decade, that is almost an 84% increase in costs. If our collections budget had increased to keep pace with the rate of inflation, it would today be at $5.5 million.


Even without the rate of inflation, scholarly publishing is changing. As I noted in an earlier blog posting about the nature of library collections,  “as the world’s scholarly output continues to increase, libraries are able to own or even provide direct access to a smaller and smaller percentage of it. A 2014 posting on the Nature Newsblog noted that “Bibliometric analysts Lutz Bornmann, at the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany and Ruediger Mutz, at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, think they have a better answer. It is impossible to know for sure, but the real rate is closer to 8-9% each year, they argue. That equates to a doubling of global scientific output roughly every nine years.”

Over the past decade, the FAU Libraries – like most academic libraries in North America – have spent an increasing percentage of our total collections budget on electronic collections. There is a common misconception that electronic access costs less money. While some may argue that it costs less money to produce electronic content, the licensing fees that libraries around the world pay for getting access to that content have surpassed the rate of inflation. We are spending more on electronic access because it costs us more every year to maintain access to the same set of resources. There have been hundreds, if not thousands, of articles written about this over the last twenty years and  this situation is what prompted libraries to become champions of the Open Access Movement.

We have tried to cope and minimize the impact on our collections by taking advantage of consortial pricing packages, by using salary savings to purchase materials at the end of the year, by writing Tech Fee proposals to purchase back files of electronic content, and by making proposals to the Center for eLearning to purchase additional back files. We have also increased our reliance on Interlibrary Loan, which also carries staffing and materials costs. We are now at the point where we must either find more recurring money to put into our collections budget or we must stop buying some content and discontinue some of our subscriptions.

As part of the management of  our collections, we have continued to review materials  and remove outdated, little used, or duplicative content. This is a practice that all libraries follow and that is carried out according to well-defined principles and parameters outlined in our guide to our Weeding Projects. 

As the collections have been suffering from inadequate funding, the state of the physical library facility in Boca Raton has also been deteriorating.  Students have inadequate seating, not enough access to technology, and a building that is not well maintained and that is not conducive to the way that students work and study today. The renovation projects that have been undertaken in the Wimberly Library in the past two years have been funded from special allocations from the University ($250,000 for opening up the fifth floor), donations ($10,000 from the University Club for the Graduate Lounge and $14,000 from Lifelong Learning for the fifth floor), and use of Auxiliary funds (furnishings, painting, equipment on the first and second floors).

In the coming months, we will be making proposals to internal and external groups to increase both one-time and recurring funding to provide the facilities, collections, and services that the FAU community needs and deserves. Faculty are encouraged to participate in the survey of faculty satisfaction that is currently live so that we can better understand your use of our collections and our services and advocate effectively on your behalf. A student survey is planned for the spring semester.



Meeting with Students

As the Dean of Libraries, I don’t have many occasions to interact directly with students in the course of my job. Yet, serving FAU’s students is the primary motivation behind all my decisions.

Unlike a professor, or a circulation staff member, or a reference librarian, my job does not bring me into contact with students. I see the students every day as they come in the library or come in the Dean’s Suite to pick up a piece of chocolate but I don’t usually have a chance to talk with them.

So, several times a semester, I try to make an opportunity to interact with our students by hosting a Dean’s “Meet and Greet” in the Wimberly Library.  I provide coffee and munchkins from Dunkin Donuts and stand there for an hour and talk with whoever happens to come by. Sometimes I have a theme and sometimes I don’t. The first such occasion this semester took place on Thursday, August 31 in the first floor lobby.


Photo by Patricia Koppisch

The theme this time was the ongoing transformation of the Wimberly Library.  I was standing in the newly redesigned first-floor lobby, right next to the new mobile device charging stations and adjacent to where the old reference desk used to be.



I had conversations with transfer students (several from Broward College) who were loving the friendly and helpful environment they were finding at FAU. I talked with juniors and seniors from a wide variety of majors, many of whom told me that the library is the most comfortable and welcoming place they have found on the campus. Many students told me that they were commuters and the library was their home base when they were not in classes.


Some students had seen notice of the “meet and greet” on social media and had stopped by expressly to talk with me or just shake my hand.


I was surprised by the number of students who had not yet been up to the newly renovated fifth floor. Some students didn’t know that we had more than three floors because they had only used the side of the building that has only three floors.


I talked with graduate students, some of whom had not yet visited the graduate student lounge or who didn’t know that we added a group study room to that area over the summer. IMG_1638

There was one common thread in all the discussions: the students are happy with the changes that are being made in the Wimberly Library. It was gratifying to hear such positive comments and we will continue to work hard to make the FAU Libraries the kind of place and provide the kinds of services and collections that they need.

Welcome to the 2017-2018 Academic Year

Welcome to the new academic year in the FAU Libraries.  For those of you who are new to FAU, we invite you to discover our spaces, our collections, and the services offered by our welcoming, professional faculty and staff at three different locations: Boca Raton, Jupiter, and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. For students in Davie and Fort Lauderdale, our partnerships with Broward County and Broward College provide you direct access to library spaces and materials, in addition to being able to use all of the collections and services available to all FAU students and faculty at the FAU-run branch libraries.


Main Branch Broward County Public Library serving FAU students and faculty in Ft. Lauderdale

For those of you who are returning, you will see that we have been busy while you were away for the summer.

In the Wimberly Library on the Boca Raton campus, we have made some changes you will see as soon as you walk in the door, as well as others that might take you a little longer to discover. As you enter the Wimberly Library, you’ll be struck by the shiny new flooring (getting rid of the ancient green carpeting) that transformed the concrete underneath into a gleaming surface that makes you think you’re walking on water.

white boards with notes 8 11 2017 001

Directly in front of you as you enter the Wimberly Library is the new single service desk. We have removed the old Reference Desk and have discontinued the use of the old Circulation Desk, replacing both of them with a single desk where you can check out books, learn how to use the catalog, get help accessing our electronic journals or databases, pick up a key for a study room, or get detailed reference and research assistance. The goal is for everyone to be able to get connected to help for everything in one place. This is the first phase of a more comprehensive redesign of the first floor that will open up more individual and group seating and increase access to help and newer technology.

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New Single Service Point in Wimberly Library


You will see several new charging stations in Wimberly that were provided by Student Government to allow you to charge your mobile devices easily and securely.


New Charging Station in Wimberly Library


Still to come in the spot where the old Reference Desk was will be a new, improved workspace for assistive technology (ADA workstations). This new space will be more central and also provide privacy for students with disabilities. Some of the specialized software and equipment available will include Dragon Naturally Speaking, Kurzweil 3000, JAWS for Windows, ZoomText,Dolphin Easy Reader, Plustek Book Reader V100 Scanner, and the SmartView Xtend video magnifier. We also have available for check out the Eschenbach Electronic Magnifying Glass and the Victor Reader Stream (New Generation). Until the new space is completed, students should check at the Single Service Desk for the location of the equipment and software.

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Location for new ADA Workstations


Another improvement can be seen in the group study rooms in Wimberly. The upper walls have been repainted with special paint that can be written on like white boards. In addition, a project funded by the Student Technology Fee will soon be completed to provide new monitors in the group study rooms that will easily connect to the network. Both of these changes should greatly enhance the functionality of the study rooms. In the past two years, we have also increased the number of group study rooms available for checkout by twenty per cent –  from twenty-five to thirty.

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New Whiteboard Walls in Group Study Rooms


Graduate students and College of Medicine students will be pleased to discover that there is now a group study room (available for checkout at the front service desk on the first floor) in the spacious Graduate Student Lounge that was opened last year.


One of the Open Study Areas in the Graduate Student Lounge


The crowning jewel for the fall semester is the new multi-purpose space on the fifth floor of the Wimberly Library. In the early summer, we finished phase one of the fifth floor renovation, opening up an entire floor that had previously only been accessible to staff or for special events. We have added over 100 seats for individual and group study, with all kinds of spaces and furniture to meet a wide variety of needs. The floor is an open conversation area but there are many spots where people can study quietly, aided by the privacy screens that surround many seating areas.


New Fifth Floor Multi-Purpose Space


The Wi-Fi has been enhanced on the fifth floor, as well. With lots of natural lighting and comfortable seating, the floor has quickly become a favorite gathering and study place for everyone. The furniture is designed to be easily moved so that we can host lectures and presentations at times when students will not be disrupted. Funding for this renovation was granted by President John Kelly. When you come to the floor, take a minute to write a “thank you” card to let President Kelly know how much you appreciate his support.


Thank you note written by a student on May 30, with name and contact information edited out.

Another coming change to the Wimberly Library is a planned Serenity Lounge, a non-denominational space that will be open to members of the FAU community with an Owl Card who are seeking a quiet place to pray or meditate. This new space will supplement the space that is currently available in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs . The room is also the most recent manifestation of the FAU Libraries’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, articulated strongly in our Diversity & Inclusion Statement. We hope to have this room ready for use by the middle of September.

Led by Director Ethan Allen, the faculty and staff of the MacArthur Library in Jupiter are devoted to providing exceptional service to Jupiter faculty and students.


Dean Carol Hixson Enjoying Comfortable Study Carrels at Jupiter


Director of the HBOI Library, Pamela Alderman, assisted one day a week by the MacArthur Library’s Assistant Director Leah Plocharczyk, applies innovative thinking to provide outstanding service to the researchers and students who have their home base at Harbor Branch.

The FAU Libraries are here to serve all the students and faculty of FAU, regardless of their field of study, their physical location, or their backgrounds. We are on the move, constantly evaluating our spaces, our collections, and our services. There will be many new exhibits, programs, and events at the Libraries this year. We encourage everyone to come check things out, provide us feedback, and use our services, either physically or virtually, to ensure your academic success as a member of the FAU community.


Welcome to FAU!

Photos for this posting taken by Carol Hixson, Carol Lewis, Pat Koppisch.