CRUE: Sakai in Valencia

Every country runs their educational funding in a different way. There is a big contrast, for example, between the United States (many private universities and even for-profit institutions and fairly diverse sources of funding of public institutions) and the United Kingdom (mostly private universities where a vast amount of the funding flows through a central, government-run organization called HEFCE).

I was just in Valencia, Spain, where most of the universities are public and the funding is provided by the regional (comunidades autónomas), rather than national, governments. I don’t know this for a fact, but I would suspect that this means that the competition between schools in the UK is fiercer than it is in Spain. In Spain, the few schools in Valencia, for example, aren’t fighting with Catalonia for government funding. But I could be wrong.

Valencia LogoFor whatever the reason, though, there was definitely a convivial spirit at the CRUE meeting I was invited to speak at. CRUE (La Conferencia de Rectores de las Universidades Españolas) is a twice-yearly conference that brings together the IT directors of all the Spanish Universities (there are approximately 75 universities in Spain). The conference was very ably hosted by the La Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (UPV) who have the trifecta of Sakai participation: They use Sakai as their CMS, they contribute code to the community and they belong to the Foundation as members.

The theme of this conference was “Convergence” and this means something very specific: The combination of the IT and Library organizations under one umbrella. This has been a trend in the US and UK over the last 15 years and the Spanish Universities are now asking themselves if this organizational model is right for them. The UK expert on this topic, Terry Hanson, spoke at the conference as did Eleanor Mitchell (Dickinson College) and Hans Geleijnse (Universidad de Tilburg), both of whom have been through an organizational merger at their respective institutions. My overall sense was that there was a fair amount of apprehension about combining IT and Library services in one organization, especially from the library folks.

With such a specific theme and the presence of real experts on the subject, I certainly wasn’t going to try to talk directly about the library-IT organizational convergence. Instead I focused on the Sakaibrary project in general and the implementation of Citations Helper at UPV. Their implementation uses MetaLib and DSpace. I also used this to talk about the coming Java Content Repository (JSR-170) support in Sakai 2.5. The connection here, obviously, was the move to “converged” institutional repositories. I think, in the end, the audience appreciated the discussion of technical integration of library and teaching and learning applications. The previous three speakers had definitely covered the organizational/management issues and the fact that my talk wasn’t directly on the same theme was, I hope, a nice change of pace. You can download it if you’re interested (6+ megabytes, sorry).

The next day I visited UPV itself. But that’s for another post…

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