In January of 2000, the Minnesota Library Access Center (MLAC) first opened its doors in a specially constructed cavern space eighty feet below the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus. MLAC was a revolutionary project in Minnesota designed to house important print materials from libraries across the state. When the project leads needed someone to design the operations of the program and to manage the collection, they turned to Tim McCluske, who was working in the University Libraries at the time.
Tim worked with colleagues to design operations, plan for ongoing management, and oversee accessioning of what turned out to be 1.5 million items into the shared collection from more than 20 Minnesota libraries.
In the years since, Tim has built best in class operations for a high density central library storage facility. The MLAC space and practices have served as models for other institutions, both nationally and internationally.
Tim McCluske will retire on January 15th, 2021. While his Minitex colleagues will miss his wide and deep knowledge - not to mention his understated humor and presence - he leaves a strong program poised to support the needs of MLAC participants and the library community.
Thank you, Tim, for your total of 45 years of service to the Minnesota library community. Thank you for your dedication to collaboration. Thank you for contributing your talents to Minitex and the Minnesota Library Access Center.
What brought you to libraries as a job opportunity in the first place?
'3X5' catalog cards and "see main entry." Actually I thought it would be a good job for a listless college student for a year or so. I was surprised by the size of the card catalog in Wilson Library and that "main entry" had nothing to do with the front doors (with apologies to Sue Zuriff, UMN Libraries cataloger).
Were there other careers you were interested in?
When did you first hear of the idea of MLAC?
Don Kelsey, UMN Space Officer at the time, mentioned his idea for high-density storage like the Harvard facility except on campus, or more to the point, under the campus.
What is the significance of the groundhog to MLAC?
Groundhog Day is the one day in the year MLAC staff get to leave the cavern to see if we still have shadows AND eat cake.
What have you learned about navigating organizational collaboration during your career?
Ask questions, seek out help, make mistakes, and then repeat as necessary.
What might be future opportunities for high density storage in our region?
I don’t think I’m imaginative enough to answer this question, but I do have two thoughts on it. The first is high density storage will become increasingly entwined with technology, taking on more “heavy lifting” of collections management. The second is high density storage facilities like MLAC will become less visible which is good. It doesn’t matter where something is, it just matters that it can be found and used.
What’s next for you?
Wood carving and cheese making. If the cheese making doesn’t pan out, then I’ll try wine making. If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably just drink the wine and not take things too seriously.