Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Future of Libraries

In June I attended a discussion of "The Future of Libraries" at FDU. Anne Ciliberti of William Paterson University and Richard Sweeney of NJIT shared their top 5 issues concerning the future of libraries. Participants also shared what they felt were pressing issues in academic librarianship and we tried to reach a consensus of the most important issues we will continue to deal with.

Anne's top 5 focused on user services and the academic library's public face, while Rich's tended towards technology and access concerns.

Here are Anne Ciliberti's top 5 issues:
#1 Academic Engagement - how is the library adapting to new pedagogies and technologies that require fewer information resources and different information seeking behaviors.

#2 Information Literacy - Can we convince faculty that information literacy skills are as important as critical thinking skills?

#3 The Culture of Assessment - How are we going to adapt to this culture and assess what we do on a daily basis.

#4 Redesigning physical and virtual spaces - It's not about us anymore! Physically, provide furniture that can be easily rearranged for patron needs; have noisy places and quiet places. Virtually, redesign web pages to make them more attractive and valuable for users. (See Stephen Bell's blog Designing Better Libraries)

#5 Stimulate Staff & Exceed User Expectations
- Develop a culture of customer service by stimulating your staff to try new things and be challenged. Go beyond user expectations with a culture of customer service.

Here are Rich's top 5 issues: (his Powerpoint can be downloaded here, select "Five Strategic Areas of Academic Library Focus" from the bottom of the page)

#1 Web 2.0 & Learning Innovations - tools allow us to reach out to users "where they happen to be, and in association with the task that they happen to be undertaking." NJIT has done this with a natural language knowledge based search box on their homepage. Try it here.

#2 Promote and Expand Information Literacy - we need to understand millenials's learning strategies and teach to them. Rich suggests things like increased experiential learning (gaming, simulations, etc), more peer-to-peer learning, and offering web based learning options that teach a skill at point of need.

#3 Outsource feasible resources & services to consortia alternatives - collaboration can and will stretch across many facets of libraries: open source software, open access publishing, information literacy, networking, social networking, etc.

#4 Support & Promote Open Access Publishing - Rich quotes Kate Wittenberg, "It will be important for publishers and librarians together to engage in experiments that test various models for creating and disseminating content."

#5 Support, Staff & Implement an Open Library Environment - Rich discussed the OLE project and how it can create a "common open infrastructure and standards to collaborate and accelerate academic library innovation and student learning."

Additional suggestions of pressing issues in academic librarianship included:
  • The impact of Google's book digitization and expanded digitization of resources
  • Retention and recruitment of librarians
  • Managing polar opposite skill sets among library staff
  • Compatibility of access tools; having equipment that is compatible with current and past/future technology
  • Disruptive intermediation making our jobs obsolete by eliminating libraries as a link between user and information
  • The greying of the profession - What is a librarian? How are we training future librarians?
  • How do we do more with less; can we become more productive with technology
  • Collaboration with IT and other departments
  • The role of reference - how is it changing, how should we be changing the way we offer reference services - roaming, chat, text message, etc.
I volunteered that last one and it was voted as one of the top 5 additional concerns. I also discovered at this presentation that our concerns as a community college are markedly different from those of a research university. What do you think our some of the biggest issues we are facing?

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