- THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES
We began by discussing the evolution of public library services, inspired by Deborah Fallows’ recent article “The Library Card”. We noted that Fallows saw libraries providing services in three areas: education, technology, and community, especially in economically damaged cities. Deanna saw people seeking education in libraries for jobs, parenting, and as citizens, including digital resources. People find community through a variety of ways, including leisure reading, story hour. This works for finding new ideas, especially for the independent scholar. The public library is a community center, in short.
I asked Deanna to describe how academic libraries could differ from public ones, especially in services. She began by mentioning the historical practice of trying to imitate-Harvard’s libraries, but thinks that’s now behind us. Collection development isn’t as central, thanks to the digital world and Google. Local collections for local needs are important.
So how can university libraries differentiate themselves? Many campuses are now paying more attention to “nontraditional” students, especially adults and online learners. Therefore there’s a need for very new services, including those aimed at aiding student recruitment, retention, and completion. These are strategic efforts at the level of an institution.
I pushed back a little, wondering to what extent such new forms of student-serving libraries are redundant to other parts of campus. Deanna responded by arguing that the campus library is still the best place to introduce students to what’s out there. Indeed, the library can pair up with other services. For example, academic advisors need more information about career futures. Think of this as adding the information piece to other campus services.
This brought to my mind the idea of libraries as information entrepreneurs, based on a talk by a leading Chinese research librarian (notes here). Marcum loves the idea, urging librarians to become part of research teams. That’s a way of
“going out to find ways to add value… The days of waiting for people to come in and visit with us… are behind us… Make sure people understand the power of information. That’s what we offer.”
At this point I shifted the topic to information literacy, wondering about changes in that movement. Deanna pointed to a then-forthcoming Ithaka S+R study (since released) about faculty attitudes towards information, which identified an increased faculty demand for info lit instruction given by librarians.
This is part of the larger challenge of information overload. Librarians need to intervene to help students at the right time, as a kind of information entrepreneurship. Info lit classes are not as useful, which is a controversial opinion. I mentioned Ann Blair’s great book on historical information overload.
At this point participant questions started appearing. One question came in from Mark Ulett: “I am curious to know how the open access movement will shift library services especially oriented colleges”. Marcum replied by mentioning her new project, working with UMUC‘s center for adult and international learning to expand their use of open education resources. She thinks librarians will be increasingly called on to identify materials to be embedded into learning management systems (LMSes; VLEs in Europe), making them more of a package for coursework.
Q: Keri from Hofstra: “What role do you see libraries taking in the development of new research tools?”
A: Libraries can help develop discipline-specific tools, *if* they are embedded in those fields. That’s what faculty want help with, not generic tools. Faculty don’t know how to develop those tools, usually, while technically savvy librarians do. The disciplinary angle is one crucial way for librarians to contribute to the scholarly enterprise.
Deanna and I then stepped off the Shindig stage to goad everyone into mingling. Some interesting concepts and questions came up. For instance, Liz Evans wondered about how digital scholarship libraries would work with IT staff when they have similar portfolios.
An unfortunate local tech glitch occurred at this point, which basically cut Deanna out of the discussion. We kept going by moving on to the session’s second topic, while technologists at two sites worked frantically to bring her back. her participation sho
2. RECENT ITHAKA S+R RESEARCH
Ithaka S+R recently released a survey of campus leaders and their views of education and technology. I outlined highlights of the results for the audience, then invited questions and responses.
One finding was campus leaders’ preference for adaptive learning over other edutech offerings. To explain the technology I point to Carnegie-Mellon’s OLI project. Systematic assessments of student learning came in second:
A second finding concerned attitudes towards free tuition at public institutions, and those attitudes were all over the map, ranging from support to skepticism.
A third area concerned advancing the completion agenda, and respondents settled on two methods: data-enhanced advising and “Guided pathways”. The latter
is an approach that presents college courses in the context of highly structured, educationally coherent program maps that align with students’ goals for careers and further education, including alignment with articulated transfer pathways between colleges and universities.
We then moved on to general questions and discussion, which focused on libraries.
David asked about research librarians in terms of dual roles, as information provider versus purchaser.
I answered by mentioning the power of scaling and inter-institutional collaborations, like Hathitrust.
Q: Paul B wondered about makerspaces in libraries?
I responded by describing some academic libraries installing 3d printing and makerspaces and the advantages thereof.
I wrapped up by thanking Deanna and participants for coming, and apologized for technical problems, thanking various tech teams for their hard work. I added that I saw libraries playing a vital role in helping communities think through their shared futures.
We had some spillover discussion. Mark Ulett saw contradiction between two different trends. One the one hand educators would like to get students into careers; on the other hand we believe in maintaining a rich curriculum. I saw this as reducing versus expanding options. Mark saw the student body expressing both of these desires, and also driving universities into different profiles.
On reflection, this was the first Forum where we encountered major technical difficulties. We carried on, though, continuing discussion. Deanna Marcum was kind enough to agree to a reprise, which will occur on May 5th at 2 pm EST.