Library Collections: how they are changing and will continue to change, and why we need your help

In the spring we held two conversations with faculty who were concerned about changes in our physical collections.  We have shared many news items and blog postings over the past several years to outline changes in academic libraries. The graph below captures changes in libraries over the past several years, and some future possibilities:

chart of how libraries are changing


(You will need to select the image to see the full version.) Image from: The Future of Academic Libraries, an interview with Steven Bell, March 26, 2012.

This article is six years old, but the progression on the chart for Collections from “just-in-case” to “On demand, anytime” best represents our current model for collections at Macalester.  The majority of our acquisitions budget is spent on services and access to electronic information.  Our model is access over ownership, to the benefit of our users. We own less now, but we have access to much more content than we’ve had before.  Because we no longer “own” the content, we are careful to review licenses to make sure we are able to provide access to materials with as few restrictions as possible.  However, access to information is changing, and not necessarily in a good way. Information has always been big business. Many faculty members in the sciences have heard me talk over the years about escalating subscription costs and consolidation of publishers.  We continue to see subscription costs rise 7 – 11% every year. The one pressing–and increasing –concern we have is:  how much access we can provide with the funding we have available?

One means of combating escalating costs is to decrease paywalls and increase our support for open access initiatives.  Consequently, we have put a significant amount of time and effort into promoting open access. As pointed out in a variety of publications and presentations, colleges and universities often pay three times for research:

  • Institutions pay authors to conduct research and draft papers, which are then transferred gratis to publishers
  • Institutions pay faculty who volunteer their time to peer-review and edit journal submissions, and serve as editors for journals
  • Institutions pay publishers for access to the final, published articles, written and edited by our faculty

And I would add a fourth time we pay when we pay article processing charges (APCs) to make an article openly accessible in a commercial journal.  We have seen an increase in faculty requests that we pay the APC. While our fund has grown, it is proving to be unsustainable in light of the rising costs of APCs.  As a result we will be making changes in our policies and procedures for next year.

Another issue in the increasing costs for information is the fact that we are now also seeing a commercialization of information in a completely different manner.  Access to information is changing and the commercialization of information is growing. For example, Monsanto is now the largest producer of agricultural information, not the US government.  This concerns me as we know that Monsanto will have proprietary control over crop information, and this will affect access to information scholars may want to look at regarding crop changes and climate changes.   More information on this new disturbing trend will be found in our June Collections Newsletter in our article on the Center for Research Library annual meeting. However disturbing this new trend is, it is still rising costs that affect our being able to provide “access on demand.”

Increasing costs and flat budgets are putting even greater pressure on our library budget.  In the fall we will be sharing more information about a new initiative we’d like to see faculty supporting.  OA2020 is an international initiative to accelerate the move to open access for scholarly journals.  We’ll be sharing information with our faculty Library Representatives at our fall meeting, and with our Library Advisory group in the fall as well.  Open Access Week this year is October 22 – 28 and the theme is Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge. We’d like to see our entire community get behind the initiative to break out of traditional dysfunctional patterns of faculty giving their work away for free and libraries having to buy it back at costs that were already spiraling out of control 25 years ago and now have only accelerated.  I look forward to meeting with faculty and discussing how Macalester can support this global initiative and contribute to making scholarship open and accessible for our current and future scholars. I’d welcome comments and feedback from you regarding your thoughts on how we can gather campus support for this pressing challenge. I’ll look forward to hearing from you. And you can always drop by my office anytime to share your thoughts.

My informal signature

Realizing a Vision

Last month I wrote about “Our Community as Creators.”  Continuing on that theme, I want to address some comments that have been made regarding our summer project for Level 2 of the library.  This project will result in realizing many aspects of a vision we shared four years ago.  Vision 2020 was written when we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the DeWitt Wallace Library.  Now, four years later, it is especially helpful in connecting current students, faculty, and staff to our aspirations for the library spaces.

“Our vision for the Dewitt Wallace Library of 2020 is to expand and build up our current  vibrant and active space for engaging scholars.  We want a library that contributes to the transformative experience for all students as well as a space that will attract faculty to utilize our space, resources, and expertise…[a] primary emphasis for the library of 2020 will continue to be on the services we provide to support the scholarship of faculty and students.” [Vision 2020, p. 1]

Our vision for the DeWitt Wallace Library of 2020 has always been about scholarship, teaching, and learning.  However, we also envisioned a change as a result of providing access to more electronic content and fewer print, hard-copy materials.  In our vision, we outlined a plan for managing our print collection in order to allow us to do more with the spaces we have.  In that document, we focused on what we would like to see in our spaces with seven potential developments:

  • Content Creation Labs
  • More Comfortable Quiet Reading Spaces
  • More Comfortable Collaborative Working Spaces
  • Classroom 2020 Learning Lab
  • Special Collections – Expanding access and space
  • Media Collections Consolidated
  • Expanded Hours Study Space

Many recent comments I have received have focused on our “gutting the library” or turning the entire second floor into space for Entrepreneurship.  Neither is true, but the partnership with Kate Ryan Reiling, Entrepreneur in Residence, is one that we actively sought because we saw that many aspects of our vision for spaces meshed well with goals that Kate has.  It is especially the “Content Creation Labs” that have a close affinity to the work being done with Entrepreneurship and that is why we believe it is a good fit for the programs the library staff hope to provide in new spaces.  The entire first five items listed in our vision will be addressed in some manner in our project for the second level.  That alone is one reason why those of us in the library who had a shared vision for our spaces by 2020 are delighted to have this opportunity.

Our vision for Special Collections was written before Media Services moved into the lower level of the library, so that portion of the vision has changed.  However, we did envision more space for teaching and working with students with rare books and archival materials.  That is another aspect of the plans that I am thrilled to see will be realized by the end of the summer, connected to existing Rare Books and Archives spaces.  We’re already talking about the various programs we will be able to offer in that space in addition to working with classes in the fine arts, humanities, and social sciences.

The planning team for this project includes two student representatives, a faculty representative, and campus leadership.  The full planning team:

  • David Wheaton, VP Administration and Finance
  • Karine Moe, Provost
  • Kate Reiling, Entrepreneur in Residence
  • Angi Faiks, Associate Library Director
  • Jody Emmings, Entrepreneurship Coordinator
  • Terri Fishel, Library Director
  • Nathan Lief, Director of Facilities
  • Matthew Meyer, Associate Director of Facilities
  • Donna Lee, VP Student Affairs
  • Ted Wilder, Associate Director of ITS
  • Chris Wells (faculty rep)
  • Remy Eisendrath (student rep)
  • Sam Greenstein (student rep, library student employee)

There have been stories  in the MacWeekly, a number of listening sessions in the library, and three of the four sessions to discuss the future of the library, with one more session remaining.  In addition, we are holding a session during National Library Week to discuss the draft floor plans.

One aspect of working in academic libraries that I continue to enjoy is the opportunity to work with a younger population who are learning and often embracing new ideas.  As I shared with a colleague recently, the aspect of work that I enjoy most is contributing to the process of opening minds to new ideas and seeing possibilities rather than barriers.  Currently, I continue to respond to messages from individuals who are seeing more barriers than possibilities in our summer project.  However, I am very excited to see our long-held vision become reality during the summer and I want to share more details with the entire community.  As we stressed, and will continue to emphasize, books are at the heart of what we do and will always be so.  Books are never going away.  What is changing is the opportunity to provide spaces that enable creation in all forms, allowing our community members to create with their hands as well as their minds, contributing to new scholarship, new ideas, new solutions, new experiences, and new creations.  We are excited by the possibilities and I invite anyone who wants to know more to join David Wheaton, Angi Faiks, and me on Thursday, April 13th at noon in the Harmon Room.  We will share the current draft of the floor plan and will provide a general overview of the spaces and areas that are being developed.  It is my hope that more minds will be opened to the possibilities that we are creating and that more people will share our excitement about this fabulous opportunity.  I hope you will join us in conversation next week.  And lest I forget, food will be provided.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Attached is a draft of the remodel plan that we will be discussing next Thursday.  20170405_Macalester Library In Progress Plan_

Our Community as Creators

Last month I reported on the first discussion we had regarding planning the future of the library.  We’ve now had two conversations, including a great discussion about spaces in the library.  Last week, a new report came out that is particularly relevant to these discussions. The New Media Center Horizon Report 2017 Library Edition was released during the ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries)  2017 biennial meeting in Baltimore that ended Saturday, March 25th.  The Horizon Report provides a guide to what is on the horizon for the next five years for academic and research libraries, broken down into “six key trends, six significant challenges, and six developments in technology.”  One of the key trends is “Patrons as Creators” and is seen as a driving force for the next three to five years.  This is a trend our librarians have actively been involved in for some time as we have emphasized our role in helping our community members create content rather than just consume.  This has informed our work with open access, information literacy, our institutional repository that allows us to showcase works and journals produced by our students, and our more recent efforts to create more welcoming spaces in the library that would allow students to do more with their hands as well as with their minds.


The Horizon Report mentions a recent survey of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)  “revealed that 64% of responding libraries in North America are engaged in providing, planning, or piloting makerspace services.” [p.14] The increase in makerspaces in academic libraries, mirrors the growth in public libraries as well.  This growth is partially a response to what is seen as a social movement, but it also integrates with the services all types of libraries offer.  For us, a makerspace meshes well with our academic programs that increasingly emphasize the interdisciplinary connections between various disciplines.   It also is timely in terms of the growing interest in the Digital Liberal Arts on our campus.  The Horizon Report helps articulate some of the concepts we have been focused on as we prepare for creating new spaces on the second level of the library.  We have been exploring makerspaces in the library for several years, but it was just this year in January that an opportunity presented itself to help us develop such spaces for innovation and creation.  As with many of the things we do, this is very much a collaborative effort.
This new initiative involves many different pieces, including space for innovation in teaching, more group work spaces, spaces for crafts as well as coding, and also an opportunity to collaborate with entrepreneurship on campus. We see this as an opportunity to help us expand services for students and also create new spaces to foster creativity and innovation.  At the same time, the book remains central to what we are as a library.  The Children’s collection and the Rare Books Room will remain on level 2, while the books currently on level 2 stacks will move upstairs one level, or downstairs to the lower level depending on size and content.  If you want to know more or participate in conversations, we have more sessions scheduled in the coming weeks.  You can read more about our plan and open discussions on our library web page as well as on our LibGuide Planning the Future of the Library.  You may contribute your thoughts on a feedback form, but I think most of our community members will benefit by coming and discussing in person how this new initiative will provide them with new spaces to become creators, not just consumers.