Community Conversations: Discussing the future of the library

We held our first noon-time conversation on Tuesday, January 31  and had a good wide-ranging conversation about many aspects of change in the library.  Beginning with a question based on visiting academic libraries with sons and daughters looking at colleges, what kind of changes are currently underway in libraries?  And another question was how do librarians talk about the changes when we are at conferences?  And the question was asked as to what do students experience when coming to college that is different from their high school library experience, if they used a high school library.  And another question was about how to explain that research cannot be reduced to a single search box, such as Google.  We were asked about Maker Spaces and talked about a movement of creating that is being featured in all types of libraries, public libraries and college and community college libraries.  We talked about changing collections, library instruction, the flexibility of our own building to adapt to change, digital projects, and more.  We all have different perspectives on the wide array of services we offer, so it was a lively conversation.

For those who couldn’t attend today’s session, but want to stay abreast of the conversations, here is a brief recap of some of the threads:

  • Current changes include an increasing transition to more digital content.  This doesn’t mean the elimination of print books, but rather transitioning from DVDs to streaming videos, from music CDs to streaming online music services, and from print journals to online journals.  Our journal transition started long ago as most journals are now digital and most of our backfile print journals on the lower level have been digitized. The transition to ebooks has been slower primarily due to publishers who want to control how we “own” or rent ebooks.  The exception has been reference books what have transitioned to more electronic versions replacing print. It does mean that our collection will continue to evolve over time.
  • Our growth of ebooks is slower than at other libraries because of restrictions publishers place on the “purchase” or rental of ebooks.  At the same time, we are looking at projects like Hathi Trust as a means to provide ongoing access to resources that are not in our own collection.
  • Another change is that although students believe they can find everything using Google, recent experiences with fake news as well as students locating resources that aren’t peer reviewed demonstrates the ongoing and increasing need for librarians and faculty to partner on introducing students to reliable, accurate, and scholarly discipline-focused resources.  
  • Research is complicated, complex, and with the diversity of locations where to find information, one librarian shared how social media is influencing where students find resources for their papers.
  • An area that is also growing are resources that are in open access journals and publications.  Connecting our scholars to the freely available material that is truly scholarly is an ongoing challenge.  The OA resources are growing, but the tools that connect readers to the OA materials have not evolved quickly enough.
  • Our collections are changing not only because of open access, but also because we cannot own everything.  Increasing reliance on interlibrary loan does not mean that our collection is poor, rather we are able to provide access in a timely manner to the world of resources.  Our interlibrary loan department is bustling because we can obtain resources, but interlibrary loan requests are changing as more requests for book chapters and articles is increasing and requests for complete books is decreasing.
  • One area that is increasing is our textbook reserve collection.  It is an indication of the challenge students are facing in paying for textbooks.
  • Maker spaces are part of the DIY movement.  Spaces for community members to come together and build or create things.  In libraries they often have 3D printers, craft supplies, sewing machines or tools and more.  
  • Space will be the focus of our next conversation, but we did discuss book storage and the need to think creatively about how to balance book storage with the need for more more study spaces.  We believe we are well-positioned for flexible spaces because of our flexible building design.

A student reporter for the MacWeekly was present for most of the discussion and you can read his report online here, “Library hosts conversations
Our next conversation will take place on Tuesday, February 28th at 11:30 in 309.  The topic is space, and a guide to background readings will be found here.

The Future of the DeWitt Wallace Library – planning for community discussions

Please note: This posting originally appeared as a LibGuide on Sept. 16, 2016.  We are now transitioning to a WordPress Site so both versions will appear temporarily.


In our Annual Report for 2015-16, in the Words from the Director section, I mentioned that we would be planning to host a series of conversations in the library to talk about the future of the library. It is our hope to engage our community members in conversations about our spaces, our collections, and our services.  I want to provide a brief context for these discussions.

During the summer, a group of us in the library read Reimaging the Academic Library by David W. Lewis.  The book addressed many issues related to how academic libraries are changing.  Topics included: how the book itself is changing, the impact of the economics of information, changes in the scholarly record, and how digitization is affecting scholarly publishing.  The book included a number of recommendations on what librarians could and should be doing to prepare for the future. These recommendations, coupled with selected readings,  provide a possible framework for  community conversations. What follows is some additional information on the proposed discussion topics.


In June of 2013, we shared a Vision for 2020 document envisioning the future of library spaces.  This document was written prior to the move of Media Services back into the library.   We have been able to make some incremental changes including the renovation of 309 to create the Barbara B. Davis SPACE which is already seeing high use during the weekdays.  This report in combination with the spring 2016  RPC report on spaces are documents I would encourage community members to read as preparation for conversations about our spaces.  The RPC report encouraged us to think about “redesigning library space” and discussed the need for the library to develop “creation spaces” which was also touched on in our Vision for 2020.  I’d like to hear the voices of all community members — students, faculty, staff, as well as our neighbors who use our spaces.

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New Ithaka Report on Faculty Attitudes and Student Research

An article in the April 4, 2016 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the new Ithaka Report, a 2015 study on faculty attitudes regarding scholarship, publishing and student research skills.  This study has been done at regular intervals since 2000.  One of the highlights of the 2015 report is that the number of scholars who think libraries help students “develop research, critical analysis, and information literacy skills” is up 20 percentage points from 2012.”  20% is a pretty good leap in 3 years.

Inside Higher Ed reported:”Faculty members are showing increasing interest in supporting students and improving their learning outcomes, and say the library can play an important role in that work, a new study found.” [Emphasis added.] This is a major shift in faculty attitudes from previous years.  In the past, while a large percentage of library directors saw a role for the library in teaching critical thinking and information literacy, the faculty did not.  So, this is a shift in a very good direction.  I hope that if there were members of our faculty who responded to this survey, they were supportive of the instruction efforts of the liaison librarians. Continue reading “New Ithaka Report on Faculty Attitudes and Student Research”

Launch of the Lever Press – a new player in open access publishing

Today I’m pleased to be writing about an exciting new venture that is the result of several years of work and study {1}, a new open access publishing press that has just gotten underway.  On January 8, 2016, Inside Higher Education announced the launch of the Lever Press, an open access, peer-reviewed, digital-first publisher for scholarship in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This press, conceptualized and developed by academic libraries in private liberal arts colleges, is founded on one of the basic principles of academic libraries: collaboration. Continue reading “Launch of the Lever Press – a new player in open access publishing”

Reading in a Digital Age of Distractions

This summer, a printed copy of Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr was shipped to over 600 new students, including transfer and exchange students.  Copies were also shared with all first year course faculty, student orientation leaders, and members of the President’s Council.  Sharing print copies of books is the basic foundation of our MacReads common reading program, now in its sixth year.  The topic of the book is the educational reform that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  The book was selected based on the International Roundtable theme this year: disparities in education.

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Open access publishing and open education resources

Open access (OA) does not equal free. Nor does OA publishing mean lower quality scholarship marked by the lack of a traditional peer review process. There are costs involved and most OA journal articles and books are peer-reviewed, but those two concerns persist in conversations about the merits of OA. As OA does involve costs, either by producers or subscribers, it is important to note that finding a sustainable cost model is one of the ongoing challenges facing libraries when presented with the variety of options that are now appearing regarding OA materials. While there are a number of factors that contribute to our library being involved in the OA movement, the most important factors are our interest in removing barriers to content and published scholarship and participating in activities focused on reducing costs and expenses. Continue reading “Open access publishing and open education resources”

Collaboration takes many different forms…

Collaboration takes many different forms, but the definition of “collaboration” is to work with others to complete a task and achieve shared goals. For us in the DeWitt Wallace Library, collaborative efforts are a continuous thread throughout all of our library services. It includes the partnerships we strive to develop with faculty in order to prepare engaging instruction sessions on research strategies for library resources relevant to your courses. Collaboration includes developing strong service ethics in our student employees while also providing them with skills related to the college student learning goals. We collaborate closely with our partners in ITS for providing excellent service and support for faculty, students, and staff. Collaboration also involves working with other libraries to expand access to available resources for our faculty and student research needs. Continue reading “Collaboration takes many different forms…”