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.

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