Monday, May 17, 2010

Library Barbecue

The issue is the viability of libraries and the question is: "As higher education confronts shortages in hungry times, will officials who previously viewed the library as a sacred cow think it's time for a barbecue?"

The answer according to Barbara Fister in an article in Library is: "Don't light the charcoal yet." Fister tested a number of provocative and alarmist statements about the future of libraries posted in TAIGA, a listserve for AUL's. These included: "Librarians who are not productive will be reassigned or fired." These were tested against the views of non-librarian university administrators and the conclusion is that administrators were more optimistic about the future of libraries than librarians themselves. Administrators cited the high use of libraries by faculty and staff; the importance of those with specialized knowledge to help research; the value of a physical space for diverse areas of the university to interact in the process of learning; and the vital importance of the library to the mission of the university and higher learning in general. Dan Greenstein of the UCs was cited as the only one surveyed who was a university administrator who also had a library background. His views which have provoked some controversy is that libraries will continue to thrive but mainly in the form of a single, mostly digitized repository. Campus libraries will be reduced to special collections for local holdings.

The message from administrators generally is not to despair but not to be complacent either. Administrators called on librarians to be more forceful in making their case for the value of libraries.

Fister, Barbara. "Critical Assets: Academic Libraries, a View from the Administration Building." Library (2010).

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