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).

Campus Learning Spaces

A recent study at the University of Washington on qualities of optimal learning spaces invites some attention as that institution is comparable to many of the UC campuses. The study gathered data from a variety of sources including surveys, focus groups, and usage statistics of various kinds. The results seem to validate the notion of an information commons. Specifically, the recommendations were to maintain traditional general access computers while removing obstacles to the use of laptops. In particular, the study called for multiple, convenient recharging stations. The physical environment was also important with users calling for quiet, "comfy" chairs, and spaces for both individual and group study. The complete report can be viewed at:

UL's Corner: San Diego

In his keynote address at the Irvine Assembly on the future of librarianship at UC on May 6, Brian Schottlaender, UL at UC San Diego, discussed some issues that have appeared in our ongoing discussion. First, the indication is that the system is rapidly running out of physical space for its collection and for this reason as well as for increased efficiency, the trend is for shared repositories among libraries. A new entity is emerging called the "collective collection" which links together shared repositories. While offering some promise, the collectivization of materials raises numbers of significant questions about responsibility, decision-making and vast logistical problems that include matters of access and permanence. (One study suggests that exactly 11 copies of a document assure its permanence!) One example of the collective collection is the Western Regional Storage Trust (WEST) composed of the UC as well as other major universities and extending to Canada.

Brian also discussed the profile of the future librarian. The qualities that have appeared in other discussions of this topic have now been amplified to an almost superhuman level of capability and diversity. The future librarian will be a generalist with multiple advanced credentials, versatile, self-motivated, a team player, possessed of good technological and communicative skills, comfortable with business models and adept at strategic and tactical thinking. These qualities have been distilled from a number of studies. The powerpoint slides from Brian's presentation can be viewed here: