Library Trends, from A to T

July 9th, 2010 by Merrilee

As usual, I’m a little late to the party. Glancing at the ACRL Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries (published in the June C&CL News) I realized that these ten items relate in one way or another to work we are doing on behalf of the RLG Partnership. (I shouldn’t be too surprised that the list resonates since my colleague Lynn Silipigni Connaway is a member of the committee that put the list together). The list is in alphabetical order, rather than ranked order. I’ve abbreviated the list and included my own commentary.

1. Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types. … Increasingly, libraries are acquiring local collections and unique materials … These materials may include special collections, university archives, and/or the scholarly output of faculty and students.

Under the rubric of “Mobilizing Unique Materials,” we have a suite of projects dedicated to surfacing the rare and unique. Our flagship project in this area is the Survey on Special Collections and Archives, which will identify trends and norms, and will help set the stage for future action. Work on Sharing Special Collections, our report on Barriers to using EAD, and other projects, are also under this umbrella. We also have an upcoming symposium on the role of special collections in a digital age (October 12-13, Oxford, UK)

Libraries also recognize the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets. …

Our data curation activity is a collaboration between RLG Partners and LIBER members, coordinated by my colleague John MacColl.

2. Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result. …

Budget challenges (which is a nice way of putting it) are just one of a number of risk factors identified and discussed in our recent “risk report” (Research Libraries, Risk and Systematic Change [pdf])

3. Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets. …

See our Research Information Management Roadmap project for our “manifesto” urging librarians to get closer to the heart of the research process.

4. Demands for accountability and assessment will increase. …

It’s clear that “business as usual” will no longer cut it. In the area of special collections, where standard measures for “counting” are not yet established, there is much room for improvement. We are encouraging more uniform ways of assessing archival collections for the purpose of prioritization for description and processing, preservation needs, collection management, selection for digitization and other collection management functions.

We also explored the role of libraries in assessment of research output in a study of in five countries more active than the US in this area.

5. Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources. Digitization projects make hidden and underused special collections available to researchers worldwide.

In addition to larger efforts in regards to special collections, We have had a special focus on making special collections materials more accessible through digitization (our paper Shifting Gears is part of this effort). Additionally, we have a large working group that is both encouraging use of cameras in the reading room (patron led digitization!), and also looking at theory and practice that will help optimize digitization done to fulfill patron requests.

6. Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services. …

My colleague Bruce Washburn, a crack developer with an interest in and affinity for mobile applications did a great webinar on mobile development. You can check this out to get a sense of the wide-ranging territory that is mobile.

7. Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond…

Which is why we are holding an important Leadership through Collaboration meeting (September 20-21, in Washington, DC). Register now!

8. Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services. …

Related to our efforts to encourage digitization of unpublished materials, we convened a group that helped to document “well-intentioned practices” that will help guide risk assessment (and hopefully foster a community of digitizers rather than fence sitters).

9. Technology will continue to change services and required skills. …

Our Technical Advances for Innovation in Cultural Heritage Institutions (TAI CHI) webinar series has been developed as a way to teach library staff new technology skills and educate them about new products to help increase their productivity in today’s changing library, archive and museum environment.

One of the tremendous shifts in recent years has been content becoming a hub around which “social” activities take place. There’s a lot of potential to be tapped from the crowds, in the form of commentaries, reviews, tags, translations, or links to related sources. Our wide-ranging Sharing and Aggregating Social Metadata activity has a large working group examining which areas of social metadata are likely to be wise investments for libraries, archives, and museums.

10. The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands. …

I think that accomplishing the transformation of the library as a physical store for books (where collections and services are very tightly coupled) to an entity with services more tightly aligned with support of the research process (separate from books) will be one of the greatest challenges many of us will face over the next 3-5 years. At the heart of this challenge will be shifting the enormous legacy print collections to shared storage. My colleague Constance Malpas has been doing interesting and useful work in this area, particularly in relationship to the Cloud Library project.

If you look at the agenda for the 2010 RLG Partnership Annual Meeting and the agenda for our Partner Symposium “When the Books Leave the Building” (both of which happened last month) you will see both tight and loose connections between the ACRL list and our work agenda. This is one reason I love my job — I feel like I’m part of an organization that is working every day towards facing the challenges of our profession.

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