Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An interesting environmental scan on academic digital libraries

The “New Review of Academic Librarianship” has just published (and it’s available for free download for a limited time period) a really excellent article entitled Academic Digital Libraries of the Future: An Environment Scan .

The author, Derek Law from the Centre for Digital Library Research at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow Scotland laments “it is no longer clear what business libraries are in and whey they should now interface with other parts of the organizations they serve” and he further says that librarians “have lacked the space to step back and observe it from a higher level.”

The good news is that if they take the time to read this article, he’ll provoke their thinking and help clarify what must be dealt with in the larger environment. He cites numerous reports to show what many feel, even if they couldn’t quantify it – users perceptions of libraries are radically different than what librarians perceive them to be. He tapes the CIBER report to show that researches “expect research to be easy” and that they “do not seek help from librarians” and only want to “download materials at their desks.” One of the most disturbing disconnects is when he points out that “when librarians assist users, satisfaction levels drop” because it is perceived that aren’t trying to simply help them find what they need, but are trying to show them “what is good for them”.

The article deals with the growth in digital content but very accurately points out that librarians have yet to add value to the digital content they do accumulate. Yet all is not lost, because he identifies that being a trusted brand is something libraries and librarianship needs to build upon. He puts forth two really interesting tables in the article, showing first, how many of the social networking tools can replace traditional library activities and the second table suggests how libraries can use those very social networking tools to the benefit of library users (the article is worth downloading for these two tables alone!).

Finally, the article suggests key things that librarians need to do “be at the core of any redefinition of the Library’s role”. I won’t spoil the read for you but let me say that you should grab this article and read it. It’s time well spent.