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Top ten trends in academic libraries

Catching up with reading after a few days away led me (via a RT from @benshowers) to ACRL’s latest article on ‘2012 top ten trends in academic libraries’.  (ACRL  are the US Association of College and Research Libraries and part of the American Library Association).   It’s an interesting list:

Communicating value; Data curation; Digital preservation; Higher education; Information technology; mobile environments; Patron driven e-book acquisition; Scholarly communication; Staffing; and, User behaviors and expectations.

Some are obvious, IT, mobiles, the changing nature of higher education.  But I find it quite interesting that user behavior and expectations is flagged up as a top ten trend.  Driven in part maybe by increased expectations as the cost of higher education to the student continues to rise, but also by our students being better informed consumers of online information.  Their experience of library search (for example here in this blog post by @carolgauld) contrasts markedly with their experiences of the web, through online shopping and social networking.  And it’s a big challenge for libraries and publishers.  All too often it seems that library systems are built with librarians or researchers in mind rather than users.

I also find it interesting that getting across library value is a top trend and that seems again to be something that libraries always struggle with.  It’s timely that ACRL have their White Paper ‘Connect, Collaborate and Communicate: A report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summits’ out now.  That includes material from Carol Tenopir’s work that I was fortunate to hear about first hand last year.  Top of the recommendations is about ensuring that librarians understand how libraries contribute to student learning and success.  Work such as Huddersfield’s Library Impact Data Project are demonstrating that there is a connection between library usage and attainment and it’s important that libraries get involved within their institution to make sure that library data is contributed to ‘data warehouses’ and other management information systems so library use is taken account of when measuring student achievement.

Two further things in the list stand out for me: Data curation and Digital Preservation.  Mainly because it’s an area I’m becoming more involved with as we plan and build our new Digital Library ( , but also because it seems to me that a lot of library time is being spent (and going to be spent) in this area of work.  Although there’s clearly a step between managing collections of physical items (books and documents) to managing collections of digital items, there’s a sense to me that curation of stuff the library owns, is a more ‘comforting’ space for libraries to operate in.  Handling access to stuff we license (the subscribed resources world) starts to seem like a different type of activity maybe, a ‘blip’ on the landscape of libraries as curators of collections of stuff the library owns?

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June 2012

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