Libraries and Library Collections – what’s next?

Ranti’s underlying assumptions

  • Collections drive library practice; most our resources go into purchasing, organizing, and managing them.
  • We base much of our identity on our collections. I think.
  • We librarians act as brokers, but our decisions tend to be “supply” driven (the biggest bang for the buck?) rather than “user demand” driven.
  • Our status as a land-grant university somehow also drives our “just in case” collections (library of the last resort) especially for printed materials.
  • By the way, Ranti dislikes ARL “standards” in judging quality by size. We are held captive to this standard.

Budgeting issue

  • Due to higher cost of journals (print and electronic), we now spend more money but acquire less material.
  • Our supply-driven and just-in-case strategy lead us to request many journals. The result, it seems, is our “weak” position in negotiating with the publishers.

Use of resources

  • How do users use our collections and other resources?
    • Faculty expressed their need, but we also need to get the actual usage data.
  • If we have it in our collection, will users find it? Will users come?
    • Gathering objective data, including cost and usage data for both print and electronic version of our journals.
  • If paper books use decline, should we buy less book?

Users expectations, especially undergraduate students

  • Ranti’s bet: Convenience first.
    Many users simply don’t have enough time to scour the shelves, examine, and decide which print materials they need to get. Talk about competition from classmates as well in getting the reserved materials! Online access provides easy and faster access (providing we have enough simultaneous users access.)
  • Ranti’s gut says students and faculty look online first when they need information because of the speed and convenience. But we need to do a research to verify this (see the Use of Resources.)
  • I believe undergraduates tend to start with popular Internet search engine, being Google as one of the most popular one. We can argue the quality coming from search engine results is lower than the (expensive) database we bought/lease. But we understand that search engine interface is more convenient and easier to use than a library database; we can’t deny that students tend to use them (read: search engines) first anyway.
  • Ranti’s observation: Library space is now more about place to do group project and homework, not necessarily about doing a research.
  • Ranti’s observation: Librarians as a last resort to find things; students who happen to be in the Library seem to act that way.

User Studies

  • Studying user attitudes and preferences on use of library materials (books, journals, print, electronic) and research guides.
  • Conduct research to understand student and faculty information searching behaviour.
  • Conduct research to find out student and faculty’s understanding about the library and librarians.

Archival collections to ensure access to library resources

  • We’re not only developing collection, but managing them as well. And now we’re in the era of ‘Knowledge and Information Management.’
  • Archival collections for both print and digital version; need the balance between them.
  • However, if it’s true that students and faculty look online first for their research/work purposes (see Users Expectation), maybe the future is indeed Digital Archive? A lot of our resources are now Internet- and web-based.

Librarians’ role

  • If the future is Digital, then IT unit no longer acts as the support unit (providing the infrastructure) for the collections, but becomes a partner.
  • If the future is Digital, information delivery becomes more systemized (sp?), which includes the learning support services. This will require librarians to adopt various technology-related skills.
  • More and more faculty’ research involve interdisciplinary subjects, which might change subject librarians roles. We might work more on supporting collaborating teams.
  • Choosing collection might no longer based on specific subjects (“my subject” and “my faculty”), but more on how the collections can be used across the disciplines (collections as a whole.)

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