The bullet points below were were written many years ago after my mentor asked: what do you think the future of our library and where is the IT/Systems place on this? His question got me to think about the workflow of the academic library where I work. Many of us know already the drill: collection decision –> licensing and acquisition –> cataloging –> user access. And then came the time when Collection Development have to asses the collection use (“user access”) to determine whether we need to renew our license, switch to a different vendor, or get a new one. The cycle began again. Year after year after year.

The bullet points below are the items that I came across as I was thinking about his questions. So, without further due:

On acquiring material

  • Collections is the basic foundation of the library. Most of our resources go into purchasing, organizing, and managing them.
  • We base much of our identity on our collections: academic, public, special libraries
  • 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 way in ranking academic libraries by the size the collection. Somehow we are held captive by this standard because being on the top “is a good thing.”

Budgeting issue

  • Due to higher cost of journals (print and electronic), we now spend more money but acquire less material.
  • However, our supply-driven and just-in-case strategy lead us the need 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

  • Convenience first.
  • Many users simply no longer spend 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.)
  • Students and faculty look online first when they need information because of the speed and convenience. We need to do a research to verify this (see the Use of Resources.)
  • Undergraduates use the course syllabus as the starting point.
  • Many times users use Internet search engine to support their research, being Google as one of the most popular one. We argue the quality coming from search engine results is lower than the (expensive) database we bought/lease, but we also understand that search engine interface is more convenient and easier to use than a library database; we can’t deny that.
  • Library space is now more about place to do group project and homework, not necessarily about doing a research.
  • Librarians as a last resort to find things.

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.
  • Users who come to the reference desk are self-selected. Those cannot be used solely in making conclusion of what users need. We need to play more attention to the ones who do not come to the reference desk voluntarily.

Archival collections to ensure access to library resources

  • We’re not only developing collection, but managing them as well. And we’re in the business of knowledge and information management.
  • Archival collections for both print and digital version.
  • If students and faculty look online first for their research/work purposes (see Users Expectation), then the future is indeed Digital Curation and Archive. A lot of our resources are now Internet- and web-based.

Librarians’ and library’s role

  • If the future is Digital, then IT/Systems unit no longer acts as the support unit (providing the infrastructure) for the collections. It have to be a partner by default.
  • If the future is Digital, information delivery needs to be more systematic, 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 would change the roles of subject librarians. 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.)
  • (See the user studies above) which means when a student of faculty need to find resources for their research, we need to give them a ‘complete meal’ served in one big plate where they then can pick and choose, mix and match, and grab what they need.

My goal is to serve that complete meal.