Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Top trends of 2012 – a la ACRL


I had missed this when it had come out and had it not been for the posting in iLibrarian, I might not have seen it until, oh, 2013.  The ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee released its annual Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries in the June, 2012 issue of College & Research Libraries.  I like these kinds of things because, when taken altogether, the most important issues tend to become more noticeable from the “noise” of the chaos of the information revolution.  I especially look for what I may have been missing.  So, here is their list and how I am involved, as Collection Assessment Librarian at the University of North Texas Libraries:

  • Communicating Value: “Academic libraries must prove the value they provide to the academic enterprise.”
    • It is not terribly surprising that this issue is the first one listed.  It references the group’s own Value of Academic Libraries report and the Lib-Value project.  While I’m not currently involved in value-related research, I know that it is being pursued by the administration and I hope to assess collection use with grades.
  • Data Curation: 
    • Data curation challenges are increasing as standards for all types of data continue to evolve; more repositories, many of them cloud-based, will emerge; librarians and other information workers will collaborate with their research communities to facilitate this process.
    • Our own Spenser Karelis and Shannon Stark have been pursuing this problem through action-oriented research.  I hope to eventually look into associations of data curation and availability with citation rates and grant funding.
  •  Digital Preservation:
    • As digital collections mature, concerns grow about the general lack of long-term planning for their preservation. No strategic leadership for establishing architecture, policy, or standards for creating, accessing, and preserving digital content is likely to emerge in the near term.
    • I recently read an article that reported on research on the impact of digital collections in history literature (Sinn, Donghee. 2012. Impact of digital archival collections on historical research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 63 (8): 1521-37).  I would very much like to repeat this method evaluating the impact of our own digital collections on social sciences literature.
  • Higher Education
    • Higher education institutions are entering a period of flux, and potentially even turmoil. Trends to watch for are the rise of online instruction and degree programs, globalization, and an increased skepticism of the “return on investment” in a college degree.

      Shifts in the higher education surround will have an impact on libraries in terms of expectations for development of collections, delivery of collections and services for both old and new audiences, and in terms of how libraries continue to demonstrate value to parent institutions.

    • With the increasing pressure for libraries, particularly at publicly-funding institutions, to prove their value, collection development activities will likely include a wider array of assessment measures beyond simple usage.  I would like to develop a method to compare current and near-future curriculum and course planning with our collections in order to ensure that resources will meet the expected demand.  I would also like to compare highly-used resources against little-used resources to determine what could “predict” usage in the future.  
  • Information Technology
    • Technology continues to drive much of the futuristic thinking within academic libraries. 
    • This list emphasizes the issues and recommendations in the 2012 Horizon Report put out by The New Media Consortium.  These include social media/networks, collaborative learning, online/hybrid learning, and challenge-based and active learning.  While I wouldn’t say that our library is at the bleeding edge of technological developments, I would say we have been early adopters of most technological trends.  I would, however, like to lead an assessment of how certain features and functions could be developed or modified to improve the findability, accessibility and usage of our collections.  For instance, I would like us to implement faceted searching in our catalog like we have in our digital collections (see this example).  In addition, I would like us to better integrate our ILLiad service with our online resources to make it easier to request physical items, especially as we have had to cut so many of our resources.
  • Mobile Environments
    • Mobile devices are changing the way information is delivered and accessed.
    • The UNT Libraries will be experimenting with loaning and access to resources for mobile devices. Like the item above, I hope to be involved in making collection decisions based, at least in part, on the accessibility of the content on mobile devices.  There is little point in paying for resources that have such poor usability that they are simply not used.
  • Patron-Driven E-Book Acquisitions
    • Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA) of e-books is poised to become the norm. For this to occur, licensing options and models for library lending of e-books must become more sustainable.
    • This is something in which I am currently heavily involved.  Our own foray into PDA or Demand-Driven Acquisitions has been considered successful, with nearly 75% of ebooks purchased by our clients being used at least one time after purchase in the first 6 months of the project.  This far surpasses multiple usage of other ebook providers.  While I have analyzed the content of the collections fairly extensively, comparing subject distribution with our print and other ebook providers, I would next like to examine differences in usage based on more narrow subject categories, publishers, content-level, and publication year.  I would also like to learn how our patrons select and use these ebook resources, again, in an effort to be able to predict such usage.
  • Scholarly Communication
    • New scholarly communication and publishing models are developing at an ever-faster pace, requiring libraries to be actively involved or be left behind. 
    • The University of North Texas has been taking further strides in the paradigm shift of scholarly communication.  The university has recently required faculty to submit their scholarly outputs to its institutional repository (IR) (UNT Scholarly Works), and although there are certain allowable exceptions, it is significant step forward.  The Library has also stepped up efforts in this area by creating a position devoted to scholarly communication.  In addition, we have been making more concerted efforts towards supporting Open Access publications, by adding OA titles to our collection and providing OA publication fees for our faculty.  I would like to establish the regular review of the impact of our efforts, including OA articles, items in the IR and grant proposals.  I am also interested in the recent efforts to change the landscape of textbooks, particularly regarding OA and institutional licensing of texts for introductory texts.  
  • Staffing
    • Academic libraries must develop the staff needed to meet new challenges through creative approaches to hiring new personnel and deploying/retraining existing staff.
    • This is an issue that is of much concern at most libraries.  A balance of stability and flexibility is needed to ensure that our human resources are being used most effectively.  Simply moving people into new areas without appropriate training, consultation, or consideration of the human element will often result in failure.  Conversely, perpetual planning with little action will result in declining services and impact of the library.  I hope to be involved in the assessment of staff changes that could be used to make modifications and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of workflows.
  • User behaviors and expectations
    • Convenience affects all aspects of information seeking—the selection, accessibility, and use of sources.
    • The impact of the collection depends at least in part on the findability and usability of the resources.  I would like to learn how our patrons make decisions on which items to use for different purposes and to use this information to improve selection and findability.  
As you can see, most of my comments begin with “I would like to…” or “I expect to…”.  These are aspirational in nature and reveal my ideas.  I just need to ensure that I follow through on these and not get sucked into routine or tangent efforts that distract me from what is more important.
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This entry was posted on August 20, 2012 by in Academic Libraries, LIS Profession and tagged .
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