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UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN THE UK

2020 Forecast Laura Francabandera

What have we been?ReferenceArchivesRepositoryResearch

Before any strategic plan can go forth, it is of the utmost importance to understand where you have been in the past. Libraries are known for different types of resources, but further education libraries focused heavily on being a reference repository and a research archive. Students knew that, other than investing in their own Encyclopedia Britannica set, the library was the only place they could find information to use in their research.2

Libraries in crisisStudents are drowning in information, yet still cannot identify appropriate academic sources.

In 2011, SCONUL completed the Libraries of the Future Project, detailing three possible scenarios for how UK academic libraries could adapt to the rapid social, technological, and economic change.

What will your library look like to interact with this new breed of technological students?

With the advent of the internet and the subsequent unshackling of information, students are currently drowning in a flood of information. They live and breathe information in their daily lives, yet are unable to separate academic from mundane information. Students no longer view the library as the only place they can get information they can search for anything they want to know with the touch of a finger. And yet faculty and educators worldwide raise the concern that students are still not able to identify appropriate information. In 2011, SCONUL completed a Libraries of the Future project, with three scenarios to aid in the strategic planning for academic libraries in the UK. Each scenario modeled a different library form, and it was to guide the library in envisioning what would fit best with its students and users. 3

The Walled GardenThe BeehiveThe Wild West

SCONUL proposes that libraries could be one of three things a walled garden, the wild west, or a beehive. Each of these scenarios4

The Walled GardenThe BeehiveThe Wild West

Information is carefully curatedAccess is limitedNo integration with outside worldInformation is a commodityAccess depends on demandCompetes with outside worldInformation is for societal goodAccess depends on your valueIt supports the outside worldIs this really what we need?

The walled garden is a place where information is very carefully curated and access is strictly limited. There is no crossover to the outside world since the only information worth having is inside the garden. The Wild West is, well, a bit wild. The student is a consumer and the library is forced to compete with corporations and a market economy of information. Finally, the Beehive is a place that works for the good of society overall a state sponsored system where your access to information depends on your role in the society. Are any of these what we really need though? 5

An Information Commons

An integrated learning facility

Offers collaborative study spaces

Uses educational technology

A place where students can find, create, and share information as easily as they define their information needs.

Of course not. None of those alone solve any of the issues plaguing students and libraries today. I see UK academic libraries as more of an information commons, recognizing the importance of the information that students bring into their research equation, as well as the information that they generate. Students today are social creatures, used to collaborating, creating, and sharing those creations with their friends and colleagues. The library should be a place that invites students to enter the scholarly conversation about their subject, but can also give them skills that they can then integrate with their daily lives. Skills like how to identify bias in a empirical study, or evaluate a source of reliability that threshold skill of evaluation and critical thinking underpins success in their personal lives as well as their academic lives. If the library can live into this space and give students the tools they need to navigate the glut of information out there, then it will be one part of the solution.6

An Information HubA place where students can integrate the skills they learn in the library with their everyday lives.

The Internet of Things has made connection and integration a staple of modern life. Students want to be considered experts in their own domains of knowledge.

Find the bridges that connect those expert domains with library skills and research.

In addition to fostering collaboration and connectivity by being an information commons, the library will also need to be an information hub. Not a silo or a walled garden that hoards its knowledge, but a hub that connects and integrates with the outside world of information. Students are used to this type of integration, thanks to the growth of the internet of the things- they expect to be able to answer phone calls on a watch or change their home thermostats from school. Everything is interconnected and it would be folly to try to keep the library separate from the information in the outside world. Just because it doesnt fit into our notion of academic information, it is still valid information in some domain. We need to recognize that students can be experts in their own domains of knowledge and they bring that knowledge with them into the library. What our job, as librarians, is to find the string of information that connect their existing knowledge with new knowledge. We need to scaffold their instruction and build on what is already there. Student A is an avid shopper and easily locates, evaluates, and analyzes online sales. That should be simple to build upon into an evaluation criteria for scholarly resources. Student B is an apprentice for an accounting firm why cant we correlate his work there with ways to synthesize information in the library sphere? The library needs to be open, collaborative, and integrated. It needs to be partly a commons and partly a hub or both all at once to help our students.7