Collectively, many of the articles concerning academic libraries reflect upon the radical changes that some universities have implemented and will need to continually revise, and what some academic libraries lack (need to change) in their positioning in the digital age. Much of the focus involves changes that are evident inside and outside the walls of the library. Also, the user and their needs have changed, as has the information.
To use one of MIT’s library approaches, I collected an Idea Bank of examples to share for this blog as I research Academic libraries. The following themes are what I focused on:
- Libraries are not what they used to be (research happens outside the library)
- Libraries are designed spaces that support creation and innovation, and build community.
- Information literacy looks different today.
- Collection management and budget should be focused on the public domain with social understanding about privacy and ethics central to sharing information
I collect passages and quotes for my learning process, and I thought I would share some of the most impressive passages that Stephens curated for this Choose Your Own Adventure Module about Hyperlinked Environments. The resources are linked from the author’s name if you’d like to explore further.
Libraries are not what they used to be.
Libraries are designed spaces that support creation and innovation, and build community.
Some universities have embraced these truisms. The physical library and/or the inherent approach of the mission and values align with the digital age and the Library 2.0 landscape. Some Academic libraries serve as strong examples of change in their approach and renovation based on the truisms above.
Example 1: Carroll University
Eventually working with Academic Affairs, and the campus chaplain, Carroll University started a food and supplies pantry in the high traffic area of the library, which grew to various locations on campus to address food and economic insecurity that students face:
To stock it, we first asked staff for donations of non-perishable items. One of our librarians, Meghan, came up with our guiding philosophy of “take what you need, give when you can.” This means that if you’re in need, take something–no questions asked. When you want to “pay it forward” then drop off a donation. That’s why we refer to it as a “food share” on our campus. We also strongly felt that the food pantry should be unmediated. With sensitive issues such as food insecurity, people may feel embarrassed to ask for help. The food pantry is self-service. We promote it as judgment-free zone. It doesn’t matter if you’re out of money for meals or you’ve had back-to-back classes and you just need something quick from the pantry to nourish yourself. It’s there for you.
Example 2: Arizona State University
The library has been renovated since this article, but the leading philosophy and vision for the renovation was well inspired and reflected a Library 2.0 model:
The renovated building will ditch the traditional single entrance in favor of multiple points of access and egress and feature some food options to take advantage of its central location on campus…
O’Donnell [who lead the renovation] explains: I want a building that is a showplace (a sign of ASU’s academic and achievement) and a showcase (a place to make people aware of library treasures and resources and of the achievements of student and faculty partners) and a showroom (a place for users to go to find out about and road test and learn how to use information resources for best contribution to academic work and ambition).
Straumsheim, C. (2017)
Example 3: Carnegie Mellon University’sKeith Webster describes how CMU:
…announced our development partnership with Digital Science. The connection between a university library and a technology company may not be immediately obvious, but we are both committed to helping the research community conduct their work in a smarter way in order to fuel discovery.
Webster reflects on the trends that CMU follows which serve as illuminating examples for academic libraries envisioning how to embrace change:
At CMU we’ve seen the number of visits double in the past decade. Meanwhile, for most disciplines, the researcher finds her information needs met entirely outside the library. Put crudely, the success of our online services has driven the researcher away…The key point is that we are operating in a hybrid environment, both in the use of information resources and in the use of library spaces: we must meet information needs from both print and digital sources; and we need to provide spaces that serve those who need a quiet space alongside those who need collaborative facilities.
Information literacy looks different today.
Example 1: I loved the refining of the definition by Fister:
Here’s the old definition of information literacy:
Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.
And the new one:
Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.
There’s an emphasis on information as something that is socially negotiated, that is complex, that isn’t merely something you find and use but is created by people – including our students. We need to think about this as we design our collections and services.
Example 2: Oregon State University Librarians spark curiosity to teach research
Oregon State University librarians worked with Freshmen Writing Seminar faculty to support the learning behind research for research papers. They found that collaborating with teachers was integral in supporting students’ needs and sparking curiosity (not “passion”) in the research process. As a former teacher of Freshmen Writing Seminars, I felt this was a strong example of how librarians and faculty need deeper collaboration to support student information literacy challenges. OSU librarians explain that:
As librarians, we need to advocate for our students to get the help they need from the very start. By shifting the discourse to focus on curiosity within the classroom, providing activities grounded in low-stakes exploration, and encouraging self-reflective behaviors focused on curiosity, we can provide opportunities for more students to create their own new knowledge.
Deitering and Gascho Rempel (2017)
Collection management and budget should be focused on the public domain with social understanding about privacy and ethics central to sharing information
Example 1: Research in the Commodity Age
As an academic librarian, Fister explains that librarians try to eliminate the stress from the very consumeristic attitude that researchers (faculty and students) have by hiding the costs of burden that libraries take on to meet the expectations of researchers. They want researchers to use the library for their information needs. However, she proposes a new way of understanding research/information that involves new public domain and sharing practices, shifting away from the commodity/consumer approach.
So many of our decisions as librarians in the past decade have reinforced the information-as-a-commodity, research-as-consumerism model that Google and Amazon have made a part of everyday life…
As librarians, we don’t want to stand in the way of research by exposing the ugly underbelly of the system or adding any friction… So we make the costs as invisible as possible, the acquisition of stuff as easy as we can.
If we think about information as something communities create in conversation within a social and economic context rather than as a consumer good, we may put less emphasis on being local franchises for big information conglomerates and put more time, resources, and creativity into supporting local creativity and discovery. We may begin to do better at working across boundaries to support and fund open access to research rather than focusing most of our efforts on paying the rent and maintaining the security of our walled gardens.
Example 2: In the quest for supporting information literacy, are academic libraries doing enough in the following instances? The overwhelming issues of privacy and security need further focus:
- Surveillance has become the dominant business model of the internet and, by extension, news media. This has huge implications for intellectual freedom and for society at large.
- Privacy is more important than ever, but surveillance is the default setting. There are things we can do, but most people don’t know about them. (If they did, it could threaten the business model of the internet and news media.)
- Aggregated data, much of it gathered through companies that build wealth through surveillance, is being used to determine who gets jobs, who gets arrested, who gets mortgages, and who gets elected – or at least what highly-tailored messages we see that nudge us to vote for one candidate over another. Our lives are increasingly governed by big data locked in big black boxes, combined and sold in the dark.
- Big Data has the capacity to do many wonderful things, but we need some social agreement on how it can be used ethically.
- The systems we rely on are increasingly important but extraordinarily vulnerable because so many of them depend on networked software that isn’t secure. It doesn’t take much to take out internet service in large parts of the world, to set off a city’s warning sirens, or to take over computers in businesses and hospitals worldwide. It doesn’t help that governments are more interested in exploiting software vulnerabilities than in securing us from attack.
While the Idea Bank fills, I am hopeful to see so many examples of libraries and librarians creatively addressing academic library realities.