Good Morning. Thank you for coming to share some thoughts on the future of libraries and how that relates to the future of books.
My understanding is that I have been asked to speak from the perspective of an academic library dean/director about the changes that are occurring in our libraries primarily to format migration and changing patron expectations but also how the library as an organization needs to change in order to stay relevant to the university. Background: speak primarily from experience as an academic librarian, with apologies to public library colleagues in the audience. Perhaps during the Q&A you can tell me how it is similar or different in your world.
It may help for me to acknowledge my past, as my perspective is largely shaped by my experiences:
As we know, Libraries and books have a long,lovely interrelated relationship. You can have books without libraries, but until recently you could hardly have a library without books.
Story in Time Magazine last week about the Library Learning Terrace at Drexel University where the tag line is "We don't just house books, we house learning."
To appreciate where we are going, I’d like to start with where we’ve beenI think Gatekeeper is an accurate reflection of a library’s traditional role – and not in a bad senseThe gates are open to let people in – not closed to keep people outCollections is where it all started – we had the collection of content, people necessarily had to come to us
And this is what we kept. Books. Luscious books. Lots of them.
Books and Libraries were so synonymous for so long that in one of its early Reports, OCLC declared that “Books” is the library BRAND. That may have been true in 2005 for all libraries, but in 2008, I conducted a research study with my colleagues from UNCG and we demonstrated that in our libraries, different as they are, the library brand was already something else:
In our libraries, the library is first and foremost a Quiet Place to Study. That may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you look at it. It could be that the library is reduced to a study hall, with the student in this picture ignoring the books around him. But the way I choose to look at it, after years of observation and talking to students, is that students CHOOSE to come to the library when they could choose to stay in their rooms or go to the student union. They choose to come to the library because they are surrounded by resources and perhaps just as importantly, surrounded by the people who will help them make best use of those resources. So this guy in the cubby hole here can met with a librarian in an hour-long personal research session, go get resources, check back with the Reference Desk if he has trouble, practice his presentation, print out his paper, and leave feeling good about the library. That’s why I think students still choose to come to the library.
And yet, in my library and others like mine, we are moving print volumes out of the library wholesale. Sometimes to offsite storage, as here, and sometimes to be sold, given away, or simply recycled.
The space freed up can be used as people space, as here in this image of the Starbucks that was created out of a former reading room in 2008, and the Writing Center, which was created from the former Microtext Room in 2010.
All that being said, I think we are right now at the precipice, just about to step off into the unknown.
We are at the proverbial tipping point in almost everythingDigital: Books (dizzying choices in personal technology in only the last year: Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook, iPad) On whole ‘nother level: Google Book Search (assuming either settled or sued) will change everything Libraries that used to be distinctive for the collections they acquired over the years will now be the same as every other library with web access. Everyone will have access to everything so distinction will come with Special CollectionsDigital: Scholarly Journals – already tipped, been that way for awhile, started with Sciences back in early 90’s, e-journal now format of choice for many/most disciplinesDigital: Data – new frontier is data curation, large quantities of research data orphaned on individual, inaccessible servers; scholars now want to examine original data, not just rely on published account; new role for libraries if they choose to take itDigital: Media – most exciting, still in infancy in teaching/learning Open: Source – just about to catch on, Blackboard users migrating to Sakai, legacy ILS hateful for so long migrating to solutions like Evergreen or Koha or waiting for Ole; using Dspace for digital repository, some like us looking for open source for whatever we can find; turn-key service was usually far from ideal, have to customize anywayOpen: Access – library market trying every which way to find a model to take back our scholarship from small number of foreign publishers holding STM hostage: open access funds, gold, green, SCOAP3 physics journal initiative, mandates from faculty groups like Harvard to ZSR librariansOpen: Content – I think of open content as a broader phenomenon, to include born-digital materials, open textbook movement, digital publishing, things always intended to be freely available
So, the secret is out, what is past is prolog, here is what you came to hear, put this in all your tweets: THE FUTURE IS DIGITAL.
Those who don’t think so, are not looking far enough down the beach. I hope to work 5 more years before I retire. Will print books still be around in 5 years? Certainly. 10 Years? Most Probably. 50 years? Not likely100 years? I don’t think so, except at artifacts.
All of this is hardly news. Here are some headlines from the past few years from the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.The last one might be an apt title to this talk: Tomorrow’s Academic Libraries: Maybe Even Some Books
A digital future will be a change. And yet change comes at different rates and means different things to different groups.Contrary to what much of the rest of the world thinks, libraries are actually change agents. We didn’t invent the Internet (Al Gore did) but we were among the first to make it usable for ordinary people. On my campus, the Library often leads technological change. When Wake Forest became the first laptop campus, we in the library were the technology trainers. Years later, we were the first to use social media, then Admissions and Communications caught on, and next fall we will lead sessions to teach older alumni how to use Facebook.
So consider the notion of e-books to these two different groups (I consider it remarkable I’ve gone what, 15 minutes, without mentioning e-books). In neither group, is there much of a stampede in demand for e-books on our campus, at least for academic use. We can’t keep enough iPads and e-readers available for check-out for recreational use, but both of these constituencies give a long list of reasons why they are not particularly interested in using them for academic use: difficult to take notes, use highlighting, DRM inhibits printing, no browsing ability, blah, blah, blah. In some respects, it feels like we are back in the late 90’s and the early days of ejournals. It took the publishers a while to figure out how to make money off this new format (boy, did they ever figure it out) and it took a while for academic library users to accept it. In this case, the divide was as much by discipline as by generation, with the sciences way out front, followed by social sciences, and then the humanities. And yet we, as librarians, know that the future is digital. So part of our job is to lead our users to this future. So our library, like a number of others, has loaded ebook records into the catalog, like it or not, and let people discover them. And voila! When they find them, they use them!
One happy, ironic side note from everything becoming digital is that as ordinary books become the same, and all libraries have access to them equally (assuming that the Google corpus must eventually become available to all of us to make it worth their while to have done it) special books, in Special Collections, will become areas of distinction for their libraries and their universities. This is a Gutenberg Bible from the Ranson Center at UT-Austin. In this case, I would agree with Professor Treharne from yesterday. This digital image does no justice to one of the most wonderful books in the world. You want to go see it, touch it, smell it (though it’s not likely you would be able to!)So extra care will be given and extra pride taken in preserving original printed materials, making them available digitally, to be sure, but also caring for them as the rare and valuable artifacts that they are.
This is a role I see for academic libraries in the future: Thinking Partners (agnostic of resource format)I spent most of my working life striving for the epitome of SERVICE. Service, service, service was the theme. But in the last several years, with the help of my provost on campus, I have raised that model a notch to a place where librarians and faculty sit down together to plan the curriculum, to plan the learning objectives for a course, and to determine together how information resources (in whatever format) fit into that plan.
So what have we learned: (READ the screen)
So here is the thing: Libraries need to meet the needs of all their readers and meet each reader where she is. Today, a good part of that need is met by print books and other tangible materials.Tomorrow: That need will increasingly, and ultimately, met by digital materials.Libraries and librarians stand ready to lead and guide that transition, with our role changing not so much according to the format of the material, but by the unmet need. The Library’s role in society has always been to find and make sense of information, information in whatever format. It really doesn’t matter if it is clay tablets, or scrolls, or codex books, or Kindles. To me, though not to people in the History of Text Technologies, the container is less important than the content.Our purpose is to preserve recorded thought – and to use it to better the human condition. No one has been doing that longer or better than libraries – the keepers of the books and the knowledge inside.It is noble work that we do – and we are humbled an honored to do it.Thank you.
Lest you think I stole all these images, here are the credits.
As Libraries Change: Keep Your Eye on the Reader
As Libraries ChangeKeep Your Eye on the Reader Lynn Sutton, Ph.D. July 22, 2011
Why Me?Dean, Z Smith Reynolds LibraryWake Forest University35 years as Library Dean/ Director2011 ACRL Excellence in AcademicLibraries Award
Where I Come From• Director of Hospital Library• Director of Science and Engineering Library• Director of Undergraduate Library• Associate Dean of ARL library system• Dean of Library at Wake Forest University
Z Smith Reynolds Library Wake Forest University• 6500 students including Undergrad, Medical, La w, Business, Divinity• 2 million volumes• 2,000 print journals, 50,000 e- journals• Open 140 hours/week• 52 library faculty/staff• $ 7 million budget
Futures Thinking• Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025 (ACRL)• 2010 Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries (ACRL)• Environmental Scan 2010 (ACRL)• Changing Roles of Academic and Research Libraries (ACRL)• The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report (ACRL)• Future of the Academic Library Symposium (Library Journal and McMaster University)• TAIGA Forum Provocative Statements• No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century (CLIR)• A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century (David Lewis, C&RL)
What Have We Learned?• Future is Digital• Give up the space race• Role of libraries is to lead• Look for thinking partners• A book is a book, though some books are more equal than others• Keep your eye on the Reader
Image Credits• Books: http://www.flickr.com/photos/denverjeffrey/304220561/• sizes/m/in/photostream/• Terrace: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/• 0,8599,2079800,00.html• Gate: http://www.art.com/products/p12209923-sa-i1584106/alan- blaustein-hampton-gate.htm• Old books: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58956356@N05/5405765006/• Jump: uploaded to Flickr on October 6, 2008 by rosiehardy• Tipping point: uploaded to Flickr on April 10, 2009 by Max Z• Footprints: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kfergos/37070037/• Change: christianmenchristianwarrior.files.wordpress• Baby: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umpcportal/4581962986/• sizes/m/in/photostream/
More Credits• Old men: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicnac/3121705656/• sizes/z/in/pool-554700@N23/• Gutenberg: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/permanent/• gutenberg/• Book Reader: http://www.flickr.com/photos/topsy/204929063/• sizes/m/in/photostream/• E-book Reader: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43602175@N06/• 4070018828/sizes/m/in/photostream/
Lynn Sutton, Ph.D.Dean, Z Smith Reynolds LibraryWake Forest UniversityWinston-Salem, NC 27109
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