Dig Your Own Grave?
Kari Bhagat, Julie Goldman, Sara Smith
LIS 484 Spring 2014
Are branch libraries
Is there a viable future
for the physical library?
Dig Your Own Grave?
Costs and Benefits
Class Exercise and Discussion
● Eastwestern University
● Medium sized private college in New England
● 4,000 undergraduates & 6,000 graduate students
● One of the top 50 colleges for programs in the sciences
○ Majority studying engineering
● Major financial cuts in order to maintain a working budget
○ Closure of certain branch libraries
● Main Campus Library
● Life sciences library
● Engineering/Mathematics library
● Chemistry library
● Humanities library
● Business library
● Social sciences library
● Rachel Carson Life Sciences Library
● Located in the life sciences building on campus
● Provides support and materials for life science students and faculty
○ Collection focus on biology
● Provides personalized service to faculty members
● Offers support to undergraduate students
● Works directly with graduate students in their doctoral theses
Inside the Library
● 10 computer stations
● 5 group/collaborative study spaces and individual cubicles
● small requests and reserves collection
● 70 print journals in the library & 150 journals online
● monographs, gray literature, conference proceedings
● salary is split 50/50 staff and facilities & collections and resources
Analysis of Issues
● Library praised for customised service and strong relationship building
● University wants to streamline operations and save money
● Life sciences department facing a major increase in enrollment
● Demand for new space for teaching classrooms and labs
● Concerned with the usage by undergraduate students
● Modernizing processes and responding to financial strains
● Focus on connecting and accommodating users
● Strategies to support academic community:
○ Migration away from print
○ Library as an informal learning space
○ Embed resources and librarians
○ Refocus collection to curating data
Lankes, R.D. (2010) ‘Libraries of the Future’
“Libraries are changing from quiet
buildings with loud rooms to loud
buildings with quiet rooms; from places
of knowledge access to knowledge
creation, and from the territory of the
librarian to territory of the community”
● Advantages: ease of access to resources and service
○ Flexible collections designed to the department
○ Personal attention to user needs
○ Subject specialists
○ Close to offices, labs and classrooms
○ Foster campus community
● Disadvantages: lack of control and resources
○ Do not align with central library’s standards
○ Consolidation into fewer, larger discipline libraries would be a better
use of space, staff and resources
Evaluation in Branch Libraries
● Assess the physical library:
○ Primary user population
○ Library dependency
○ Facility quality
● Discuss what “value” means to stakeholders
● Scenario planning can help current issues and also plan for the future
● Survival based on economy, higher education, students and technology
Changing or Closing the Branch Library
● Preferences for online access over print
○ Moving print collection to storage
○ Cancel lesser used serial titles to save costs
● Changes and closures are complicated
○ Need to communicate and address major issues
● Consolidations can support and benefit students and research
○ Enhance services
○ Eliminate duplication in collections
○ Create space in academic buildings
The Rachel Carson
life sciences library
must do a complete survey of
their services, usage and
space in order to determine the
viability of the branch.
● Quantitative survey
○ Circulation records, serial titles, and percentage online
○ Determine cost of circulating/keeping material and patron usage.
● Qualitative survey
○ Faculty and students
○ Collaboration, computer and study space
● Space analysis on library building
○ Utilization and areas of improvement
● Set up focus meetings with the major stakeholders
○ Group meetings to discuss user wants and needs
● begin to become more embedded in course curriculums
● attend department faculty lectures
● provide students with office hours to visit a subject specialist
● conduct training sessions on research tools
● promote new information
● provide custom-targeted resources
● Solution 1: Cutting back on physical collection
○ Move remaining collection to storage
○ Implement a document delivery system
Additionally: Create more study/collaboration spaces
● Solution 2: Merging with the Chemistry library
○ consolidating the holdings and services,
give the Chemistry library up as space
Costs and Benefits
● Benefits for maintaining the library:
○ Individualized service
○ Immediate access to resources
○ Study/collaboration space near class/lab
○ Unique materials
● Cons for maintaining the library:
○ Decreasing budget
○ Reduction in services and materials to reduce costs
○ Life sciences department can not expand
In groups, use the background literature, what we have discussed in
class, and your own thoughts/experience to come up with positions of
your assigned stakeholder:
● Students (one undergraduate and one graduate student)
● Faculty (one from life sciences and one from another science)
You are all employees or students at Eastwestern University. You are about to
participate in a discussion group about the Rachel Carson Life Sciences
Library. First, you meet up with your colleagues to have an initial discussion
about your groups’ feelings towards the library.
Try to address three main issues:
1. What do you want from a library?
2. What library services are important to you?
3. What is least important about the library?
You then attend the final meeting to evaluate the preferred solutions to the
library space and services. The library has decided to weigh the costs and
benefits of five courses of action:
1. Consolidation of resources
a. Creation of additional study space
2. Merge with the Chemistry branch library
3. Close the library
4. Make no changes
Which solution would be most beneficial to you?
● Library should try and migrate to online sources and provide more study
rooms and group collaboration spaces
● May have to condense the collection in order for the Life Sciences
department to expand into the space or merge with the chemistry library
● Surveys results, quantitative statistics and focus groups outcomes will
provide the library staff and administration with the information and insight
they need to make the ultimate decision on the future of the branch library
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