Academic libraries worldwide are facing rapid technological change and seismic shifts in how users access information and create knowledge in the digital age. Old models are no longer sustainable. Libraries must re-think the future.
UBC Library has announced a number of collection and service consolidations at various campus branches and sites. The process started in May 2012 and will continue to 2014.
University Librarian Ingrid Parent discusses with UBC Reports how these changes will allow the Library to strengthen its position as a valued partner in research, teaching and learning on campus.
As the President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Parent brings a unique global perspective on the changes unfolding at UBC and elsewhere.
What are the challenges facing UBC Library and other research libraries around the world?
The same services and models that worked for research libraries a decade ago need to be re-imagined for today’s users. Loans of physical items are decreasing, for example, while the use of electronic resources continues to rise. More than 70 per cent of UBC Library’s collections budget is now focused on e-resources, compared to 25 per cent about a decade earlier.
Budgets are under pressure; services need to be consolidated; collections are increasingly going digital. We have to deal with these in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures the sustainability of the Library.
The role of librarians has evolved greatly. Along with their archival and information expertise, librarians are now also curators, publishers, authors, instructors and information specialists. They work closely with campus partners to integrate library resources within virtual learning environments. They’re using state-of-the-art digital tools to instill information literacy and knowledge management skills.
What are the economic factors?
We have to balance our budget, something we share with all campus departments and as a public sector institution. We have made some difficult choices on how to proceed given these pressures, from combining services and collections, to physical branch closures, to staffing decisions.
Libraries also need to be more nimble in responding to changes from the campus. For UBC, these factors include the rise of campus learning hubs and precincts, the creation of new departments or schools, and issues such as open access and copyright.
What are the earmarks of a 21st-century library?
We’re focusing on providing digital tools and collections that support knowledge creation and collaboration among researchers and students. We’re implementing a comprehensive digitization program to provide unlimited online access to materials of research and teaching value.
UBC Library is building capacity to develop and promote open access and open source methods and tools. As well, the Library is sharing expertise on new publishing models, intellectual property and rights management.
Collaboration is key. Libraries have always been good at that, but they are entering an era of deep and pervasive interdependencies – with each other and with the communities around them. The future of libraries and library “values” in the digital world will increasingly depend on us working together at the international, regional, national and local levels.
Can you describe the digitization efforts underway?
The Library invested in a digitization unit as one of our key strategic priorities two years ago. Their work provides a virtual gateway to the Library’s collections of stories, histories and archives. But their expertise can also be shared with the larger community. We have been working with First Nations groups who want to digitize their written and oral information as a way to preserve their history and future. It is but one example of how library expertise, combined with cultural heritage, can have a profound impact on community groups.
What will UBC Library look like in 2025?
Users will place more demands on seamlessly accessing the Library through technology. In some educational institutions, students are already downloading the library catalogue with their smartphones. Campus space will continue to evolve with the influence of the university’s campus plan and more specialized use of existing spaces.
The Library actively partners with faculty in curriculum design, teaching critical thinking, digital literacy and information fluency. It also develops and integrates library teaching programs more fully within the curriculum.
How will this benefit users?
Researchers, students and the public increasingly want more than “read only” access to content. Students also want to reuse, mash up, data mine and integrate diverse data sources.
Students and faculty can expect to see librarians working alongside them in research labs, at the hospitals, in the field and in the classroom as they become more and more embedded into teaching, learning and research on campus.
How is UBC Library collaborating with stakeholders as these changes occur?
We encourage feedback as implementation begins with a number of the Library’s changes. This could include informal and formal meetings, research provided from working groups and committees, and discussions held with university administration. We understand that the changes impact some faculties more than others; we remain committed to working with them to develop new models.
A video interview with University Librarian Ingrid Parent can be found at: library.ubc.ca
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