Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The 21st Century Academic Library

The Yale Archival Reading Group (YARG) has selected as its next text

Lewis, David W. "A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century," College & Research Libraries 68 (5): 418 434.


This is a must read for academic librarians.

Lewis develops a strategy for the next 20 years (more or less) of academic libraries.

Good assumptions and reasonable strategies. However, Lewis doesn't see consolidation of academic libraries as a primary factor in the next couple of decades and continues to think of libraries primarily as physical locations or spaces. Thus he misses the importance of consolidation to libraries as providers of networked information services for teaching, learning & research (and I'd add publication, too.)

As providers of networked information services, there is little reason to be tied to or sub-ordinate to a particular college or university. Individual researchers, students, teachers and writers could draw upon a global information service for their specific needs as a researcher, student, teacher or writer. Of course, campus learning environments would have to be open to such networked information services--but they will have to be to take advantage of the Internet or cloud or world wide computer.

In general, the consequence of consolidation for libraries as providers of networked information services is one big library (probably a for profit advertising supported operation with some non-profit players on the edges) for the Internet. Locally, the academic library would become a museum of the book (and the serial, the map, the manuscript, the archive, the sound recording, the film, etc.); in short, a special collections library with collections that are tied to the library's parent institution.

As I see it, libraries will split into highly consolidated providers of networked information services and local, institution-specific special collections libraries/archives/museums/.

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