Library 2.X: What Now?

A "Models for Change" retreat for librarians from Brigham Young University,

Utah State University, and the University of Utah

Research Image

This blog was used for the original Utah research library retreat: "Planning for Research Success in the 21st Century: A Retreat for Librarians from Utah." It will continue to be used for the follow-up retreat: "Library 2.X: What Now?" Please use it to exchange ideas before, during, and after the retreat. If you would like permission to post to the blog, contact Steven Harris.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Lunch Discussion: the changing library

Our lunchtime discussion focused around the changing library. We started with an interesting discussion about what we should stop doing and moved on to a myriad of other topics. We did not reach any conclusions, so I will summarize the questions we tossed around.

Should we stop accepting gifts in kind? Will e-books liberate us to some extent from this issue? What role with e-books play in distance education? What is the role of the selector in the future? Will we have more emphasis on liaison roles? Will e-books help us purchase more effectively? Will libraries move more toward hiring specialists, say with an MBA or a PhD? What differences will we see over time with older faculty retiring and young faculty coming onto campuses, often with differing experiences with libraries? Where will we go with the debate about "what they want" versus "what they need”? Should we get federated search? What will happen with open access?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Retreat Webpage updated

The afternoon panel's closing comments have been posted on the retreat webpage, for those who would like to peruse them.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Lunch Discussion: What is Unique about the Library on Today's University Campus?

At our library retreat lunch table, the conversation ranged across a number of topics, but we seemed to return often to these questions:

"Why does the university need the library? What does the library do that matters, and that no one else can do as well?"

The following are a few of our ideas with the discussion that followed:
  • Library as place--Recently, we have heard a lot of discussion about libraries creating inviting and collaborative workspaces for students. Study space is available in lots of places, both on and off campus. Should the core purpose of libraries be to provide study space?
  • Help from a real person--Reference help from a real person is now a service not entirely unique to the academic library. The internet search service Cha Cha allows you to chat online with a real person if you don't find what you need. (On a side note: Although I have not used Cha Cha myself, my husband tried it once when he was looking for the technical term for a web programming problem. The person he chatted with was not able to help, because he wasn't familiar with the terminology either.)
  • Access to materials--Libraries provide their patrons with free access to materials. Some of this access is available online for a fee, and the amount of free information is ever increasing online. This traditional library service is also facing some threats from the online environment.
  • Instruction--Libraries provide instruction in a number of different formats, including face-to-face, about using our resources and collections. We are experts at targeting searches and making information more "findable" and relevant. But, will we be needed to provide this assistance in the future, as search tools and other technologies become more and more efficient and intuitive?
  • Organization of information.
One other note about the reference help from real people idea: The traditional role of librarians has been to connect the person to information. Now, it seems, computers connect the person to information. What does this mean for us?

We briefly discussed how to measure the library's success. Statistics reporting our activities (including instruction, reference, etc.) can be used to justify what we do. Does the size of a collection matter? We concluded that it does not to the person looking for information. In today's climate, libraries need to measure our activities in terms of efficiency--we need to do everything quickly, cheaply, and provide an accessible format.

We all agreed that the changes facing us will be relentless--and if we do not respond well, we will become irrelevant.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lunch Discussion

Our lunch table of eight consisted of a mix of librarians, administrative staff, and collection development staff from UofU and BYU. Our primary discussion was in response to David Lewis' "Parts of the Puzzle" strategy number 5 for keeping an academic library relevant in the early 21st century: Migrate the focus of collections from purchasing materials to curating content.

We focused on the many benefits and hurdles currently associated with this strategy. One "luncher" brought up the recent report at UofU that about 50% of the books purchased from 1999 to 2004 had not circulated in their first five years on the shelf. This led to a discussion about moving from approval plans to purchase-on-demand. It was suggested that libraries need to have a conversation about which subject areas they want to purchase "just in case" titles and which "just in time" (on demand). At the UofU, for instance, we perhaps should focus on President Young's initiatives (as mentioned in his inaugural speech and others since then).

Which libraries will work together to decide who collects in which disciplines? In other words, is it state-by-state? Regional? By classification (Research I, Associates Colleges, Master's Colleges, etc.)? By continent? Also, which schools will collect in prestigious, money-generating disciplines (science, medicine and business) and which will focus on less-profitable areas fields (arts, humanities, and social sciences)? How far do collaborating schools overlap in collections? Does this strategy apply equally to serials as it does to monographs? Finally, how will this affect ARL standings (and will academic libraries commit to a distributed collection model before ARL changes how it ranks libraries)?

Further questions and hurdles arise when technology is added to the equation: Will there be a model for ILL'ing e-books and streaming video subscription content in the future? If not, then how can distributed collections work to benefit patrons at all the participating libraries?

As for "curating content," academic libraries are already doing this. One luncher noted that for this strategy to work, there would have to be less emphasis on commercial publishers. Special Collections, Institutional Repositories, Digital Technologies and University Press departments/divisions need work together (or be one entity) to make their unique content more accessible through online portals.

Ultimately, this strategy raises many feasibility questions and quandaries that we need to address before it can be fully employed.

Friday, June 29, 2007

2007 Retreat Info

Take a look at last year's blog entries (below), and a look at this year's agenda. We're excited about our interesting and provocative speakers and hope you will enjoy participating in a day of thinking about change in our libraries and our profession.

Welcome 2.0

What will the future bring to academic libraries? How will our roles change? What will our users expect of us? We asked those questions in 2006 at the retreat for Utah research librarians. We are still thinking about those questions a year later.

Therefore, we will continue to use this blog to investigate these questions and share ideas, as we meet once again. But we'll also have information from the previous retreat available on this site. Investigate the archives to view posts from last year.

If you would like to post messages to this blog, contact Steven Harris at

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Program Notes

You can find notes and documentation for the retreat at:

You can send any other documentation you have to Photos...PowerPoint...Word documents...anything. Keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Send in your notes!

Calling all dedicated scribes! If you were the designated note-taker for your break out group, we need your help! We would love to post your notes to our retreat web site. Please email them to Steve Harris at We will be posting notes, presentations, and other materials in the next few days.

  • Sponsored by Brigham Young University, University of Utah, and Utah State University