Tag Archives: innovation

Top trends in academic libraries

Creating the future for librariesI’ve just re-read the top 10 trends for academic libraries identified by the ACRL  Research Planning and Review Committee and published in: June 2012 College & Research Libraries News vol. 73 no. 6 311-320.

This document is the framework for the just released 2013 ACRL Environmental Scan.  It is interesting to compare these two to see how the focus is changing.

For those who missed it or don’t have access to the archives of ACRL News, I’ve summarized below  the top trends from the report (Please note that these top trends are not listed in order of importance but alphabetically):

 Communicating value
Academic libraries must prove the value they provide to the academic enterprise.  Librarians must be able to convert the general feelings of goodwill towards the library to effective communication to all stakeholders that clearly articulate its value to the academic community.
Data curation
Data curation challenges are increasing as standards for all types of data continue to evolve; more repositories, many of them cloud-based, has to emerge; librarians and other information workers need to collaborate with their research communities to facilitate this process.
Digital preservation
As digital collections mature, concerns grow about the general lack of long-term planning for their preservation. Local digital collections are at risk when the individual institution lacks a comprehensive preservation plan.
Higher education
Higher education institutions are entering a period of flux, and potentially even turmoil. Trends to watch for are the rise of online instruction and degree programs, globalization, and an increased skepticism of the “return on investment” in a college degree.
Information technology
Technology continues to drive much of the futuristic thinking within academic libraries. The key trends driving educational technology are equally applicable to academic libraries: people’s desire for information and access to social media and networks anytime/anywhere; acceptance and adoption of cloud-based technologies; more value placed on collaboration; ; and a new emphasis on challenge-based and active learning.
Mobile environments
Mobile devices are changing the way information is delivered and accessed. An increasing number of libraries provide services and content delivery to mobile devices.
Patron driven e-book acquisition
Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA) of e-books is poised to become the norm. For this to occur, licensing options and models for library lending of e-books must become more sustainable.  PDA is  an inevitable trend for libraries under pressure to prove that their expenditures are in line with their value.
Scholarly communication
New scholarly communication and publishing models are developing at an ever-faster pace, requiring libraries to be actively involved or be left behind.
Staffing
Academic libraries must develop the staff needed to meet new challenges through creative approaches to hiring new personnel and deploying or retraining existing staff.
User behaviors and expectations
Convenience affects all aspects of information seeking—the selection, accessibility, and use of sources. Libraries usually are not the first source for finding information. When queried, respondents describe the library as “hard to use,” “the last resort,” and “inconvenient.”
 

The ACRL asks the community for feedback and provides a venue to get involved and contribute to the ongoing discussion on the trends in academic libraries by participating in  OnPoint Discussion atwww.ala.org/acrl/conferences/onpoint.

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Libraries of the future

The following visualization was adapted from PewInternet.com, of a keynote address for the 2013 State University of New York Librarians Association Annual Conference.

librarians of the future

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Big Data Meets the Bards and the Profs

There is an interesting discussion going on right now on big data and how it is used in academia. I found Dave Feinleib’s of Forbers magazine visualization of landscape of Big Data an interesting point of reference from the technological side of the spectrum. Big data

In the other hand, John Sunyer’s lengthy review, “Big data meets the Bard”, in the Financial Times for 15 June, http://tinyurl.com/mzrjwll presents the  point of view of acadmics who are proponents of using digital data in humanities.  It is based on Sunyer’s interviews with Franco Moretti, Matt Jockers and Melissa Terras.  Franco Moretti is perhaps the most known for his push to digitize and use digital texts in humanities.  I hope some of it may be useful as an argument for Open Access at your universities.

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QRs and collection marketing…. retail style

Recently, while researching QR technology, I came across a piece that discussed its use in retail.  The author used the video below that shows how a South Korean retail store, Tesco, have adapted their services in order to reach their goal of increasing their market share without having to increase the number of stores. They created “virtual” stores in subway stations, and other high traffic areas and provided QR under the picture and price of each item.  People waiting for subway are looking on the pictures and can add items to their shopping carts by scanning QR codes with their smart phones, and then the items purchased are delivered to their homes.  Here is the video:

Now, think about the QRs and their potential for marketing library collections …..   I can see libraries creating “virtual” displays where a graphic presentation of a book is accompanied with a QR code that can provide detailed and precise  book information.   People could view such thematic displays of books and snap a picture of the QR code with their iphones.  Public libraries could even create “virtual” branches on subway platforms, bus stops, etc. where people could browse the collections while waiting for a train or bus and having them delivered either to their ebook reader or home.

The link between QRs and libraries is obvious.  The basic principle behind this technology is the same as behind library barcodes.  Think about the checkout computer at the library. It scans a barcode and the item scanned is added to a list. The command – namely, “add this item to the list is built into the design of the barcode and is decoded by the library system. Similarly, QR codes can be scanned with a device which will then carry out the action built into the code.   What’s left is for the library to do is to create a system where these codes can be decoded and the library action carried on (i.e. send this book on hold).

I work at a library where we provide InfoExpress service for our faculty.  The way it works is that the faculty members  e-mail the library staff responsible for this service the title, the author and publication details of the resource they need, and the library staff retrieve or sometimes obtain the materials from other locations and deliver them to the profs.  This is a very popular service.  Imagine it paired with QRs… Imagine always getting the correct citation, imagine how easy it would be for the faculty to order these books without having to type the bibliographic information….  Then imagine promoting the collections using QR coding, imagine that all the incoming new books could be “displayed” this way in high traffic areas while the physical copies would circulate…., or imagine creating thematic book displays in the faculty hallways and classrooms….  Imagine embedding the library in a very real way into every research or project by creating “virtual” thematic displays equipped with codes….  Imagine….

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Library Services on the Go

With the arrival of smart phones, phone became an integral part of our lives. Not only do we carry our phones with us wherever we go, but  we are also using them for almost everything.   We started using phone for voice communication exclusively, and now  we are  using it for playing games, watching movies, browsing the Internet, hanging out with friends on social networks, getting updated with the news, banking needs, and increasingly, as the first (and often only) step for looking up any information we need.

For the first time in history, libraries are serving people who have access to all the information they could ever want in the palm of their hand.  Unlike the previous generation, which didn’t mind waiting to get their information when they got home, or the generations before that were patient enough to wait until they made it to the library, the mobile generation wants their information on the go.

There are hundreds of thousands of mobile applications for the iPhone and Android is not far behind.  Xcube Labs Mobile App Development Firm came up with a very informative infographic to explain usage patterns of smart phone apps.

It is alarming however, that there are very few apps build for libraries and very few libraries that have mobile websites.  Yet, it is obvious that if we are to remain in the information business, we have to be present in the media through which people are looking for information.

While fully mobile websites are complicated to build, some libraries we are using QR codes to bridge their physical and online collections.   I am currently working on a project at my library where we use QR codes to point our patrons to online resources that replaced or duplicate our physical holdings.  This is much less than building a mobile website, but by doing so we are helping our patrons to locate relevant online information quickly and are introducing QR technology to some of them.  More about it in my next post…

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Library Services on a Shoestring with Yahoo!Pipes

I have been silent for the last few weeks preparing for the 2012 TRY (Toronto Ryerson York) staff conference that takes place tomorrow, May 8th, 2012.   One of my  presentations is a poster session on using Yahoo!Pipes as a cheap (free!) way to enhance library services.  Some of  you may be interested in this   innovative cloud-hosted new service which allows librarians to produce, publish and share web services for free and without ever having to write a line of code.  Please see attached the pages that combined make the poster session.

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The theme of this year’s conference is: Re-defining Library Services in the Digital Age.   There are many interesting sessions at the conference – please see the conference website for more details: –  http://www.library.utoronto.ca/event/staffconference/2012/conferenceSchedule.html.  I  will be delivering one  of the sessions as well and will report on that tomorrow …. For now, I only have the Yahoo!Pipes poster ready. ….

Also, my apologies for not responding to comments & e-mails – will catch up on that after the presentation tomorrow…

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The End of Academic Library Circulation?

I came across the article below quite by accident, having spend almost all of my entire professional life working mainly in the circulation department that I lead: delivering the service, training new library school students and thinking relentlessly of ways how to deliver a better service at the circulation desk and in the libraries as institutions.  Throughout all these years I was also constantly upgrading my skills by taking courses (in library science and technology) and was always able to perform the most advanced library tasks that kept changing as the libraries and information landscape changed.   I just never got the chance to do it as my main job duty.   I was always drawn to action and it was busy at the desk…..

from ACRL Tech Connect

What Library Circulation Data Shows

Unless current patterns change, by 2020 university libraries will no longer have circulation desks. This claim may seem hyperbolic if you’ve been observing your library, or even if you’ve been glancing over ACRL or National Center for Education Statistics data. If you have been looking at the data, you might be familiar with a pattern that looks like this:

total circulationThis chart shows total circulation for academic libraries, and while there’s a decline it certainly doesn’t look like it will hit zero anytime soon, definitely not in just 8 years. But there is a problem with this data and this perspective on library statistics.  When we talk about “total circulation” we’re talking about a property of the library, we’re not really thinking about users.

Here’s another set of data that you need to look at to really understand circulation:
fall enrollmentsAcademic enrollment has been rising rapidly.  This means more students, which in turns means greater circulation.  So if total circulation has been dropping despite an increase in users then something else must be going on.  So rather than asking the question “How many items does my library circulate?” we need to alter that to “How many items does the average student checkout?”

Here is that data:

circulation per student

This chart shows the upper/lower quartiles and median for circulation per FTE student.  As you can see this data shows a much more dramatic drop in the circulation of library materials. Rising student populations hide this fact.

xkcd

But 2020? Can I be serious?  The simple linear regression model in the charts is probably a good predictor of 2012, but not necessarily 2020. Hitting zero without flattening out seems pretty unlikely. However, it is worth noting the circulation per user in the lower quartile for less than 4 year colleges reached 1.1 in 2010. If you’re averaging around 1 item per user, every user that takes out 2 items means there’s another who has checked out 0.

What’s Happening Here?

Rather than waste too much time trying to predict a future we’ll live in in less than a decade, let’s explore the more interesting question: “What’s happening here?”

By far the number one hypothesis I get when I show people this data is “Clearly this is just because of the rise of e-journals and e-books”. This hypothesis is reasonable: What has happened is simply that users have switched from print to electronic. This data represents a shift in media, nothing more.

But there are 2 very large problems with this hypothesis.

First, print journal circulation is not universal among academic libraries. In the cases where there is no print journal circulation the effect of e-journals would not be present in circulation data. However, I don’t have information to point out exactly how many academic libraries did circulate print journals. Maybe the effect of e-journals on just the libraries that do circulate serials could effect the data for everyone. The data we have already shown resolves this issue. Libraries that did circulate serials would have higher circulation per user than those that did not. By showing different quartiles we can address this discrepancy in the data between libraries that did and did not circulate journals. If you look at the data you’ll see that indeed the upper quartile does seem to have a higher rate of decline, but not enough to validate this hypothesis. The median and lower quartiles also experience this shift, so something else must be at work.

Second, e-books were not largely adopted until the mid 2000s, yet the decline preceding 2000 is at least as steep as after. If you look at the chart below you’ll notice that ebook acquisition rates did not exceed print until 2010:

ebooks vs printEbooks, of course, do have an effect on usage, but they’re not the primary factor in this change.

So clearly we must reject the hypothesis that this is merely a media shift. Certainly the shift from print to electronic has had some effect, but it is not the sole cause. If it’s not a shift in media, the most reasonable explanation is that it’s a shift in user behavior.  Students are simply not using books (in any format) as much as they used to.

What is Causing this Shift in User Behavior?

The next question is what is the cause of this shift.

I think the most simple answer is the web. 1996 is the first data point showing a drop in circulation. Of course the web was quite small then, but AOL and Yahoo! were already around, and the Internet Archive had been founded.  If you think back to a pre-web time, pretty much anything you needed to know more about required a trip to the library and checking out a book.

The most important thing to take away is that, regardless of cause, user behavior has changed and by all data points is still changing.  In the end, the greatest question is how will academic libraries adapt?  It is clear that the answer is not as simple as a transition to a new media. To survive, librarians must find the answer before we have enough data to prove these predictions.

If you enjoyed exploring this data please check out Library Data and follow @librarydata on twitter.

Data Source:

About our guest author: Will Kurt is a software engineer at Articulate Global, pursuing his masters in computer science at the University of Nevada, Reno and is a former librarian. He holds an MLIS from Simmons College and has worked in various roles in public, private and special libraries at organizations such as: MIT, BBN Technologies and the University of Nevada, Reno. He has written and presented on a range of topics including: play, user interfaces, functional programming and data
visualization.

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