The fu­ture of aca­demic li­braries in the ex­pe­ri­ence econ­omy

The Insider - - CONTENTS -

Back in 2012 an OCLC (On­line Com­puter Li­brary Cen­ter) study found that most aca­demic li­brar­i­ans thought the pri­mary rea­son stu­dents and staff used their ser­vices (bor­row­ing ma­te­ri­als) would shift to us­ing the li­brary to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion on­line. And they were, of course, right.

There’s been a dra­matic change in the way peo­ple dis­cover and ac­cess con­tent — whether it’s videos, mu­sic, news me­dia, or peer-re­viewed jour­nals. But it’s not just about smart­phones and tablets ver­sus printed news­pa­pers, jour­nals, and glossy mag­a­zines. It’s about im­me­di­acy, rel­e­vancy, ex­pe­ri­ence, and trust.

It’s about giv­ing stu­dents, re­searchers, and fac­ulty ac­cess to the most rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion in a way that makes sense to them as in­di­vid­u­als. This shift has had a ma­jor im­pact on the busi­ness mod­els be­hind many in­dus­tries in­clud­ing air­lines, ho­tels, cars, news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines, lit­er­a­ture, movies, mu­sic, gro­ceries, and cloth­ing. Th­ese mod­els have been trans­formed from own­ing to shar­ing, from buy­ing things to buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, from pay­ing for the whole to pay­ing for a piece, and from in­di­vid­ual sub­scrip­tions to all-you-can-con­sume.

Fun­da­men­tal changes in hu­man be­hav­ior are the cat­a­lysts be­hind th­ese trans­for­ma­tions and li­braries are not im­mune to them. They must evolve quickly and trans­form their own ar­chaic busi­ness prac­tices and mod­els or be left be­hind.

If you build it, will they come?

Brick and mor­tar li­braries con­stantly com­pete with the in­ter­net for peo­ple’s time and at­ten­tion. And as more and more stu­dents use Google and other web sources for their re­search over li­brary re­sources, the closer to ob­so­les­cence the in­sti­tu­tion comes.

Higher ed­u­ca­tion is shift­ing be­cause its core con­stituents — stu­dents are start­ing to be­have more like cus­tomers and are less for­giv­ing of some of the in­ef­fi­cient and in­ef­fec­tive as­pects of the academy not tai­lored for a strong cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.”

An­drew Roth, Pres­i­dent Emer­i­tus Notre Dame Col­lege

“Un­der­grad­u­ates’ well-doc­u­mented re­liance on Google for aca­demic re­search is strongly sup­ported by the re­sults of this lon­gi­tu­di­nal co­hort study. In each se­mes­ter, at least one-third of the par­tic­i­pants said they started their re­search on Google or an­other search en­gine, with more than twothirds start­ing there as first-se­mes­ter fresh­men. Sim­i­larly, at least 25 per­cent of stu­dents in any given se­mes­ter said they used web sources for the ma­jor­ity of the in­for­ma­tion in their pa­pers, with 70 per­cent do­ing so in their first se­mes­ter.”

An­drew Roth, Pres­i­dent Emer­i­tus

Notre Dame Col­lege

Un­der­grad­u­ates’ Use of Google vs. Li­brary Re­sources

A Four-Year Co­hort Study

So if the world’s knowl­edge is within reach of a stu­dent with a key­board, do they re­ally need li­braries any­more?

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Col­lege and Re­search Li­braries the re­sound­ing an­swer is, “Yes!” Four years of re­search showed there is a pos­i­tive cor­re­la­tion be­tween the use of an aca­demic li­brary and a stu­dent’s suc­cess.

• Use of aca­demic li­brary spa­ces re­lates pos­i­tively to stu­dent learn­ing, re­ten­tion, and suc­cess

• Li­brary in­struc­tion adds value to a stu­dent’s long-term aca­demic ex­pe­ri­ence, and ac­cord­ing to the above Co­hort study, helps shift stu­dents’ re­search be­hav­ior from search­ing the web to ex­plor­ing li­brary re­sources

• Li­braries also pro­mote aca­demic rap­port and stu­dent en­gage­ment

The aca­demic li­brary has much to of­fer stu­dents, but all of that value will be for naught if stu­dents aren’t drawn to it. And if we’ve learned any­thing from the pro­lific re­search about GEN Ys and Zs (many of whom are en­rolled or about to en­roll in col­lege or univer­sity), their be­hav­iors and ex­pec­ta­tions are noth­ing like their older coun­ter­parts.

And if truth be told, they’re not re­ally like each other ei­ther when it comes to learn­ing. Yes, they are both dig­i­tal na­tives that de­mand im­me­di­acy, and highly per­son­al­ized (rel­e­vant) ex­pe­ri­ences. But while mil­len­ni­als pre­fer 2-way learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences be­tween fac­ulty and them­selves, GEN Zs have a shorter at­ten­tion span and crave tech­nol­ogy-en­hanced learn­ing.

There­fore, to at­tract and en­hance the learn­ing of th­ese sim­i­lar, but dif­fer­ent stu­dents, li­braries need to start to think out­side the book and act more like 21st cen­tury con­sumer-fo­cused brands. This means:

• Switch­ing gears, from a col­lec­tion-cen­tric in­sti­tu­tion to a per­son-cen­tric ex­pe­ri­ence that ad­dresses the unique needs of their di­verse stu­dent body

• Mak­ing li­brary ser­vices and con­tent avail­able in an in­di­vid­u­ally-rel­e­vant way, not a de­mo­graph­i­cally-tar­geted way

• Fo­cus­ing on the dis­cov­ery ex­pe­ri­ence and adapt­ing to changes in stu­dent be­hav­ior over their aca­demic life­time, be­cause those be­hav­iors will con­tinue to change

Shift from a col­lec­tion­cen­tric in­sti­tu­tion to a per­son-cen­tric ex­pe­ri­ence

There are over 50 bil­lion web­pages in­dexed by Google. That’s more than we could ever hope to read, or­ga­nize, or even pay at­ten­tion to. So, although con­tent may be king, but it’s the dis­tri­bu­tion so­lu­tions that ul­ti­mately make that con­tent dis­cov­er­able.

The video and mu­sic stream­ing in­dus­tries learned long ago that while peo­ple are in­ter­ested in par­tic­u­lar pieces of con­tent, it’s the way that con­tent is dis­cov­ered and de­liv­ered that’s most im­por­tant.

Any­where, any­time, un­lim­ited ac­cess to rel­e­vant me­dia on all de­vices — lap­tops, tablets, desk­tops, and phones — is not only wanted, it’s de­manded by younger gen­er­a­tions. And stu­dents to­day will ac­cept no less with the writ­ten word.

Open Ed­u­ca­tional Re­sources (OER)

Open Ed­u­ca­tional Re­sources along with more af­ford­able course con­tent ini­tia­tives have started to pave the way to a bet­ter stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence, and li­braries must play a lead­er­ship role in that. In their in­sti­tu­tional OER pro­grams li­braries need to find in­no­va­tive ways to let stu­dents self-di­rect their learn­ing and ac­cess con­tent when, where, and how they need it.

Li­braries need to in­vest in more com­pre­hen­sive, user-friendly plat­forms that can help stu­dents nav­i­gate through an ocean of data and dis­cover the right con­tent at the right time.

Dig­i­tal Me­dia

In the past, li­braries thought that of­fer­ing a small se­lec­tion of printed me­dia along with a few se­lect dig­i­tal edi­tions of pe­ri­od­i­cals and news­pa­pers was suf­fi­cient to sup­port the stu­dent body and fac­ulty. At that time, News­pa­pers in Ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams were con­sid­ered ad­e­quate for meet­ing the lim­ited de­mand for lo­cal and na­tional news con­tent.

But to­day’s ex­pec­ta­tions far ex­ceed th­ese an­ti­quated sin­gle­source so­lu­tions. The world of knowl­edge and news is now at stu­dents’ fin­ger­tips and they ex­pect un­lim­ited, un­in­hib­ited, free ac­cess to all it has to of­fer through the li­brary. Un­for­tu­nately, the chaotic na­ture of the web makes dis­cov­ery of rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion al­most im­pos­si­ble, de­spite the best ef­forts of li­brar­i­ans.

It’s time for schools and li­brar­i­ans to crit­i­cally an­a­lyze the re­la­tion­ships be­tween dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion, au­di­ences, and plat­forms and give their stu­dents un­fet­tered, rel­e­vantly-cu­rated ac­cess to the world’s dig­i­tal con­tent — any­time, any­where.

Now that’s an ex­tremely large ask and one that li­braries can’t even hope to an­swer on their own. Which is why tech­nol­ogy part­ners are crit­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors in mak­ing sense of a sense­less dig­i­tal uni­verse.

Just like Net­flix an­swered it for video, Spo­tify for mu­sic, and Ama­zon for books, Over­drive, Google Scholar, Aca­demic Search Pre­mier, and PressReader have the an­swers for eBooks, schol­arly lit­er­a­ture, jour­nals, and news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines.

Plat­forms that ag­gre­gate con­tent from tens of thou­sands of trusted sources mak­ing it easy for stu­dents to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion through mul­ti­ple por­tals and au­then­ti­ca­tion meth­ods (e.g. IP ad­dresses, re­fer­ral URLs, geo-fenc­ing, etc.)

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