Council on Library and Information Resources
Core Functions of the Research Library in the 21st Century
February 27, 2008
"The information landscape of early twenty-first century higher education is characterized by ubiquitous, digitized, indexed online access to content. Researchers and students begin and often end their quest for information online. Results of research can be and increasingly are published without publishers. Access to these results, and to the cultural and scientific record that constitutes the primary resource base for research and teaching, is narrowed by the increasingly exclusive use of licensing in lieu of selling. What are the critical functions of the research library in this changing landscape?
To address this question, CLIR commissioned 8 essays as background for discussion at a meeting held in Washington DC on February 27. They are available here in PDF format."
This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (April 29) underscores what other recent studies have shown.
"Eszter Hargittai, an assistant professor in Northwestern University?s sociology department, has discovered that students aren?t nearly as Web-savvy as they, or their elders, assume.
"Ms. Hargittai studies the technological fluency of college freshmen. She found that they lack a basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing. ...
"Ask your average 18-year-old: Does he know what RSS means? And he won?t. ...
"Students have difficulty evaluating the credibility of information online. Students have been told Wikipedia isn?t reliable, but they haven?t been told why exactly. Most students don?t know that wikis can be edited at that moment. Their eyes just open up wide when they find out."
Actually, the comments from readers are just as interesting as the article, for the experiences they share and the attitudes they reveal about age and ability, issues that are very real for us here. Web 2.0 in action!
Recently, I took a trip to Vegas, and noticed a few interesting things about the service there. Recently, when talking to a Librarian friend of mine in Ohio, I realized that there are some ideas for service that might be able to be adapted here on Campus.
First off, the idea that sparked it all for me.
I am in Vegas, sitting in a restaurant underneath Ceasars where there is this very extensive complex. Its confusing, there are a lot of pathways, and if we really had a specific place to go, it may have been difficult to find where we needed to be.
As I am watching the people go bye, I see several people frantically looking for something, and I noticed that these people on Segway Scooters regularly drove bye. They had a sign that said "Mobile Service Point" on them, and were easy to see and flag down...or drive up to distraught customers and answer their questions.
When one of these segways passed close to me, I saw that they were each fitted with a small laptop, a little folder with maps, and a walkie talkie to communicate with security or whomever.
It occured to me that this could be a really neat idea for Reference service, but it also seemed kind of far fetched.
Thats where talking to my friend in Cleveland comes in. I told her about these Segway stations and she explained to me how a couple years ago their Library went to a completely mobile Check out system. Basically, they have a Wireless computer terminal on a desk with a printer, a scanner and a De-sensitizer. The employees wheel the desk around and check out books to people while they are sitting and studying.
Well, if Circ can be handled on a wireless network, why not reference? More and more we are less tied to a physical location and more tied to our access to online databases for reference service. With a portable terminal, and constant movement through the Stacks, we might even be serving multiple purposes...we would have a regular presence in the stacks, increase our visibility and probably our number of questions, Plus, we may be able to strongly reduce the need for security because more Librarians would be roaming the stacks regularly.
Obviously a Vegas institution is going to easily fund and maintain vehicles like a Segway in a manner that might be difficult for a Library. However, it seems to me that some similar idea could be used in a space as large as Doe to great effect.
Imagine if the Staff led stacks crew for finals were regular fixtures of the Library...with laptops in hand to help answer last minute questions as well as to support a clean invironment? Or if the Stacks crew was a totally normal part of the environment in Doe? It seems like this might not only improve our relations to the students, but also our image overall, as helpful providers of information rather than the staunch enforcers of food and noise regulations.
On March 3, Lorelie Crabtree-Mansur came by the Education-Psychology Library to discuss the New Directions process with the Education-Psychology and Social Welfare staff.
Lorelie gave a brief introduction about the New Directions Process, and then encouraged us to discuss issues that are of interest to us directly. We decided to talk about physical space.
The discussion started by the Staff making comments on what we have noticed regarding the use of space in the Libraries, with specific focus on the spaces at ED-P and Social Welfare. Some issues that were raised were;
1) Study Space ? Students use our libraries heavily as a study area.
2) Computer Stations ? Our Computer Stations are also very heavily used.
3) Distribution of Space within Libraries ? our locations on campus draw people to us. Students like having a wide variety of locations in which to study.
4) Group Study Space ? We are often asked about group study areas by our patrons.
5) Physical Collections ? These are not used as heavily as they have been in the past. We discussed the need to have collections tied to physical spaces. Collections that are browse-able bring people to the location. Certain parts of our collections, such as the new book shelf, are heavily used and browsed. We noted the browseable nature of successful bookstores, like Borders, and discussed how we might use their methods here.
6) Since common spaces are so heavily used, we discussed how redesigning them could make them more inviting.
Starting Points for innovations to space planning at ED-P and SOCW:
Create Group Study areas? However, this would require remodeling.
How can we enhance the use of the Children?s Literature room as the multi-use space it already is? A little remodeling, i.e., new chairs and tables, an A/V setup, would make it a better BI classroom, group study space, quiet space for private study, group meeting room,etc.
Improving the look and feel of the ED-P and SOCW Reading rooms. These are well used spaces with lots of natural light, but could potentially be made more inviting with more comfortable chairs and tables.
We need to maintain the specialized reference service area and computer work stations. We should not lose sight of the need for our important traditional roles and services.
Marketing our assets and resources. Since patrons are using us as a study space, we should cater to this, and get the word out that we are doing very well at providing this service.
Possible Starting points beyond ED-P and SOCW.
Perhaps we should have more of the computer capabilities that the computer labs have, such as word processing and spreadsheets.
We discussed the need to maximize on collaboration with our UC-wide consortia. Similar to the benefits achieved in creating the CDL Melvyl catalog, we can expect to benefit collectively from the ongoing consortial efforts regarding shared print archives and prospective collection purchasing. There may be other potential areas of collaboration with respect to our digital library presence and access issues. We also acknowledged that public libraries have implemented many digital library features worth considering.
How do we balance the excellence we provide in three areas, i.e, our physical library with its digital access and print resources, our virtual library, and our research librarian and staff service expertise, to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. In particular, how can we better connect and promote our services and resources in B-Space, on class and faculty websites, through social networking sites. etc. to better reach out to faculty and students virtually?
What about Outreach? We used to be the first place that people went when they had a need for information. But now that isn?t necessarily the case. How do we get that back?
Also, how can we or should we get involved in social networking sites as an outreach tool?
Should we or do we have to be competing with other information brokers like Google?
If we have the market on campus for trustworthy study space, should we capitalize on that by expanding computer services? Perhaps taking on many of the tasks of the computer labs?
With the increase in digital books and new technology like the Kindle reader, how best should we respond? How will these affect us, and should we get involved?
I just had the experience of contacting Amazon.com about an order. I really wanted to talk with someone, but didn't want to go through voicemail hell to do it.
Fortunately, they use a "click to call" system. I clicked on the "Call me" button, and a new window popped up. I entered my phone number and chose when I wanted them to call (in this case, "right now").
A few seconds after I clicked OK on this, the phone rang. It was a live person who knew who I was and what order I was calling about. No waiting, no menu options to press.
To do this, Amazon uses a commercial product called eStara. Their website gives information and a demo.
No doubt this is not cheap, but it's extremely effective and gives the user an immediate sense of being catered to.