Monday, May 09, 2016

From the Electronic to the Digital University: a Twenty-Five Year Redux

In 1988, the library thought leader David Lewis' "Inventing the Electronic University."  What's significant about Lewis' article is that it was the first to examine how technology would change the information practices of users and library patrons rather than the library itself.

This was a seminal piece: it marked a new beginning in the library literature.  Joan Lippincott responds with an interesting take on the state of the academic library twenty five years later.   Its topics are highly relevant to not only my research, but also to the volatile times we are in for academic libraries everywhere.  With that said, here are the salient points to discuss:

Teaching and Learning - Lippincott argues that of all the developments, teaching and learning programs have had the most mixed results in recent times in terms of development.  Although MOOCs and LMS's have emerged as tools that libraries have had to learn to support, but overall libraries have not been trendsetters in the area of learning technologies when once upon a time, patrons and users needed to rely on libraries more heavily on borrowing and using technology (remember catalogs?)

Scholarly Communications -   With new technologies has emerged e-science and digital humanities -- digital scholarship arrived without much fanfare but has become critically important areas that academic libraries have been asked to support. At the same time, open access, data curation, social media, among the among have become integral in our daily work and is needed to support students, faculty and researchers.

Access and Preservation - We've come a long way since Lewis' article predicted the potential of the digitization of print materials on the CD-ROM.  Libraries created strong digital collections, but the caveat is that they have seemingly lost ownership and authority of these collections.   Libraries are falling behind in integrating its open access collections with its discovery tools -- so now that we've built it, how do we use it?

Staffing - Changes in the roles of staff continue to come as new technologies emerge.   However, some of Lewis' predictions did not materialize as predicted.  While Lewis expected library services and university academic computing units to merge, this has simply not happened in the scale he imagined.  For the most part academic libraries have continued to lead its own initiatives in teaching, learning and research in the areas of technology.  Instead, libraries are working with faculty in both research and learning to expand the "liaison model."  We keep hearing about it, but what is it exactly?  Lippincott alludes that changes are to come, so we wait and see.

Certainly, this is a brief list and there could be quite a few more areas to include here.  Despite what universities say, research is often prioritized at universities and faculty research and publication is tied to tenure and promotion.  What are academic libraries doing right in supporting research?  What are the big areas that we need to get better at?

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