Panlibus Blog

Archive for June, 2010

2010 top ten trends in academic libraries

The US-based ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee has produced a valuable 2010 top ten trends in academic libraries report, with plenty of relevance for UK librarians, as well as interesting insights into the US higher education sector. The trends are identified via a rigorous methodology which incorporates a literature review (the report incorporates an impressive array of recent industry sources) and a limited survey “to clarify the trends”.

Space oddity

One key trend is the challenge of the constant rebalancing of library physical and virtual space, noting, interestingly, that “in-person reference desk statistics are declining in many academic libraries, while online reference statistics are increasing”. The report points to the expansion of library virtual presence through course management and other institutional systems as well as social networking tools, and reminds us of the overarching need to “support the teaching and instruction mission of the university”.

A sea change in collection development

The report makes the point that academic library collection growth is now driven by user demand, in other words we’ve shifted from a “just in case” to a “just in time” approach.  Is “just in case” in fact integral to the library mission? Only time will tell how susceptible this makes the academic library to further disintermediation, facilitated by:

“… customized patron-driven acquisition programs from some major library book distributors, improved print-on-demand options for monographs, patron desire for new resource types, and resource sharing systems, such as RapidILL, offering 24-hour turnaround time for article requests.”

The report further acknowledges:

“Still to be determined are the long-term effects of this change on the ability of academic libraries to meet their clientele’s information needs, the stability of some of the new access methods, and implications for future scholarship

Digital data set management: a grower

A sub-set of this trend towards user-driven collection development is “the need to collect, preserve, and provide access to digital datasets”. A 2009 OCLC report is cited to make the point that libraries need to support discovery in this area, and notes that the 2010 Horizon Report identified visual data analysis tools as a technology trend on the 4-5 year horizon. Digitisation more generally is a trend in its own right and the report warns that this will require a larger share of resources in future. On the upside, the Coalition of Networked Information makes the point that the academic library has a real opportunity with the digitisation of special collections – “a nexus where technology and content are meeting to advance scholarship in extraordinary new ways”.

More mobile

The explosive growth of mobile devices is a standalone trend, alongside a more general Technology section. Again, the report brings us back to the need to consider not only user needs and preferences but also “the relationship of services to the academic program of their institution”.

Accountability and assessment

A particularly significant trend, in my view, is the increasing need for accountability and assessment, i.e. the library demonstrating the value provided to users and the broader institution, specifically:

“… the library’s impact on student learning outcomes, student engagement, student recruitment and retention, successful grant applications, and faculty research productivity.”

Bad moon rising

The report makes the points that you would expect about budget challenges, but there are some interesting vignettes around the US higher education sector generally, notably this, sourced from Chronicle of Higher Education:

“… the average return for college and university endowments in the 2009 fiscal year was -18.7%, the worst since 1974.”

Importantly though, the report doesn’t dwell on this unfortunate reality, and really does accentuate the positive. One area of optimism highlighted was increased opportunities for collaboration, the epitome of the service orientation of librarianship, as the report correctly notes:

“Collaboration efforts will continue to diversify: collaborating with faculty to integrate library resources into the curriculum and to seek out information literacy instruction, and as an embedded librarian; working with scholars to provide access to their data sets, project notes, papers etc. in virtual research environments and digital repositories.”

And another real area of opportunity is scholarly communications:

“Recent developments illustrate a trend toward proactive efforts to educate faculty and students about authors’ rights and open access publishing options and to recruit content for institutional repositories (IRs).

The report urges academic librarians to provide value-added intellectual property services, and there are some really interesting US exemplars highlighted:

“Some libraries have created scholarly communication librarian or copyright officer positions. Others have taken a more distributed approach. The University of Minnesota, for example, has included scholarly communication responsibilities in the position descriptions of all of its liaison librarians.”

The ACRL Research, Planning and Review Committee is to be commended for such a lucid report that is concise enough for everyone to read in full.

Yes! We Can!


‘Yes! We Can!’ was the theme for this year’s Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland (CILIPS) conference. The theme was chosen by the incoming CILIPS President as a rallying call, deciding that what was good for Obama was good for him.

CILIPS broke away from the tradition of holding the event in Peebles and held the event at the impressive Mitchell Library in Glasgow (pictured right). This new central location (I assume in an attempt to attract more delegates) perfectly combined the old and the new, impressive decorative architecture inside and out, with modern facilities to boot.

There were many thought-provoking, energising talks across the three days, but the one that stood out for me was by Elizabeth Farr and Liz Moffatt from Stirling Libraries. It was standing room only to hear about marketing strategy and reader development in Stirling. It was a joy to hear a library service talking about marketing and branding, and putting it into action at minimal cost and experience – all that was required was the passion and energy shown by the staff.

The objective of creating this marketing strategy was ‘to promote the service in a positive fashion to raise its profile with the community’ and it was integral to the library service plan. Stirling worked on the brand of the library service, standardising poster styles to fit with council branding, achieving a consistent look and feel across all libraries – things that take time but can be achieved through a commitment to promoting the library service.

Liz stressed that publicity is the best marketing tool you can have, and can be free if you use the right strategy. She advised delegates to get in touch with local media and the local newspapers to promote activities to the target audience. Stirling also used BBC Scotland and STV, and addressed the stories to relevant programmes, rather than a broad request. The story must be interesting and have a bold catchy opening gambit. Such sustained marketing activity builds up press contacts and develops relationships with local businesses who can be used to promote your library service… for free.

The full presentation of the strategy is available on Slideshare and is well worth reading. It was fascinating to hear about this great work that Stirling are doing in their libraries, and something that all libraries should do to weather-proof themselves against upcoming budget cuts. A sound marketing strategy, even when money is tight, will set a good base for long term success. There are many things here that all public library authorities can take on board and try within their own service. All that is required is commitment, enthusiasm and a pride in your library service. Give it a go and see what happens.

Talis Open Day: Linked Data and Libraries

Register to reserve your place for the latest in the series of free Talis Platform Open days which is specify for anyone interested  in understanding and applying Linked Data in the world of National, International, Cooperative, and other large libraries.

Talis Open Day: Linked Data and Libraries
10:00 – 16:00 – Wednesday 21st July 2010
British Library Conference Centre
St Pancras

Register for the event from the Platform events page.
Location Information, from the British Library.

These Open Days are designed to introduce you to the principles, practice and potential of Linked Data.  Included is a short tutorial on RDF and the SPARQL query language, pitched at a level which will engage the technical and inform the non-technical attendees.

Linked Data is being adopted by many significant organisations across the web. and the BBC are just two that are working with Talis on applying Linked Data Semantic Web techniques and technologies.   As can be seen from the provisional agenda below, this day will (in addition to addressing general Linked Data issues) be covering leading library specific initiatives in this area.


  • Introduction to Linked Data
  • Overview of the Talis Platform
  • The Bnf Pivot project – Emmanuelle Bermes, Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group
  • RDF/SPARQL tutorial
  • Bibo – The Bibliographic Ontology
  • Finding Semantic Relationships in MARC
  • Linked Data in action

This is an ideal free day for those wanting an insight in to the potential and the practicalities of applying Linked Data to library data.   Follow this page as we announce more speakers for each of the sessions.