Changing Models of Library Service

On November 21, 2012 I attended SLA Western Canada Chapter’s event “Changing Models of Library Service”.  The panel members were Simon Neame, Director of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC, and Professor Luanne Freund, a faculty member at SLAIS (UBC).

Mr. Neame explained changing factors in learning institutions:

  • New learning models are more collaborative and project-oriented
  • Online learning used in all classes, not just distance; also MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • Pressure for applied research, especially from funders
  • Improved student experience: more emphasis on teaching after past emphasis on research
  • Public accountability

He also considered changing factors in academic libraries:

  • Services and collections are moving online; over 70% of acquisitions budget is digital; UBC online services include AskAway, institutional repository, small business accelerator
  • Centralizing services and print collections; Irving K. Barber branch is consolidating tech support, reference & circulation into one service desk
  • New activities need new facilities; ex. growth of UBC digitization lab
  • Moving staff into growth areas
  • Huge budget cuts at US institutions

Mr. Neame made several other interesting points:

  • Collection development is becoming more patron-driven
  • Moving staff and money around, not getting new money
  • UBC has integrated library into online course software (tab)
  • Books move out and services move in. Ex: Old Main Library at UBC was deserted stacks, now busy Learning Commons. UBC planning to move 50-60% of collection into on-campus warehouse; will still be available.
  • Balance between sharing services with other universities and developing own unique services & holdings; Special Collections becoming more valuable
  • Expertise needed: copyright, community engagement, scholarly communications, data management
  • Libraries often driving force behind collaborations with other departments: Learning Commons,  Graduate Studies thesis involvement

During audience discussion Mr. Neame offered suggestions for managing changing service models:

  • Understand staff may have emotional attachment to past; acknowledge value of their past work (useful in its time, now foundation)
  • Back up decisions with data
  • Realize communication amount and style will never please everyone

Professor Freund mentioned additional pressure on libraries as their traditional mandate becomes less relevant.  They must identify and respond to the unique needs of users.

She explained types of academic library service models:

  • Liaison Librarian: subject-oriented contact with departments. Duties can include outreach, collection development, scholarly communications, fund-raising, data curation, reference, events, instruction.
  • Embedded Librarian: physically/virtually work directly with a department. May be permanent or secondment. Duties include support, teaching, research.
  • Team-Based: University of Guelph is shifting away from Liaison model. Team works together on meant to work together on different aspects of task, then shift to other tasks. Collaborative, diverse, dynamic, less specific.  Could be long-term or project-based.
  • Boutique Librarian: Tailored service, subject specialization, building relationships. Grew from reaction to over-centralization at Oxford. Needs autonomous service provider and creative staff. Debatable similarities with Liaison Librarian model.

Professor Freund also mentioned technical trends affecting academic libraries.  One trend is using mobile and social technology to offer services at point of need, foster community, and link the physical to the virtual.  Another trend is increasing open access and collaboration.

Thanks to SLA WCC for organizing this event, and for extending member pricing to other information organizations like BCLA!

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