Thursday, January 10, 2008

ACRL Report

The Association of College and Research Libraries has issued Environmental Scan 2007, which builds on the 2002 report entitled "Top Issues Facing Academic Libraries" and the 2003 Environmental Scan.

The 2007 report identifies the following as the "Top Ten Assumptions for the Future of Academic Libraries and Librarians": an increased focus on digitizing collections and improving data storage and retrieval; the evolution of librarians' skill set and the diversification of the professional background of the library staff; demands for more access to library services and resources by students and faculty with expectations of "a rich digital library presence"; ongoing debate about IP issues; increasing demands for technology, which will require more institutional resources (I wonder if these resources will be diverted from the library?); the concept that higher education is a business, with concomitant calls for accountability and the quantification of library contributions to the enterprise; students who see themselves as "customers" and demand high-quality resources and facilities (this will hardly come as a revelation to academic law librarians!); the expansion of online learning, with the library serving as a "distributed academic community" (that will depend on the ABA); continued demands by the public for free access to research conducted through publicly-funded programs; "the protection of privacy and support for intellectual freedom [which] will continue to be defining issues for academic libraries and librarians."

The report also identified a list of emerging issues that are being discussed both informally and formally at this time. Among these are: broader collaboration among all types of librarians on topics of common concern, e.g., media literacy; the greater integration of library facilities and services into other programs on campus; the evolution of library services to meet the needs of e-scholarship; increased collaboration between academic libraries and university publication programs (those of us with digital repositories have already witnessed this phenomenon); shift in focus at academic libraries from on-site collections to the design and delivery of services; social computing (e.g., Facebook, MySpace), which will provide libraries with opportunities for delivering library services, but also make demands on staff and systems.

I find it fascinating that neither the list of emerging issues nor the list of assumptions addresses the inflation in the cost of materials and the repercussions for academic libraries. Increasing demands for resources and services need to be met by healthy library budgets, but that is certainly not the case in every institution. Nor does the status of librarians seem to be an issue. It's hard to imagine that these issues are unique to academic law libraries, although I note that the committee did not include any representatives of either law libraries or medical libraries. There's a good bibliography of recent sources on the issues discussed in the report, and I'll definitely be taking a look at some of those sources.


Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
Gee, I wonder if ACRL is a trade group like AALL, and thus feels it can't comment on pricing issues, as it might have anti-trust implications! I wonder if ACRL feels it can't address librarian status, either?

Thanks for a great post! I wonder if you'd consider writing about Egypt?

Marie S. Newman said...

Ha! I never thought about that angle. You may well be right. Maybe I'll blog about Egypt when I have gathered my thoughts.