If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist Would We Have to Invent It?

Every academic library dean or director has heard, at least once, the comment that the academic library has become obsolete. This is disheartening to hear and leaves one scrambling for an answer that doesn’t sound a bit desperate. This article in the latest EDUCAUSE Review takes an interesting approach by using an imaginary scenario to explore the ramifications of closing the academic library. One of the most important statements the author, Lynn Cochrane, makes is to predict that, in the future, academic libraries will split their time 50/50 between acquiring, managing, and providing access to published information and collecting, managing, and “publishing” locally produced information. She says, “Over the next decade (probably less), library leaders need to help those of us in academic libraries to reduce our focus on the publisher-driven model (role 1) and increase our attention and resources to the user-driven model (role 2). Then we can do what we’ve always done best: bring order out of the information chaos swirling around us. ” Click the link below to read the complete essay, which is eyeopening!

EDUCAUSE REVIEW | January/February 2007, Volume 42, Number 1
Let’s imagine August 2010 at Excellent College (EC), a liberal arts institution of 2,000 undergraduates and 200 faculty. The college has decided to stop funding its library. Instead, it will give students a tuition rebate and give faculty a stipend representing their share of the annual amount that would previously have gone to support the library’s collections, facilities, and staff—about $2.7 million total. Each student and faculty member will get $1,230. For now, the library building and hard-copy collections will remain in place, student assistants will keep the doors open, and custodians will clean the facility; but database subscriptions will be discontinued, and no other services will be provided. Since the college has a robust honor code, circulation of materials will be on the honor system. Students and faculty will now be on their own to secure the information resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities.

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