Clash in the Stacks is a piece by Carl Straumsheim that recently appeared on the Inside Higher ED website. In it, Mr. Straumsheim trains the spotlight on the high mortality rate among academic library deans. A number have been let go or have resigned due to clashes “with faculty and administrators over how much — and how fast — the academic library should change.” Reasons vary but they all seem to part and parcel of the dramatic changes that libraries, particularly at liberal arts colleges, are undergoing as they attempt to redefine themselves in the digital age.
As budgets tighten and the shift from print to digital collections continues, differences of opinion are emerging as to who is best able manage scholarly information on a college campus. The article quotes Patricia A. Tully, the Caleb T. Winchester university librarian at Wesleyan University, who was let go after less than five years on the job. “My sense is that administrators look at libraries as something that is easy to cut or easy to subsume under an IT department, because it feels as though when library materials become electronic, they are best managed by, say, an IT department instead of being managed by the library.”. However she also goes on to point out that “changing the format doesn’t change the fact that you have to manage the content. It becomes more of a necessity to have people there who are experts and who pay attention to how that environment is changing.”
In short, Ms. Tully contends that the skills that librarians bring to the table are still needed. We wonder if she’s right? Or is this “the canary in the coal mine” that forewarns a declining future for libraries and librarians? Let us know what you think.