Changed, Changed Utterly appears in Inside HigherED and offers Christopher Cox’s, (Dean of the Clemson Library) predictions of “the significant ways academic libraries will shift in terms of collections, services, spaces and operations as a result of the pandemic.”
“In early March 2020, COVID-19 blindsided academic libraries. With little time to plan, we closed our library facilities at Clemson University to protect the safety of our patrons and employees and moved to online services only and work from home. Thankfully, years of curating digital content, providing multiple opportunities for research interaction and developing robust search interfaces and web presences served us well during this transition.
With discussions now occurring about reopening campuses, academic libraries face a paradigm shift. Instead of returning to normal, librarians will be returning to a “new normal” — one where in-person classes and service interactions may be impossible or no longer preferred, where collections in physical format may be a barrier to access, and where collaborative study is shunned in favor of social distancing in buildings that can only safely house half the people they used to. How can we leverage this crisis to create new and innovative collections and services to improve our campus communities?
Below are some of my predictions, based on trend analysis, of how the landscape of academic libraries may change in terms of collections, services, spaces and operations, in hopes they inspire new thinking and continued dialogue.
The diminishing value of print collections. If the coronavirus crisis has taught us anything, it’s how irrelevant our circulating print collections have become. Overnight, most libraries eliminated access due to concerns of virus spread. Strangely, requests for these materials were minimal. How can we make the content in our print collections more accessible and relevant in a post-COVID-19 world?
Mass digitization and access versus archives. For years, research libraries have engaged in “just-in-case” print digitization efforts. With print materials locked behind closed doors, the Internet Archive launched the National Emergency Digital Library, and Hathi Trust opened Emergency Temporary Access to its members. While some authors expressed chagrin at those actions, the result, as Roger Schonfeld points out, is a triumph of long-term planning over the prioritization of immediate needs. Although copyright issues will need to be resolved, additional mass digitization efforts should be undertaken, leveraging collaborative storage agreements currently dedicated to the preservation of print content, to make library print collections more accessible.
E-everything. Unlike our print materials, libraries have seen use of our electronic resources skyrocket. Over the next few years, we will spend more time and money developing our electronic collections. That will be a challenge with diminishing budgets. Libraries will need to develop new strategies for negotiating better deals with publishers and lobby for greater access to streaming media and ebooks, which are more plentiful and cheaply accessible to individuals than they are to libraries. New access models will also need to be developed, and if the recent Macmillan e-book embargo is any indication, publishers will make this challenging.
The end of big deals. The long-term financial implications of COVID-19, as well as years of inflationary increases by publishers, have caused several institutions to rethink multiyear licenses to large journal packages. The University of North Carolina and State University of New York system libraries recently announced that they will be canceling their Elsevier contracts in favor of title-by-title purchasing that will save significant money. Look for more libraries to follow suit and cancel big deals, relying instead on resource-sharing agreements and document delivery services, forcing publishers to develop à la carte access options…”
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Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.