Emerging trends in academic libraries. By which I mean: puppies.

I’m back to my Masters degree in a couple of weeks, after taking a year off.

I didn’t plan to take a year off. Actually, I was planning to finish my Masters last year. After a rocky year in 2019 (my father passed away), I said in January 2020 that “finishing my Masters will be hard work, but do-able, provided nothing bad happens.”


Anyway, I’m back at it come March the 1st.

I haven’t really been thinking about libraries for a while now. I mean, I work for a library software vendor, so obviously I have. But it’s been in a very narrow, focused-on-my-work way, not in a broad, high-level thinking-about-the-future-of-libraries-and-the-role-they-play-in-society way.

Then a friend asked on Twitter what the traditional and emerging areas of academic librarianship are, and suddenly I was off researching like a good little LIS student.

(I may also have been procrastinating during a long day at work.)

My first stop was ALIA’s list of competencies for their Research/Academic Specialisation (members-only link). It’s quite a long list, but a bit vague. I’d have to research what each of those competencies actually mean before I could actually set about acquiring the relevant skills.

ALIA also have their Future of the LIS Profession reports from 2013, with updates in 2017. A few themes still apply: the move to digital collections, the need for digital literacy, the importance of the library as a space for students rather than as a place to store books.

I didn’t find a nice, neat report from CAUL (the Council of Australian University Librarians). But reading over their communities of practice gives an idea of what their members are thinking about: digital dexterity, research support & repositories, and library value & impact.

But the best article I found was this one: a summary by ACRL (the Association of College & Research Libraries) on 2020 top trends in academic libraries.

You should read the whole thing. It’s short and clear. But as a summary, the trends they identify are:

  • Change management – the role of libraries is changing rapidly, and librarians need to the skills to manage that process.
  • Evolving integrated library systems – big software vendors continue to buy up smaller vendors, leading to fears that customers will get locked into vendor-specific platforms. Open source solutions like FOLIO may be a way forward.
  • Learning analytics – collecting data about how students learn (such as how they use libraries) could help improve the quality of teaching, but raises ethical concerns about collecting such personal data.
  • Machine learning and AI – AI opens the possibility of fast, automated analysis and cataloguing of collections. But AI has a history of perpetuating biases.
  • Open access – universities are pushing back against the high prices charged by eJournal vendors, and looking at more equitable and open ways to publish research
  • Research Data Services (RDS) – the movement towards FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data is gaining support, but there is still work to do in establishing the skills and systems needed.
  • Social justice, critical librarianship, and critical digital pedagogy – the need for libraries and librarians to examine the way our work reproduces bias and excludes marginalised groups continues. LIS schools
  • Streaming media – as streaming media plays a larger role in university courses, academic libraries need to manage the costs and accessibility of such material
  • Student wellbeing – as students become more stressed and burdened with problems, libraries are creating spaces where students can relax, learn stress management techniques, and pat some therapy dogs.

About davidwitteveen

IT person. Zine Maker. Level 0 Library Nerd. Doctor Who fan.
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