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.