Academic libraries in ‘mainstream’ media …

Many librarians have felt pretty bitter towards the mainstream media of late. We’ve had a spate of poorly researched articles focusing on public library closures. These have not exactly done the situation justice and barely focused on librarians themselves.

Its refreshing then to see two articles in a mainstream tech blog like Ars Technica, (more famous for road testing the latest smartphones) focusing on the changes and challenges academic libraries are facing and going through.

The first, covers  a relatively new function for libraries, that of digital preservation. Its a great sell of the concept and the skill-set involved in making it happen. The second is  an overview of how academic libraries must meet a wider set of expectations with less resources.  In two paragraphs , the  intro sums up the problems we face at a high level better than I ever could:

Libraries are changing, despite their facades. And they’re changing to high-tech service companies with embedded librarians, according to some library professionals. Of course, that assumes they aren’t de-funded out of existence.

For ladies and gentlemen of a certain age, the library is changing too fast. For kids, it’s changing too slow. University students are caught in the middle. Their library experience must be like surfing: riding the edge of a moving wave, never quite cresting, never quite crashing. Such a state has to be thrilling but ultimately exhausting…

Its the kind of article your boss should be reading and fitting in his/her next presentation to the institutional board of directors.  This is genuine echo-chamber breaking stuff and long overdue. If anything, it reinforces to me how complex the problems libraries face are, and how communicating this is itself a challenge. It maybe that librarians are not really the right people to be communicating this change and we should be employing communications professionals to do this for us.


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