The future of academic libraries

When a group of potential future users of academic libraries were asked what type of library space they wanted to see, the answers were imaginative and challenging. And their thoughts are relevant for libraries beyond academia.

In September 2010 a group of year 7 and 9 school students participated in a half day at the University of Technology Sydney (Australia).  They were asked to imagine a ‘library of the future'.   The students' wish list included natural light, ‘obvious sustainability', comfy chairs and intuitive technology.   The findings show that the academic library space will be performing multiple functions.  It will be a hub for learning and a space for collaboration as well as private study and socialising. Students will expect seamless information provision and close collaboration between academics and the library to ensure the right information is available to them at the right time.

Other key trends in higher education are neatly summarised in Rob Reynolds' excellent piece published on the xplanation blog (thanks to Nancy Dowd for highlighting this).   Reynolds uses a music analogy.  As our view of musical ‘content' has been changed forever by itunes (songs, not albums) so content will continue down a disaggregation path that will enable individual ‘remixing' of content to suit individual needs.  Apps will enable this and the move will be away from ‘static' printed content to ‘subscribed' content.  

Cheaper and more sophisticated devices will change forever the way students interact with course material.    Reynolds predicts that publishers will seek to disrupt the academic book rental market by offering students short term content licenses.  This will be just one example of new content licensing models that reflect the move away from ‘long term ownership' to an 'I need it right now' consumer model.  Many other examples of new content licensing models will emerge.  

After university, these students will be entering the workforce bringing with them high expectations of content and a demand for seamless solutions.  Workplace libraries and other information professionals had better be ready for them!

(Mal Booth of the University of Technology, Sydney's presentation from Internet Librarian International can be found in slideshare.)