'The library happens elsewhere': radical developments for academic libraries

The future of academic libraries under the spotlight: part 1 of our UKSG coverage.

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The future of academic libraries was under scrutiny at this year’s UKSG conference, which took place last week in Harrogate. Speakers including Stockholm University Library’s Anders Söderbäck and Utrecht University’s Simone Kortekaas explored radical reimaginings of the library’s mission and function.

Anders Söderbäck of Stockholm University Library, in his presentation 'The Library Happens Elsewhere', pointed out that the university library that we are still familiar with today – big buildings housing shelves of books with large rooms providing space in which to read them – was established not as a temple to learning, but was simply the most efficient way to provide access to knowledge: "the 18th century way of reducing total cost of ownership".

Stockholm University Library has embraced a different mindset in response to massively increased usage of electronic resources, decline in print, and dramatic changes in how researchers and students search for, and access, resources. “We don’t build collections or manage interlibrary loans", explained Söderbäck. "We are there to make sure that information flows as efficiently as possible for individual researchers, teachers and students. We support library users in finding relevant information resources no matter where the resources are."

Stockholm’s strategy is “to adapt to how users de facto are seeking information.” The library will stop building and branding its own services, and will axe services that don’t add value to "Google et al".  As Söderbäck puts it, "we will not put our valuable work into reproducing something that’s already been done by someone else."

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The future of academic libraries under the spotlight: part 2 of our UKSG coverage.

Posted 21 April 2014