Mapping the future of academic libraries

SCONUL report explores the latest challenges and opportunities facing academic libraries.

The report pulls together the many trends identified by participants as impacting libraries into five broad topics.

Datafied scholarship – innovations driving changes in scholarship include open access, open science, the internet of things, digital humanities, academic social networking, complex data sets, digital artefacts, new formats for research outputs (visualisations, simulations etc). New ways to mine and crawl research data continue to emerge. AI and machine learning will support global and open scholarship. Historically academic libraries have handled publications as objects, but this model is changing.

Connected learning -  learning as a social, technology enabled activity and teaching becomes a facilitated process. AR and VR will become increasingly important as teaching/learning tools. Students see themselves as customers and expect access to resources irrespective of where they are located.

Service oriented libraries – the continued shift from ‘collections’ to providing services that support research.

Blurred identities – continued changes to the nature of the academic library. Increased collaboration with other departments and more recruitment from outside the ‘traditional’ library community. Competition to provide services both internally and from outsourced providers.

Intensified contextual pressures – a range of political, economic and commercial factors will continue to impact higher education, including constraints on government expenditure, Brexit, changes in research and teaching governance frameworks.  

The report describes some ‘paradigms’ that it hopes will help facilitate discussion and thinking about academic libraries and the role of librarians.  These include:

The inside-out library – combining outside-in functions (managing externally produced content) with the organisation of internally generated content

The library in the life of the user – libraries surfacing services in the workflow of the institution

The library as a digital third space – libraries supporting and creating international communities of scholars.

The report is based on a review of the literature, interviews with stakeholders and a survey of UK library staff.

The report can be read here.