Monday, June 4, 2012

C&RL News > 2012 Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries A Review of the Trends and Issues Affecting Academic Libraries in Higher Education

College & Research Libraries News / Vol. 73 No. 6 / pp. 311-320 
June 2012

ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee

The ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee is responsible for creating and updating a continuous and dynamic environmental scan for the association that encompasses trends in academic librarianship, higher education, and the broader environment, e.g., economic, demographic, political; providing an annual environmental scan “snapshot.” The committee also is responsible for identifying the ACRL “top ten trends” for release every two years.

In order to identify the trends, the committee members review the literature, attend conferences, and contact experts who are familiar with current trends in higher education. One of the largest groups of experts is the ACRL membership; therefore, the committee organized a discussion forum at the 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting to provide an opportunity for ACRL members to meet and discuss the trends and issues affecting academic libraries and higher education.

Three leaders in academic librarianship were the catalysts for this discussion: Martin Halbert, dean of libraries at University of North Texas; Joan Lippincott, associate director of Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), and Mark Puente, director of diversity and leadership programs, Association of Research Libraries (ARL). This discussion forum augmented the trends identified by the committee.

These top trends are listed alphabetically. Each trend includes a brief discussion and references to the literature. The committee also compiled additional resources that may be of interest.

Communicating Value

Academic libraries must prove the value they provide to the academic enterprise. In a recent editorial, Rick Anderson stated that “unless we give our funding bodies better and more compelling reasons to support libraries, they will be forced by economic reality to stop doing so.” [snip]. The 2010 ACRL Value of Academic Libraries report is part of a greater initiative to provide tools for libraries to demonstrate how they directly contribute to student and faculty recruitment, retention, and success. The newly revised “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education” include an outcomes-based approach that articulates “expectations for library contributions to institutional effectiveness.” Two 2012 ACRL national summits will address strategies for librarians to communicate the library’s value in advancing institutional missions and goals. The Lib-Value project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is developing assessment tools that will allow libraries to show their contributions to teaching and learning; research; and social, professional, and public engagement.


Data Curation

Data curation challenges are increasing as standards for all types of data continue to evolve; more repositories, many of them cloud-based, will emerge; librarians and other information workers will collaborate with their research communities to facilitate this process.

In May 2010, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a change in the implementation of its existing policy on sharing research data. [snip].


Data curation presents opportunities for “finding new ways to communicate the value of the skills librarians already possess and in developing roles that were previously not associated with librarians.” [snip].

Digital Preservation

As digital collections mature, concerns grow about the general lack of long-term planning for their preservation. No strategic leadership for establishing architecture, policy, or standards for creating, accessing, and preserving digital content is likely to emerge in the near term.


Collection, preservation, and management of born-digital materials are a growing concern. While 79% of special collections and archives surveyed by OCLC Research report having collected born-digital materials, lack of funding, planning, and expertise were cited as the largest impediments to their management and preservation. [snip].

Higher Education

Higher education institutions are entering a period of flux, and potentially even turmoil. Trends to watch for are the rise of online instruction and degree programs, globalization, and an increased skepticism of the “return on investment” in a college degree.

Shifts in the higher education surround will have an impact on libraries in terms of expectations for development of collections, delivery of collections and services for both old and new audiences, ... .

The report “Disrupting College,” asserts that the current model for higher education is broken; therefore, susceptible to “disruptive innovation.”  [snip]. Online learning environments are identified as “disruptors,” and the rise of “competency certification” supports alternatives to traditional education options.

Taylor Walsh provides an in-depth study and analysis of several online learning experiments, suggesting that online education may provide a sustainable path forward for institutions of higher education.21 In December 2011, MIT announced an online certification program, MITx (which will be launched in early fall 2012), leveraged from MIT’s ten-year experiment with OpenCourseWare.

[See my _Alt-Ed_ Blog [] for linls ]


Information Technology

Technology continues to drive much of the futuristic thinking within academic libraries. The key trends driving educational technology identified in the 2012 Horizon Report are equally applicable to academic libraries: people’s desire for information and access to social media and networks anytime/anywhere; acceptance and adoption of cloud-based technologies; more value placed on collaboration; challenges to the role of higher education in a world where information is ubiquitous and alternate forms of credentialing are available; new education paradigms that include online and hybrid learning; and a new emphasis on challenge-based and active learning.  and creating appropriate metrics for evaluating new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching. The Horizon Report indicates that mobile apps and tablet computing are near-term drivers ... ; game-based learning and learning analytics are mid-term (two-to-three year) drivers; and gesture-based computing and the Internet of Things (ubiquitous computing) are long-term (four-to-five year) drivers. Other technology forecasts also highlight virtual faculty, staff outsourcing, and next generation interfaces and content.


Mobile Environments

Mobile devices are changing the way information is delivered and accessed. An increasing number of libraries provide services and content delivery to mobile devices. According to the 2011 EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) study of undergraduate students, 55% of undergraduate students own smartphones, while 62% have iPods, and approximately 21% have a netbook, iPad, or other tablet. More than two-thirds of these students use the devices for academic purposes. Fifty-nine percent use smartphones to get information on the Internet, and 24% use them to access library resources. [snip]

Industry leader EBSCOhost has apps for the iPhone, iPod touch, and Android as well as a mobile interface. Many other vendors, including JSTOR, Elsevier, and Thomson Reuters, have mobile interfaces or apps. SirsiDynix and Innovative Interfaces integrated library systems offer mobile access to library OPACs, while OCLC provides mobile access to Worldcat. [snip]

[See my "Library Mobile" articles posted in my _Spectrum > Mobile Learning, Libraries, And Technologies_ [] for links]

The 2012 Horizon Report reviews ways higher education institutions are using apps and tablets to enhance learning inside and outside the classroom. Some schools have replaced print textbooks with tablets preloaded with course materials while others use them for lecture capture, tutorials, orientations, and interactive publications.

Patron Driven e-Book Acquisition

Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA) of e-books is poised to become the norm. For this to occur, licensing options and models for library lending of e-books must become more sustainable. A report on the future of academic libraries identifies PDA as an inevitable trend for libraries under pressure to prove that their expenditures are in line with their value. It notes that academic libraries will jettison “large collections of physical books in open stacks with low circulation,” in favor of licensing agreements with e-book vendors that will enable libraries to purchase only those books that are in high demand. [snip].


Scholarly Communication

New scholarly communication and publishing models are developing at an ever-faster pace, requiring libraries to be actively involved or be left behind. New publishing models are being explored for journals, scholarly monographs, textbooks, and digital materials, as stakeholders try to establish sustainable models. [snip].

Some academic libraries have taken an active role in changing the scholarly communication environment by creating or expanding publishing services. A 2011 survey of member institutions of ARL, the Oberlin Group and the University Libraries Group found that approximately half of the respondents had or were developing library publishing services. [snip].

Simba Information, a research company specializing in publishing, estimates that by 2013, digital textbooks will comprise 11% of the textbook market.45 While textbook publishers see rentals as one way to keep prices down and eliminate the resale market, innovations spearheaded by academic institutions may help change the model in a more fundamental way and provide greater savings to students. [snip]

[See my _DT > Digital Textbooks_  [] for numerous examples]

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a national project that provides access to digital collections from U.S. libraries, museums, and archives, recently received a $5 million grant to build a work plan that will include a functional technical prototype and targeted content digitization efforts. [snip]


Academic libraries must develop the staff needed to meet new challenges through creative approaches to hiring new personnel and deploying/retraining existing staff. Staff development and personnel are the top work place issues for academic librarians, according to a 2011 ACRL survey.51 The ACRL Discussion Forum held at the 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting confirmed that staffing issues are a major concern for academic librarians,  ... [snip].

User Behaviors and Expectations

Convenience affects all aspects of information seeking—the selection, accessibility, and use of sources. Libraries usually are not the first source for finding information. When queried, respondents describe the library as “hard to use,” “the last resort,” and “inconvenient.” Convenience is a significant factor in both academic and everyday-life information-seeking situations.

With the widespread use of the Internet and search engines such as Google, individuals have little or no problem finding sources. Since libraries are now competing for user attention, the current challenge is to provide immediate, seamless access to sources and information in order to remain in the game. [snip]

Not only is immediate access to electronic sources a critical component of meeting the information needs of students and faculty, but access to human sources also is important. When students and faculty were interviewed in 2005, 2008, and 2010 to identify how they get their information for both academic and personal situations, parents, friends, family, colleagues, and professors are often the first sources queried.56 Why? Convenience. These sources immediately can be reached by texting, voice calling, IMing, or e-mailing, with an often instantaneous response. Librarians, too, are making themselves available to students and faculty through a number of channels, including social media, chat, IM, and text reference, as well as making themselves physically available or embedded ... .


Although there were mentions of other trends, these ten issues were the most mentioned and discussed trends in the current literature, at conferences, and by experts. Since this document is the framework for the 2013 ACRL Environmental Scan, the committee welcomes comments and feedback. The committee plans to conduct an ACRL OnPoint Discussion to provide a forum for a more in-depth discussion of this report.

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