Monday, 7 December 2009

What Can Academic Libraries Learn From Public Libraries... about a glimpse of the future?

In a consultation document published last week - Empower, Inform, Enrich - The modernisation review of public libraries: A consultation - and reprinted today in commentable form on WriteToReply* - Empower, Inform, Enrich on WriteToReply the following five significant challenges are identified for the (public) library service:

* I need to declare an interest here - I was involved with the republication of the document

  • How can the library service demonstrate to citizens, commentators and politicians that they are still relevant and vital?

  • How can we reverse the current trend of decline in library usage and grow the numbers using their local library?

  • How can all libraries respond to a 24/7 culture and respond to changing expectations of people who want immediate access to information.

  • How can all libraries grasp the opportunities presented by digitisation?

  • How can the library service cope with limited public resource and economic pressures?

These challenges are also faced by academic libraries in one form or another, so it's worth looking through some of the questions raised by the consultation (a compilation of the question can be found here: Consultation Questions).

The consultation also includes several case studies about recent initiatives in various local library services. (Is there a collection of similar case studies relating to academic libraries, I wonder, or maybe scenario planning reports produced while developing strategic plans for academic libraries?)

View Library Consultation Case Studies in a larger map

A series of essays from a range of "thinkers, commentators and leaders in library services, as well as individuals working in retail, digital media, education, publishing and local government" was also commissioned by the organisers of the consultation, including one from Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive, The British Library, who wrote:
Whilst there are often informal links between university libraries and the British Library, and in the case of the latter we certainly play a part in supporting public libraries through a range of activities, these links could be better promoted to increase public access to a wider range of materials. The Inspire scheme already plays a valuable role in supporting libraries across England in working together, whether they be public, higher education, health, specialist or national libraries. Together these libraries offer a hugely powerful resource and the challenge is to create seamless access to all citizens.

It might well turn out that the public and academic libraries face a shared future - and even shared services. So if for no other reason than that, maybe it's worth familiarising ourselves with the current consultation, and maybe even responding to it? Comment on Empower, Inform, Enrich at WriteToReply

PS a quick search on the Inspire/Find it! service for "University of Cambridge" related libraries turned up five, all related to St John's College.

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