Re-imagining the Academic Library.

Like most library spaces, academic libraries are changing; they are no longer a space filled with stacks where students are encouraged to work silently and independently, leaving no room for collaboration and socialization. Instead, they are becoming an open space where users are allowed to talk, eat, drink, and work in a collaborative manner. They have replaced the stacks for seating areas, computer labs, printers, scanners, and everything possible to make users come, stay, and enjoy their time in the library, some libraries have gone as far as introducing vending machines and coffee carts to create a more inviting space on campus. But is this enough to communicate value to students and the university? Where is the value of the librarian in the academic setting? After all, students can obtain the information needed using the university e-resources, Google, or asking research questions via chat to librarians or paraprofessionals. To answer my own questions, I found a couple of useful studies and articles regarding changes in these libraries. Staying true to the core: designing the future of academic library experience by Steve J. Bell, talks about the changes in library spaces and how these affect the user experience (UX). As well as Top trends in academic libraries: A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education.


Databases, computer labs, and the use of electronics materials via E-reserves are the dominant technology in the library.  However,  MOOCss are an emerging tool that serves as an opportunity, they can be used to help remedial students get up to speed in classes, and be the campus leader in content management for digital-born materials.There’s a lot more to say about the application of technologies in the classroom, like how and when is a useful tool for student’s learning

There’s a lot more to say about the use of technologies in the classroom, like how and when is a useful tool for student’s education and the best way to apply these tools in the classroom.

Open Access

*More on this subject soon.

Open access makes materials available to users at no cost, this in direct opposition from the current practices of peer-reviewed articles which are sold In bundle plans, forcing libraries to pay a significant amount of money for the right articles, but also gaining never-use journals. This is another aspect in which academic libraries can emerge as leaders in the field. The benefits include:

  • Open access presents a solution to the serial crisis, it gives, like mentioned before, academic libraries have little control over the journals necessary for their institution’s research because publishers sell them in forms of bundles.  The way I see it is like ordering cable where all you want is HBO and BBC ( to watch insecure and Doctor Who respectively, but you have your package includes the golf and kneading channel.
  • Free access to research in places where economics hinders the access, not every academic library has the same amount of support from the parent institution and making research available for all can significantly increase the levels of readership, and help scientist and researchers in developing countries.

Human aspect

In a world where technological advances facilitate access to information without the help of the information professional, the face-to-face interaction with students and faculty is vital to forge inter-department relationships (Which librarians need to get faculty to deposit their research in Institutional repositories). However, this is not often the case, my experience working in academic libraries have taught me that these experiences can make or break the relationship with the user. Therefore better training must be provided to General Assistants and Paraprofessionals, who the first person the patron sees when seeking help.  It doesn’t matter how comfortable and inviting a space may be, if the experience with someone associated with the library is not a pleasant one, we are not transmitting value to the student/faculty, and they are going to opt for not returning, ever. Patience while explaining policies, an attentive and undivided attention while speaking with a user is often underrated and dismissed for fast, un-personal service.


I know, I know I say this a lot, but the advertisement is the key to letting students see what we offer. Currently, libraries advertise their programs in the library! What? Why? I guess so that the few who visit them know about other programs as well? What about the common area in dorms, or the cafeteria, or making faculty aware that the library exists for other things other than ordering books for research. If students don’t know that there is someone who can help them with a difficult (or not) research question, someone who in theory is happy to answer their questions, how will they seek for it? The library needs to stop being a campus secret that only a few students know and become part of the community, create a place for congregation, yes, but also a place of research where students can expect a courteous treatment while searching for the help they seek. Also, it is my firm believe that librarians should be a bit pushy, have an elevator pitch for your library, say it to every willing and not so willing ear near you and promote your space, go to presentations with your clicker and apologize later.


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