A review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education
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.
These top trends include:
Librarians must be able to convert the general feelings of goodwill towards the library to effective communication to all stakeholders that clearly articulate its value to the academic community
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.” Librarians and information workers have a vital role to play in helping their research communities design and implement a plan for data description, efficient storage, management, and reuse. Several discipline data repositories already exist, and include librarians as principal collaborators.
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.
Technology trends specific to libraries include Web-scale discovery systems with enhancements such as discipline-scoped searching and customized widgets, community-source library management systems, and vending machines to handle loans of equipment.
An increasing number of libraries provide services and content delivery to mobile devices. 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.
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.
New publishing models are being explored for journals, scholarly monographs, textbooks, and digital materials, as stakeholders try to establish sustainable models. Developments relevant to journals include open access to historical content, author-funded open access to new content, and uncertainty of the future of “Big Deals” (agreements or subscriptions with the large, usually expensive, publishers.
Staff development and personnel are the top work place issues for academic librarians
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. 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.