The array of forces that impact upon the library’s operating environment makes any modelling of transformation during the coming years an almost impossible task. The political and economic forces that drive the functions and finances of parent institutions, the imperative for commercial publishers to meet investor’s demands for earnings per share growth, technological advances from Silicon Valley and beyond, are all part of the world in which the library will have to flourish.
What we can do, however, is look at trends and consider how best to take advantage of these to develop a library that is positioned for success tomorrow. A glance at the world of the academic library in 2017 reveals a few key themes that are conditioning professional practice, resource allocation, and investment priorities. These include the creation of advanced learning environments for students, an increasing move towards a global, distributed collection of information resources, the deployment of tools and technologies required to curate the evolving scholarly record, and a growing expectation of both domain and methodological expertise among recruits to the library profession.
Against this backdrop, in its strategic plan to 2025, Carnegie Mellon University announced its intention to create a 21st century library that serves as a cornerstone of world-class research and scholarship. While a large part of our vision is built upon a large-scale shift to digital forms of content, and web-based services, we are certain that the library will remain a vital presence on campus.
We see a need to celebrate an enduring sense of ‘libraryness’ – an environment and culture that supports scholarship and provides access to professional librarians in interactive research and study environments.
It is our view that the abundance of scholarly content in digital form brings a degree of complexity that will only increase demand for expertise in information discovery and organisation.
We set out four key themes:
- Develop information specialists as partners in research, teaching, and learning;
- Collaborate with peer institutions to provide co-ordinated access to a global collection of information resources;
- Steward the evolving scholarly record, and champion new forms of scholarly communication; and
- Be recognised globally as a leader in the development of the scholarly information ecosystem.
To understand the world in which these themes will unfold, we need to reflect upon some of the trends evident in today’s library. These are neither exhaustive, nor are they mutually exclusive: I make this point to highlight the complex world of the contemporary research environment.