A perspective on the academic library

The pattern of central funding for education and cultural areas in the UK has led to the emergence of a rich centrally managed support, policy, planning and service environment. One might have an interesting discussion about where this modus operandi is successful (removing redundancy and fragmentation by providing service at the network level, for example, as with networking, journal licensing or authentication services) or less so (left as an exercise for the reader ;-).
One aspect of this mode of working is a liking for commissioned reports. Many reports are produced, synthesizing the state of the art in a particular area, making recommendations for attention or action, and so on. Clearly, the quality of these reports is variable: they are usually commissioned following competitive tender (see for example the range of work being sought currently by JISC). In fact, the volume of reports commissioned in recent years by various national agencies has meant, I would argue, that many are not really very good.
Sometimes something comes along that is rather more interesting. I have not yet had a chance to digest Researchers’ use of academic libraries and their services [pdf] commissioned by the Research Information Network and CURL. A quick read suggests that a deeper engagement will repay attention. I was surprised not to see researcher responses broken out by type of university, particularly as CURL is a sponsor. Given the current interest in exploring research and learning behaviors independently of current library offerings as a guide to potential future library offerings it is worth noting that this is a survey of perceptions and use of current library services. The report is prepared by Sheridan Brown and Alma Swan of Key Perspectives, Ltd.
I imagine that I will return to it in a future entry!

3 thoughts on “A perspective on the academic library”

  1. Hi Lorcan,
    Just wanted to say thanks for mentioning our report, really pleased you found it noteworthy! Look forward to reading your future thoughts on it.
    All best

  2. I know you have been asking yourself, “How would kgs restructure this post?” So I’ll be nice and tell you: the third paragraph is your lede (but strike the first sentence). Once I got there, I got interested, because it was the crackerjack AND the candy all in one: the document, and your assessment. The following could be a discussion about commissioned reports–fun, but not the “draw.”

  3. It would indeed be interesting to do some further breakdowns of the results of the surveys of both researchers and librarians, by institutional type, but also by geography (is location relevant, for example, when looking at the extent to which researchers rely on libraries other than those in their host institution?), and by “academic age” (do younger, or less experienced, researchers use and view libraries and their services differently from their older or more experienced colleagues?). Further work of this kind is something we shall think about as we consider the lessons and implications of the findings of this report.

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