Academic library and organization

Being in the UK for a few days has reminded me of how common the ‘merged service’ is in UK universities. This is where IT services, library, possibly management information services, and various other services may be combined in one unit. Of course, organizational boundaries and labels vary from institution to institution.
In general I think that these merged services are an artifact of an earlier time. The library was early into automation and networking and accordingly was associated with IT. But IT is now pervasive of everything, so the rationale seems weaker. Aligning the library organizationally with enterprise systems, networking, security, and so on, seems to make less and less sense.
Indeed, personality and institutional positioning may have been a driving factor in developing this model in the UK. It seems much stronger in the UK than it is in other countries.
It seems to me that it now makes more sense to associate the library with emerging support for e-learning and e-research, creating a set of capacities aligned around academic systems and services, and the management of research and learning data.

4 thoughts on “Academic library and organization”

  1. I wonder about the integration of academic libraries with instructional design departments. While at the University of Connecticut I got a real appreciation for the work of instructional design staff; it is a fascinating discipline of research into the way people learn and how to structure classes so people can effectively learn. The “information commons” design of library spaces is a step along this path, but I don’t recall hearing of a formal merger of instructional design and academic libraries.

  2. At Vanderbilt University, we have taken a few steps in the direction of merging library services and capacities with support for e-learning. A few years ago, the library became the “steward” of our campus course management system, locally known as OAK. As the steward, we have started work to enhance the environment with systems that we hope will eventually provide better integration between online learning and the library’s online services. This, along with our work with library systems designed with web services in mind (most recently Ex Libris’ Primo) should provide some opportunities in this direction.

  3. The Libraries at Columbia shed the administrative and network computing responsibilities several years ago. We do include as part of our Libraries organization the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (instructional technology), the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (research computing and electronic publishing), the Copyright Advisory Office, and several new digital service centers serving social sciences, humanities, and sciences.

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