Academic library services will co-evolve with changing learning and research practices in network environments. So much is clear, even if the picture is still a little blurry.
We have come through a period – a decade and more – where the main emphasis has been on putting materials on the network, and many library websites are still little more than lists of resources organized in subject or format terms.
Looking forward the emphasis will increasingly be on making these resources come alive in research and learning behaviors. This means many things, including putting relevant resources into appropriate workflows, and providing better support for creation and sharing of materials.
The University of Minnesota has been doing interesting work as it explores what this next period means. What should the library do to be a vital partner in the research and learning enterprise?
For students, it has created the Undergraduate Virtual Library, which specializes a set of resources for student use, and provides additional tools. This is described as follows by Wendy Lougee:
To improve the undergraduate learning experience and better serve this large constituency, a libraries team undertook a comprehensive assessment of “millennial-generation” needs and preferences. The process informed and gave birth to the Undergraduate Virtual Library, an online resource that provides core content and services as well as embedded tools to help students learn inquiry skills. One such tool is the Assignment Calculator, an immensely popular service that guides users through the research and writing process—and sends them e-mail reminders along the way! A demo is available at http://www.lib.umn.edu/undergrad/external/. [CLIR Archives]
On the research side, it has been exploring research behaviors in the Humanities and Social Sciences, identifying practices, the support needs they generate, and mapping those to potential services. This is through the Multi-dimensional framework for academic support project. They have produced some interesting materials charting their results. The final report [pdf] to the Mellon Foundation repays reading, and other materals are pulled together on the website. Here is Wendy again:
The assessment is already informing service improvements and new outreach initiatives. A significant thrust for the future will involve the design of coherent online environments (i.e., relevant resources brought together to serve particular communities) that can be integrated within the researcher’s workflow. The project has laid significant groundwork for digital development by identifying primitives—i.e., common behaviors across disciplines—and the nuances that distinguish disciplinary communities. Project goals include both developing an extensible model for assessment and using the assessment data in developing new services. We are currently analyzing the behavioral data to design virtual research environments that offer a suite of customizable (and increasingly social) tools, targeted content, and services for personal information management. The project will build on our earlier investments in component technologies and campus partnerships. [CLIR Archives]