Never mind the quality, feel the width

flight.jpgWhat should an excellent research library look like in 2015? Indeed, what would it mean to be a 'top 20' research library. The answer is not straightforward, but it is something that one library has been asked to think about.

The University of Manchester is a new creation, built from the predecessor institutions Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST. I recently heard Bill Simpson, Director of the John Rylands University Library, speak about how they went about bringing together the libraries of these institutions [ppt].

The University climbed from 78 to 53 on the Shanghai Jiao Tong 2005 ranking of universities following this change. Manchester has declared a strategic goal of being a top 20 university by 2015.

This poses an interesting question for the library. What does it mean to be an excellent research library in 2015? This is a specific question, couched in terms set by the University. However, it nicely poses a critical question for all research libraries as their services, and the requirements placed on them by users, change. As it becomes increasingly unrealistic to measure the quality of a library by the size of its stock, so does it become more interesting to ask what metrics are useful. And once one asks that, then one is asking what is a research library.

Image via library website.

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