On the Death of the Academic Library

There’s an interesting bit in the Chronicle of Higher Education right now about the death of the academic library, written by none other than an academic librarian.

Read it here.

As someone who spent some time working as a reference assistant in Marquette’s library, I find a couple of the article’s points to be eerily prophetic. For example:

  1. Book collections became obsolete — It is going to be a while, in my opinion, before the book truly disappears, but it is quite staggering to see the amount of material that is now available (sometimes exclusively so) online.
  2. Library instruction no longer needed — the article speaks of library search tools becoming more intuitive, in order that they might compete with search engines. Our library at Marquette recently adopted “Encore,” a library search tool that functions much like Google. It has its shortcomings, but it’s nothing if not intuitive.
  3. Reference services disappeared — In all honesty, this point seems to be more about the disappearance of librarians than libraries, but its an interesting point nonetheless. I especially like the last couple of lines: “It was librarians who first provided evidence—through the development of “tiered reference” services, in which initial questions were fielded by nonlibrarians—that queries could be answered by low-wage employees (including student workers) with minimal training.” As a former “low-wage employee with minimal training,” I couldn’t help but chuckle at how true this is.

HT Brad Matthies and James McGrath.

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