The coming academic year could present a “reset” of the way that students use libraries and our resources. Being honest, I don’t know what to expect. I predict that we will see more students returning to our campuses, returning to our libraries and other study spaces, and continued demand for the hybrid services we have developed in the last 18 months; I also predict I’ll be surprised by our students as they return. The students I talk to tell me, “I can’t wait to sit in the library and listen to my lectures”, they have appreciated the flexibility that studying during the pandemic has brought them, but equally want to re-engage with learning spaces, the campus and fellow campus dwellers including students, academics and the guy in the Costa on campus.
This presents a challenge for libraries, not only in terms of spaces (are we going to create a “Zoom room”? Will we be keeping some areas of our space at a 2m social distance to help some users feel more comfortable?), but also our collections. Gone are the discounts, talk is now of publisher price increases on electronic textbooks of several hundreds of percent. I will not focus here on the unsustainability of this nor the problems with inclusivity this situation presents, but I will say, watch this space!
What has already shifted however is the rules of engagement. Tap in data vs Teams data, camera on vs camera off. Arguably whilst the ground work has been done with data collection and insights, we are still reasonably in the dark about how our students use our materials and why they use them. With more money than ever being spent on electronic resources and hybrid learning here to stay (or so it seems), more nuance will help us make better informed decisions on purchasing. There is so much going on in people’s homes in terms of how they learn that we are only just beginning to get an insight into, and it will change in the coming years. Will behaviour revert to how it has been or are we missing an opportunity to evolve our resources into more agile offering because we simply have very little idea of what is going on. Would we even have the opportunity to do this given the resourcing models currently being offered?
My predictions may or may not come true, but this academic year (like the past 2), will be like no other, and we perhaps should take the opportunity it presents to think about a “reset” for ourselves.
About the Author
Libby was appointed Director of Student and Library Services at Anglia Ruskin University in September 2020, prior to that she had been the University Librarian since April 2018. Before then, Libby worked as Director of Library and Learning Services at the University of East London. She started her career in acquisitions at the University Of Surrey, and has worked for Southwark Council and SOAS.
Libby is currently a member of the SCONUL Board and chairs the Content Strategy Group. She is a member of the UUK/JISC Content Negotiation Strategy Group and is Chair of Customer Services Group UK. Libby also mentors Chartership candidates and AURORA participants, as well as acting as a mentor for SCONUL’s mentorship scheme. Libby is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.